Do: Scientific Method

To flip or not to flip, that is the question.

Five months ago, my iPhone slipped out of my back pocket and plopped in the toilet. The submersion only half-killed it: it lost cellular capacity, which means it turned into a small computer that can't be used as a telephone. Rather than getting a replacement smartphone right away, I paused to take advantage of the unfortunate event and conduct an experiment:

Would a flip phone simplify my life, help me be more present to the world in front of me, help me break bad habits of enmeshment with my smartphone?

I paid $10 for a flip phone, activated it, and began the experiment. Today I'm following through with the final step of the Scientific Method: communicating the results.

1. I'VE BENEFITED FROM THE TECH DETOX.

I am now less of a slave to my phone/devices. I've decreased my texting and increased my voice-to-voice phone calls, which has positively impacted the relationships that matter most. Being out and about without a smartphone has made me more free, more present, more calm, which has resulted in more joy.

2. MY LIFE HAS NOT BEEN SIMPLIFIED.

I'm a stay-at-home mom who manages my household and my children's lives, and texting is the easiest way to schedule and check in/confirm with people. Texting with a flip phone has been a nightmare; such a nightmare that I won't even go into all of the nightmarish details. In two words: unreliable and time-consuming. I've also been carrying around both my half-dead iPhone and my flip phone (it's okay, you can laugh, my husband does too), which most certainly is not a simplified life. I use the half-dead iPhone for: directions—I map something at home with WiFi, take a screenshot of it, and bring the iPhone with me; Instagram— you need a smartphone to post; iMessaging when I can get on WiFi—anything to avoid flip phone texting; and photography.

3. MY FLIP PHONE HAS BEEN A NUISANCE TO OTHERS.

Did she ever get my text? Do I text to her phone number, or @icloud.com, or @me.com? Texting has been so hit-or-miss that some people have begun texting both me and my husband, knowing that if the message doesn't get to me, at least he'll get it. My husband loves this (not).

In summary, the flip phone satisfies my craving for a less connected life, but it has not simplified my life. The reality is that I need easy texting, and the flip phone just can't deliver in this arena. Therefore, it's time to transition back to one phone, one smartphone. I'm thankful for the experiment and will now focus my efforts on being a smartphone user with exemplary boundaries. So help me God.

Flip, thank you for the lessons you taught me and the bad habits you broke, I won't quickly forget our 5-month relationship and I bid thee a fond farewell. P.S. You'll need to stick around until I get a smartphone.

The Scientific Method

Be: Tech-Wise

What a fast-paced beginning to the school year! School has been in session 4 weeks now; I feel like the train left the station and hasn't yet made a stop. New teachers and schedules, homework, volunteering, soccer practices and games, play dates, family dinners, church, chores, errands—all being executed in oven-like temperatures.

[Since when did we hit at least 90 degrees every day in Silicon Valley?! This very morning I sensed a change: the sky was darker at 6:30 am, the air cooler. I'm optimistic that we're out of the 90+s, but I've closed the windows and binds just in case I'm wrong.]

Being back to school means my children have a lot of time with their peers, and they've been using it to conduct a massive research project entitled: "Why We Should Have Unlimited Screen Time (or at least a lot, lot more screen time) Like All of Our Friends: The Story of Our Stingy, Strict Parents and the Suffering of Being Their Offspring." At least the three of them can all agree on something! One son wants to be on YouTube all the time. The other wants to Minecraft non-stop. The third thinks he lives in a third-world home because he doesn't have a video game console. Their desires align, and are unique. Thankfully, my husband and I align on this as well. We have grave concerns about the addictive nature of screens, as well as concern about the dangerous content that lurks within the world wide web that no parental control software can perfectly shield our children from.

This summer I read a helpful book called The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, by Andy Crouch. I've written about technology and parenting before; this is a realm I'm passionate about and that also brings me great frustration. I want my children to feel we are generous and reasonable parents; I also want to protect them and lead them well. But even when we increase screen time, it's never enough for them, they always tell us about the greener grass elsewhere—and I can't blame them. They have peers with smartphones in their pockets, with nearly unlimited screen access; and they struggle to understand our concerns, they are children after all. I know there are other parents who share my screen concerns and seriously limit their children's access, I've talked with them before, I know they exist. But sometimes I feel all alone.

