Don't unplug

How could it possibly be December?

Minnesota’s weather has been so dreamy — so delightfully mild — this fall! 

There’s no possible way I’m going to be prepared for the holidays in time (not that I ever am).

And, yet, I have no regrets: When you get a chance to pick apples in late October, take bike rides in November and skip wearing hats and mittens for most of autumn, you just have to go for it.

Now, however, I need to get organized. It’s time to give gifts, bake cookies and send cards. 

Fortunately, parents today have access to a host of new and powerful, organizational tools — right in their pockets.

I’m talking, of course, about technology.

Yes, yes, yes, we all need to unplug. But before you throw your smartphone into the fireplace in an effort to simplify, check out our story in our December edition — our annual Tech Issue — on apps for families. 

I was surprised to learn how helpful apps can be for parents who want to be more organized (think grocery lists, chore logs and activities schedulers). And, thanks to digital innovators in Minnesota and beyond, we can also use apps to make deeper connections with our kids (think family messaging apps, video-chat tools and family websites).

One of the coolest apps featured in this issue is based on a conversation-starter strategy created by a St. Paul mom. 

Stephanie Ross started using her “high, low, glitter” technique with her daughters when they were preschoolers to get their talks to go beyond: “How was your day?” “Fine.”

She asked them to share the best (high), worst (low) and most interesting (glitter) parts of their days.

Today, Ross — whose girls (twins!) are now seniors in college — has turned the concept into a free “micro social network” ( that allows families to stay in touch. 

Ross admits the app could never replace real conversations, but the high-low-glitter snippets she gets from her daughters on the app tide her over until they’re able to have long talks. 

It’s just one example of parents learning to harness (rather than resist) the power of technology in parenting.

And that’s a good thing. 

Because, as parents of digital natives, we need all the help we can get! 

Happy holidays!