Thursday, September 29, 2022

Target Toys for Fall Fun

I received free product and compensation in exchange for my honest review of these products. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Summer days may be over, but we recently had the opportunity to review several toys from Target that got both girls outside and playing in the beautiful fall weather we've been having. Reagan will never pass up the opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening outside, but Madison is an indoor girl, like me, so something needs to be really special to keep her interest. We were recently sent a few toys from to try out, and they were perfect for our fall fun.

The first product we received was the All-Pro Passer. Reagan may be the more athletic of my girls, but neither has much experience with a football. In fact, Reagan has been really into soccer for the past few years, where throwing and catching aren't at the forefront of the skills she's been practicing. 


Both girls ended up having a great time playing with this toy! It's a robotic quarterback that is programmed with the skill, timing, and accuracy of a pro quarterback and can launch the ball over 25 yards. You can set it to throw into several different passing zones so you can practice running in different directions. To play, you load the ball, pump it to the distance you'd like (short, mid, or long), select your play, then press hike or long for a perfect spiral throw. 

I don't know that we are the target audience, but for a football fan, this is a great way to practice or play without needing to grab a reluctant partner. I can honestly say that we probably wouldn't have paid $49.99 knowing that we aren't football players, but for someone who wants to practice? Definitely worth it.

The next toy we tested was the Groovy Glow Wubble two pack. The Wubble is a ball/bubble hybrid that wobbles, floats, and sort of...blobs through the air. Fun to play with, fun to watch. We've had a Wubble before and the girls loved playing with it, but unfortunately, the Wubble didn't last as long as we'd hoped. After only a few outside playtimes our Wubble needed a patch. Wubble has clearly done some improvements over the years since we first tried it. The Wubble is engineered to be gentle and just molds into whatever it touches before bouncing away. 

This time, Wubble not only upped the game with durability, but with style. These Wubbles were in a tie-dye pattern and glowed in the dark. We brought them over to a friend's house for an evening get together and they were the perfect toy to enjoy in the fall evening hours. The Wubble was easy to inflate with the inflation tube, and deflated just as easily when we were ready to come home. And though we haven't needed it yet, they do come with a patch kit for repairs. Even if it doesn't last a lifetime, at 24.99 for a two pack, it's a good deal.  I'm so glad we got the chance to play with the Wubble again.

So we had our fun, but since we're homeschoolers, we always are looking for activities that supplement our schooling. In this case, we got to try out two toys from Smithsonian. 

The first Smithsonian project we tried was the Rock and Gem Dig Kit. I have such a love/hate relationship with dig kits. The girls - especially Reagan - really love them, but they make such a mess and it seems like a lot of effort for a very small reward. However, we are always willing to give new toys a try.

We definitely took this outside to the driveway to make sure we were avoiding any indoor mess, and I'm glad we did. The dig kit isn't a nice, neat, quiet, indoor toy. However, it is a lot of fun! It's definitely best for older kids because the gems are small, but for a ten and twelve year old, they were great. Because we played outside, we could just sweep the mess away and hose down any residual dust. What I liked about this particular model was that the tools were sturdy. With other dig kits, we've struggled with the flimsy tools provided, as they usually can't make it through the block. These tools could handle it, and that was a nice bonus. At a price of only 12.99, this was well worth it.

Finally, we tried the Smithsonian Telescope/Monocular Kit, which retails for $19.99 at Target. For a $20 telescope, we knew we wouldn't be getting the quality of a full sized model, but we figured this would be fun for the girls to keep in their rooms and have unlimited use of, which they don't have with the bigger model we have. 

As telescopes go, this is a good starter telescope for a younger child. At night, they'll be able to see the moon a little closer and identify some constellations. It's not really powerful enough for much else, but Reagan has liked keeping it in her room and using it in the evenings whenever she wants. Unlike the full size telescope, she can set it up independently and use it without any help or supervision, and for a kid who loves her independence, that's been a good thing.

Overall, Target has some great options at reasonable price points for fall fun OR for holiday shopping. I highly recommend both the Wubble and the Smithsonian toys for gifts that are incredibly interactive, and if you have a kid who loves to beg others to throw the ball around in the backyard, the passer is a definite win. We had a great time reviewing these toys. As for recommendations...

Madison's pick (12) - I love the dig kit. It was fun to get out some aggression!