This quote from Crouch really struck me as I read the book:

"...Technology, with all its gifts, poses one of the greatest threats ever conceived by human society to the formation of wise, courageous persons that real family and real community are all about."

I full-heartedly agree with him: the threat is real and it's going to impact the caliber of men and women our children grow up to become. This is why I'm trying, through trial and error, to find tech's proper place in my family. Sometimes it feels like the power of the screen is so strong that it's this force trying to brainwash my kids. Or maybe I'm over-reacting? Sometimes I'm tempted to just throw in the towel and surrender to the lure of the screen, let the kids have what they want. But no!

Is this tech balance something you struggle with as well? How have you solved it in your household? I'd love to know your thoughts and solutions. We need each other's support as we raise our children to be wise and courageous in the tech mecca of the world.

Back to School, Elementary School Playground

Get: A Car

For the past four months, I've searched far and wide, high and low for my dream car, the car that embodies all that this website stands for: beauty, practicality, bang for the buck, reliability, low maintenance—a car that is the poster child of the Simply SV tagline: The Good Life, on Less.

The problem is, I have a strong affinity for many cars that don't check all of my value boxes. I adore Mini Coopers; but they aren't practical with 3 young children and all their friends and gear. I wax nostalgic for the Jeep Wagoneers of the 80's (I can't pass one without taking a photo); but they certainly aren't low maintenance. I'm drawn to the rugged look of Land Rovers, especially in army green with tan leather interior; but new ones are too pricey and old ones aren't low maintenance. Maybe I could get one of these dream cars if my husband or I were knowledgeable about car mechanics, but we aren't.

I'll spare you the saga of the deliberation and car borrowing that occurred during my car hunt process, and skip to the end of the story. I settled on a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country minivan purchased from Shift, a Silicon Valley start-up. (How could I resist? Had to be loyal to the culture of my homeland.) Shift's mission is to improve the way we buy used cars, and from my experience, they're doing just that. Thanks to cookies spying on my activities, everyone in the computer world knew I was used car shopping. I was hit with a Shift ad in my Nextdoor newsfeed that offered to BRING A CAR TO ME to test drive, for free. My eyes popped out of my head: could this be true? Where's the catch? I'd already reached my limit of used car lots; they're depressing places, I still hadn't found my perfect-match car, and Shift was offering to bring a car to me.

Well, here's the catch: they'll bring you one car at a time. I didn't have time for that. There were 3 cars I wanted to test drive, so they invited me to their San Jose warehouse to check out all 3. If I bought one that day, I'd receive $300 off.

Turns out I was the first customer to go to Shift's recently opened San Jose warehouse. The ability to easily transport furniture, bikes, and other large items is so important to me that I was considering getting a 4-door truck, but then conceded that I really needed more than 5 seatbelts for my soccer mom lifestyle. The Town & Country won me over with its signature Stow & Go seating—the 2nd and 3rd rows quickly and easily fold into the floor of the van, turning it into a cargo van. It's a transformer!

A few more highlights about Shift:

  • The car I bought was $3,000 less than vehicles of the same make, year, and mileage at other dealers. Shift keeps their costs down by not having a showroom, and not owning the cars. You can read more about their business model on their very clear website.
  • You have 5 days or 200 miles to change your mind and return the car, no questions asked.
  • You have 30 days to return the car if there are any issues with the drivetrain. I didn't even know what drivetrain was; I now know it's the engine, anything having to do with actually driving the car.

With used car purchasing, there's always the fear that you got a lemon. I decorate my home with bowls of lemons, but car lemons have no place in my life. We're still within the 30-day drivetrain guarantee period, and I'm going to ask a car mechanic friend to inspect the insides of our van to confirm that we made a good choice.

Fun fact: our van was previously a rental car on Kauai, where my husband and I honeymooned 14 years ago.

Another fun fact: The Chrysler Town & Country was discontinued in 2016, they now have just the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Comedian Jim Gaffigan did some hysterical commercials with his family last year for the Pacifica. Check them out for a belly laugh (this sentence is linked to the commercials).

Chrysler Town & Country