Monday, October 15, 2012

Shopping with Kids: To get help or not to get Help

I've always prided myself on keeping the balance with my kids when it comes to asking them for help. They don't read the mail, but I do occasionally ask where an envelope might be addressed from if I'm expecting something. They don't read me which cans are which in the cabinets are which because I label my groceries with braille labels, but I did ask my daughter to read the frozen-lasagna cooking directions when I was in to much of a hurry to look them up online.

I do think asking them for appropriate help now and then is a good thing. Now my daughter could cook that frozen lasagna for example, and learning which mail is important and which is junk can come in handy some day. But we had an interesting experience at the store together over the weekend, a shopping trip in which I did not get assistance.

Like many other blind people I know, when I go to the store either alone or with the kids my practice has always been to go to the customer service desk and ask for someone to help me shop in the store. It usually works like this; we wait a few minutes, some person gets assigned to me, and we roam around the store and locate the items I want. Now I won't get in to the stories of stock persons who are unable to read, or who can't find anything because they just started working there last week, and our combined frustration levels of having my helper get more help for items we can't find. It always amazes me that if the store would assign me someone experienced instead of their newest members, I'd probably leave in half the time. But that's an entirely different topic.

My daughters ages 6 and 10 and I, decided to take advantage of beautiful fall weather and walk about three blocks to our nearest clothing store. They needed new pants for the fall weather, and we wanted to look around for Halloween decorations. This store is a consignment store and has everything in it from books, clothes, furniture and toys. I've been there before when my brother lived nearby to drop off things to sell, and he always likes to bargain shop so every now and then we'd squeeze our way through the narrow aisles just looking around. The family-owned store is staffed with exactly two employees at a time. One person runs the cash register, and the other person evaluates incoming consignment items, and stocks the shelves.

I asked the girls if they had any preference on how we would shop today. Should we try it on our own, or should we get help. My tween daughter who is getting more and more conscious of the opinions of others, said we should try it on our own first and if we got stuck then we could get a person. That is exactly what we did and we didn't end up needing the other person after all. We made deals ahead of time that we would look at Halloween costumes, shop for clothes, then they could pick out one book. The store made it easy because Halloween costumes and decorations were right out in front as you walked in the door, and the store did not have a lot of customers during that part of the morning, so it was easy to keep a running stream of conversation going with my girls partly for fun and partly for keeping tabs on their close locations. I remembered from past trips with my brother that there were signs over the racks saying things like girls sizes 3 to 6, or girls 7 to 14, so my oldest daughter read the signs until we found the appropriate section we needed.

Then, we started looking through the racks together. Them, oohing and awing over pretty colors, me reminding them that they need to check the sizes and me feeling clothes for practical purposes. Is this warm enough, is it sturdy, and does it feel like the right size? There was a camaraderie, a lot of talk, a lot of back and forth what about this one, that one looks to small, that one isn't long enough, etc. It felt free and it felt fun.

Just when my arms were full of clothes hangers, my seven year old looks over and notices changing rooms, something I did not know the store had available. So, after my 10 year old read the signs about only five items per person at a time, we snagged one room and crowded in together so the girls could try on their new finds. I was organizer of keeps and discards and clothes rehanging, and I had final say on if things fit.

I think it was the most fun I've ever had shopping in a store and I didn't even look for anything for me. I don't know if it was just the fact that it was really just us roaming those racks with the occasional other woman and child doing their own shopping nearby.

Nobody interfered with us or had well meaning comments. I didn't have to think about a strangers opinions or if we were taking to long, or stress over what a shopping helper might be thinking. Was it the fact they are getting older and could express their opinions on colors and style in such a vocal way?

It was probably a combination of all of the above, plus the maturity of the girls who were very good at staying together, at putting things down when asked, at transitioning from clothes shopping to the next activity. We were there for about two hours, and I'm pretty sure if my son and husband would have been with us, they probably would have been impatiently waiting for us to finish up.

Now that I look back on it, the cashier was friendly as well, only commenting on what good finds we found, and when I asked her if the cafe next door was a good place to eat, we started talking about food. No questions about me, my white cane, or anything.

The girls said they had a good time and would like to go again just us ladies. Sure, I would have got help if we had needed it, or if the girls were starting to get stressed out or confused, and I wonder how our shopping trips might be different in the future the more independent they grow.

I like the fact that the girls know that we can shop together self sufficiently, that we can get help if needed, and that mommy can also do fine just on her own. I know future outings will probably not be so utopian, but for now I am enjoying our independent bliss.

What is it like shopping with your own kids? Is it helpful, distracting, when did you stop getting shopping helpers? What items would you shop for and not have your kids help? Do you feel its not appropriate for your kids to assist?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review of

If your favorite TV channels are Nick at night and TV land, or you like old-time radio, then check out this review of a free listening-only internet website. is a free listening-only portal that sends you back for a blast of the past to old TV commercials, comedy, drama, game and other TV shows, and movies, and documentaries. Best of all, there is no software required, just an internet connection and a media player is needed for streaming. I've streamed shows on my computer and also on my I Phone.

How it works. Go to and register for a free account. You will then receive an email confirming your registration information. You will automatically be subscribed to the announcement list which sends out one daily email listing the programming available each day.

There are five channels to listen to, a comedy channel, a music/old-time radio channel, drama channel, and 2 miscellaneous channels. Last week my husband and I listened to old episodes of 25000 Pyramid, and I cleaned my house to the accompaniment of old shows like Mash, Judge Judy, and I scared myself by listening to Dragnet in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. We even found an audio-described old Star Trek episode.