Reagan's pick (10) - DEFINITELY the Wubble. My friends and I had so much fun!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Favorite Homeschool Supplies

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Is My Tween Ready for the Front Seat?

 Madison turned ten this summer. We're definitely reaching milestones this year. She had a massive growth spurt and is definitely losing some of that little girl look. 

She's angling to stay up later. She's developing more of a "teen" skin care routine with micellar water and moisturizer. She carries a purse with actual useful items. She loves a good Starbucks run. Now she's angling for the front seat.

I'm torn. She's tall enough. She sits properly and the seatbelt fits her. As she moves toward puberty, I know her bones are maturing. 

But...she's only ten.

I know. I was sitting in the front seat at ten. I was probably sitting in the front seat before ten. But I feel like she just got out of a booster seat.

In my online mom groups, I'm not even bothering to ask. I know exactly what the answer will be, because it's been asked a million times before. The SUPER judgy car seat moms come flying out that THEIR ten year old was in a booster until at LEAST twelve after being harnessed until ten and rear facing until six and in the backseat until they were driving themselves. It's so unsafe! A mom or two might pop in to say that they've allowed their ten year old "rarely and only because...", and they're judged quickly, so more don't jump in.

But with my real life friends, most have allowed it. Not every ride, but if they have a similarly sized and aged child, chances are they've experimented.

Here are the reason that I'm NOT ready.

1. The front seat is where my purse goes. Along with the mail, maybe a shopping bag, and my car candy. I'm usually annoyed when I lose that seat to Adam when the four of us are together. I'm definitely not looking to give it up permanently.

2. My YOUNGER child, who is super tiny and nowhere near ready to be out of a booster, let alone the front seat, would be jealous and it would make for some very annoying rides.

3. She still brings plenty of stuff into the car, which collects on the floor, in her cupholder, in her door, etc. And if my front seat is going to be filled with junk, it better be MY junk.

So for a permanent change? We're holding off. However, when I didn't feel like putting up the third row after soccer and my niece chose to ride with us, it was nice to move Madison to the front. When the two of us went to Sonic together during Reagan's practice, it was convenient and much more social to allow her the front seat. And because it's a novelty, I can use it as a carrot for unappealing errands.

I'm not sure when I'll be ready to let her make a real shift. But for now, we straddling the line, just like my ten year old is straddling the line between kid and teen.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Holiday Breaks for Homeschool

 Ever since we began homeschooling, I'm found it works best for our family to follow a traditional school schedule...sort of. I've written before about following the school schedule and why it works for us. We make adjustments of course, because one of my favorite parts of homeschooling is the freedom to figure out what works best, but right now, this schedule works. 

When it comes to holiday breaks, we do things just a little bit differently, and that starts for Thanksgiving. Generally speaking, if we can, we try to get through our first third of school before Thanksgiving with no "big" breaks. Because we plan for a four day week with the fifth day as a "swing" day, this is usually doable. We have plenty of time for park days and field trips and co-op classes and can still do 12-13 full weeks of curriculum.

Our holiday schedule starts the week of Thanksgiving. We take the full week off from school. We finish up the the week before, put everything away and spend the week of Thanksgiving recharging. We'll spend a day in our pajamas watching movies. We'll do a few Thanksgiving themed art projects if we're feeling motivated. We'll work on Christmas lists so we'll have them ready for everyone who is planning to ask for them. We might even make lists of what we want to do leading up to Christmas. But we do absolutely no curriculum work. They need the break, and I need the break. 

After Thanksgiving, we come back for three weeks (usually) and try to get through. If our December schedule fills up, and there are years that it does, I may take two weeks worth of curriculum and give us three weeks to finish it. Some families like to take off the entire month of December and focus only on holiday themed activities. There are definitely years I'm tempted to do this, but I've actually found that for our family, it's better to come back to routine, at least for a couple of weeks. 

In December, we take the full week leading up to Christmas and the full week after Christmas. I like our weeks to begin on Monday and end on Friday (this goes back to my days as a public school specials teacher, when short weeks, although lovely in theory, wrecked absolute havoc with my schedule). Some years that means we finish up earlier in the month, and some years we go "back" later. I love it most when things line up, and despite all the mess of this year, 2020 happens to be a year that works. So this year, we'll have almost a full week leading to Christmas and the full week afterward before going back to the grind after New Year's. 

