My girls will get a bunch of things this Christmas. It’s exciting to me to think about what they’re getting and wonder which things will be hits and which will be misses. There are always some of each. We’re finally past the point, though, where the kids think the boxes are funner than the gifts. I think we are, anyway. And as much as I admit to loving the toys and glittery flashy things, I myself am more excited about a gift I’m helping our families give the girls together.
I thought of it as I was driving one day. I’ve found that listening to audio books in the car is a sanity saver for all of us. They tend to sit more quietly and focus on the story which means that they’re not asking me as many rapid-fire questions and I, in turn, am a less stressed and better focused driver. It’s a winner all around.
I know that this year there’s a wave of recordable book options. I think that’s cool. I just don’t love the price tag and the bulk of them and the knowing that there are batteries inside that will die and need to be replaced. Or worse, corrode and kill the recording. And if that were the book that my Grammy’d read and I lost the recording, I’d be super sad.
So I thought about how I could have my family members, who are spread out all over the place, read books for my kids. The kids would love the story and also love to hear it in a familiar voice.
Then, thinking about how it’d be technically possible, I thought about my working days, when I’d have to sit through long conference calls. I remembered that there was an option for recording the calls and downloading the files as MP3s. Which I never did, because the calls were so long and boring in the first place that I sure as h—eck wouldn’t want to listen to them again.
But… I could use that function to let our family and friends call in and read books. That way there’s no recording device to pass or ship around and worry about getting lost. Not that my Grammy would be able to figure out how to make it work. Or my parents, for that matter. But on the phone… folks can read whenever and wherever they’re ready. They’ve all got a phone. And it won’t cost them anything. It’ll only cost me a little.
So I dug up a conference calling site that charges 7 cents a minute. Pay as you go, no monthly or startup fees or anything. And will allow me to download the calls as MP3s that I can burn onto discs or sync with my iPhone or whatever. Perfect for sharing with other little relatives to come, too.
So far my family has called in and read The Lorax, I Like Myself and If You Give a Dog a Donut. These are the task-oriented list-making to-do-list-conquering family members. The ones who ask for a Christmas list before Halloween. The others will likely call in on Christmas Eve. Which is totally cool with me.
I think these are on the to-do list for my looover and I to read for our girls– they’re the stories we’ve read to death this year.
So, here’s how:
1. Set up a conference calling account.
I used Toll Free Conferencing. Only took a few minutes to set up. Not only are they not sponsoring this, I can’t imagine the way I’m using this is going to make them a whole lot of dough. But I’m sharing it because it worked for me.
2. Pick a book. Or a dozen.
I made a “Wish List” on Amazon to give the further-away folks some ideas, but also encouraged them to feel free to go thrifting for books. The girls have no idea whether a book is brand new or not, nor would they care. As long as there isn’t crayon scribble all over it. That they tend to notice. And then ask me why I tell them they can’t color on their books when there are clearly other kids with funner mothers out there.
3. Call in to record.
I tested it first. Then I sent an e-mail with the instructions for the readers to follow. There’s a conference call-in number, and a group number, and a “host” number, since each person serves as their own host, and then a code to record the call. A lot of buttons to push, so… my Dad helped my Grammy through that part. And then she did a fantastic reading.
4. Download the calls.
Burn them onto a CD. Play them on a computer. Play them on a handheld gadget-y thing. Maybe this one. Wherever you like. Here’s the screen where I can label the calls and download them. It’s all web-based, no software to install.
And the rest… is gravy. I’m putting them all on my phone since that’s the thing that’s always with me in the car. But a CD would be easy enough to burn. And I’m backing up a copy, ’cause you never know. I’m so excited to hear what they think of hearing the voices they know and love reading the stories.
And so, as usual, when I’ve got something even sort of crafty that I’m excited about, I share it here. Hope this is helpful to someone out there!
– I was interviewed last week by the Wall Street Journal. Why, you (might) ask, does this not warrant its own post? Well, that would be because none of my (20 minutes of) actual words made it into the article. But our holiday card made it into the slide show. So my mom gets to brag at holiday parties. And, I admit, it was super fun to get an e-mail asking for an interview. With the Wall Street Journal. Because that was so fun, I can let go of the fact that the few words I uttered that made it into the photo caption were kind of out of context.
– Are you into the Elf on a Shelf thing? Or do you think it’s creepy? If you think it’s creepy, you might enjoy this. If you love it and don’t think it’s creepy and would like to avoid seeing it as creepy… don’t click the link.
– Out of 112 Spoonflower I Spy Swap 2 fabrics, 102 are in my hands and I’ve been in touch with the owners of the remaining 10 and they’re all working things out to get them to me. Not sure whether the packages will make it out before Christmas. I’ll do what I can on this end. But maybe it’s better, in the end, for the packages to wait until the holiday rush has passed. I’d cry if any of them didn’t make it back home. It’s been a whole lot of work. Oy.