Audio-description is also featured on some documentaries and made for TV movies, but only consists of about 4 shows a week. Descriptions of available documentaries, movies, and which programs feature audio description are listed in the email schedule. Programming is changed daily with some repeats, and they are always adding new shows. They are also quite receptive to listener preferences and suggestions.

How to get started. Once you log in to the system with the link they provide, you are taken to a page to choose your media player. When I am using my computer with either Firefox or Internet Explorer, I choose windows media player, and when I am using Safari on the IPhone, I choose the second option for older players.

Once your player is selected you go to a page which lists what is currently playing on each channel. You click on the choice you want and your media player will open up and start streaming the content. I usually refresh my internet page when a show is over, just so I can hear what is being played next and also what is on subsequent channels.

Anyone with an account can listen and some channels run 24 hours and some till midnight eastern time. If you don't want to sign up for an account or if you just want to hear how it sounds, you can listen through ITunes radio in the eclectic section to the MyTvLand comedy channel.

For a household without cable, this has been kind of fun, and although my kids wish there were pictures, I just tell them it’s like listening to a audio drama and they usually shrug and do their own things. I have to put up with Netflix streams of Johnny Tess, Finneas and Ferb, and now something called Tough Puppy after all, so I figure we are pretty even in the media department. Thank goodness they like American Idol, and we can usually agree on what movies to rent.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Appreciating Myself

Last week I felt very unappreciated. While I was at home alone with the kids for 5 days straight including the weekend, my husband got to have drinks at a bar, didn't have to cook any meals, wash dishes, or take care of sick kids.

Normally, I am a reasonable other-half spouse, meaning I don't generally begrudge him taking time for himself. He is the one with the greater-earning potential moneywise, and its partly due to that traveling aspect that a typical nine to five job situation won't work for me. We did the math, and if I were to get a typical job, my earnings would go straight to day care costs, plus I'd probably loose it based on when kids inevitably get sick, summer vacation, and other school breaks which were not designed for working parents.

But when I think of all the work I've done so far this year, aproximately cooked 48 muffins, 4 banana breads, packed over 36 school lunches, 25 cooked dinners, the 29 loads of laundry, scrubbed 40 toilets, vaccumed over 4 hours of my life away to equal about 10 minutes a day; and its only the end of January, and what do I have to show for all this work? I'll be doing the same things next week without earning any pay checks, or any recognition except for what I show myself.

Mother's day is so not enough recognition people! To know that tomorrow there will be another load of laundry, more lunches to make, and kids will complain because they didn't like the bread, could be depressing. To pump myself upI will do the following:

1. Play the Staple Singers Respect Yourself at full volume after the kids leave for school.

2. Get a grip. Appreciate that all jobs can get mundane every now and then even the mom variety. Be glad that I can at least do my job while listening to a book, or walking around wearing whatever I want.

3. Even if nobody else notices stand back and be glad that everybody has clean under wear, food to eat, and its all because of me.

4. While I take a minute to appreciate myself, remember to appreciate the little and big people who I do all this stuff for. Its hard to be a kid and as much as I can barely remember the days when I did have an actual paying job, that isn't always a walk in the park either.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Making Money Using Your IPhone

I use my i-phone to do everything from paying the bills, reading for pleasure, and keeping organized, but did you know that you can make money from a free app? Here's how.

Field Agent offers a way to turn your i-phone in to a source of income that is simple, and although, you won't want to quit your day job, why not earn some extra money while running your typical errands? All you need is to know how to follow instructions, take a decent picture with your camera,and to be at a specific location on a certain day. Hours are flexible in that you check available jobs in your area, read the detailed instructions to see if you want to do the job, accept and complete your task, and within a day your account is credited and you can have the money you earned sent to your PayPal account. There are no earning minimums for a payment to be processed and there are no quotas on when you work or how often you work.

Jobs range in price from $3 to $8 and usually consist of going to a place of business, finding and taking a picture of a display or product, and then answering a question or two, then emailing in your results. Think secret shopper with a slightly different twist.

Companies need feedback on how stores display their products and have specific agreements on product placement, and this is a way for them to make sure their products are displayed in a manner that fits there desires. They can get multiple feedback from multiple stores all across the country without having to hire consultants or pay for transportation costs, and field agents can earn a little extra money as they go about their day. In the last month, jobs have been available at Costco, Walmart, and Walgreen's to name a few.

There are no fees to become a field agent and the app is free at the Apple store. You do need to provide your email, and there is a long survey that is optional, although they say you will have more task listings show up if you fill in the questionnaire. I chose to fill in the survey and have so far not had any email or junk mail associated with the application. Remember, as always to read the fine print, and the reviews given by other people at the app store.

For those that don't drive or have no interest in looking at store shelves, the app says that demographic paid surveys are offered occasionally, but I have not noticed any in the two months I've been using this application.

I live in a large city, and if I drove, there are at least three jobs a day within 20 miles of my home that I could complete. Keep in mind that if you are in a rural area your options may be limited due to how many other agents are in your vicinity and how many major chain stores are nearby. Field agent is available in the USA, and in some other countries, so check at the app store.

For those using voice over, I've found the app to be mostly accessible, and I did need some help with some questions on the survey which did not conform to voice-over gesture commands. Although, I have not found any tasks that are within walking distance and do not require the use of the camera, this may work for someone who is low vision. I'll update this post should that change.

I've found the i-phone to be an amazing tool, and I wonder what people will think up next. Maybe you can go from checking email to going to work if you try the field agent program.

Note: I am not affiliated with Field Agent, but am just sharing the information. Other reviews of this program can be found by searching in any search engine.