Right now, we're only two days away from the start of our first holiday break, and I'm not shy to admit that I need the break just as much as the girls do. I can't wait to put the books away on Friday and leave them on the shelf for a wonderful ten days to kick off the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

When the To-Do List Feels Unmanageable

 As Madison grows, I'm finding that she's ready to absorb more "life lessons". Plenty of our time in car, or early in the morning as we drink tea together, or at night as she's getting ready for bed is spent talking about how to behave and how to act now that she's leaving her "kid" years behind. I really love it. We talk about how to take care of yourself, how to treat people, how to deal with different situations, and how to juggle a busy schedule. 

She's not really leaving the kid years yet. I'm not saying that she's ready to be a teenager at 10. In many ways, I'm thrilled that she still enjoys her American Girl dolls and other toys. I don't want her to grow up too fast. But as she encounters situations in her life, I like knowing that she can come to me. This is actually the perfect sweet spot. She has these "grown up" situations and yet she still wants to come to me.

Recently, our conversation was semi-school, semi-home life centered. She had gotten behind on her schoolwork because she'd had an appointment in the middle of the day. Normally I have enough advance notice to adjust schoolwork accordingly, but this appointment was last minute. She was overwhelmed with what she needed to get done, according to her agenda. She was also trying to balance that with her daily chores, including a room that was beginning to get out of control. Plus, she was trying to figure out how to fit in her dance practice. She was looking at a list that felt unmanageable.

Oh honey. You have the right mom for this.

I think most moms, and really, most adults, have dealt with a to-do list that feels so unmanageable that you can't fathom even beginning it. A long list of tasks can feel completely overwhelming. And when it doesn't get done, you feel even more overwhelmed. And sometimes, that causes you (ok, ME) to just shut down.

So I told her to take a break, and we made tea, and sat down together to strategize. And I shared with her a few tips that I use when the lists feel overwhelming.

Chunk it Up

I'm a big fan of breaking a list into little manageable chunks. I reminded her that I'd done this with their schoolwork. Look at that long list and pick three things. We debated the merits of getting a big task crossed off against several small things. But the takeaway from this is to take that list and break it down. I might not be able to handle twenty things. But I can handle three. Then, when those three are done and I'm feeling accomplished, I'll choose a few more.

Set the Timer

This is a trick of mine that works for a long list. It sounds like it's a recipe for disaster, but I swear, it works. Let's say I have an hour before I have to go somewhere. I'll choose four things from my list and give myself fifteen minutes for each (of course, I change things up depending on what's on the list). When my timer goes off, I move on, no matter what. If I "beat the timer", I give myself a little reward. Knowing that I'm only doing something for a set amount of time stops me from getting bogged down. 

This is PERFECT when the girls work on their rooms. You have ten minutes on laundry. When the timer goes off, you have ten minutes to pick up books. Then ten minutes to get the doll clothes put away. If you beat the clock, you earn a reward. If you don't finish, move on to the next job anyway. It keeps them focused, it provides an actual goal, and it stops them from getting overwhelmed by a "clean up your room" task. 

Decide What's Important

In our homeschool, if you get behind in math, you're sunk. I have no idea why, since each day's work is very manageable, but playing catch up with math leads to more tears that anything else and can completely throw us off for DAYS. So when we look at the to-do list, we focus on what's important and needs to have priority. Do you have your private lesson for your dance solo? Then practice makes the priority list. Do you have a lot of schoolwork? Math gets top billing. This stops you from focusing too much on the things that aren't important. We broke Madison's list into three categories: must do, should do, can do. 

Did Madison get everything done that day? Nope. But she didn't cry, didn't get overwhelmed, and she got enough done where she was able to catch up before long. 

Sometimes, the best part of teaching Madison how to navigate life is that it reminds ME how to navigate life. I'm not perfect, and she certainly won't be. But we have each other, and we can manage it together.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Organizing Sports Uniforms

 Reagan added another element to our lives this year. After a couple of years of in-town, very basic soccer, she decided she wanted to try out for the premier team that our town offers. Reagan has loved soccer from the start, but she'd lost an entire season due to COVID-19, and we weren't sure if going from nothing to hardcore would be too much. 

It turned out to be great. She tried out over the summer and immediately loved the new practice routines and serious coaches. She found herself on a great team of girls she likes, and it really came at the perfect time when she felt she'd lost a lot of her friends due to fallout from the pandemic and how it impacted her activities. Playing on this team was a great choice.

But the new league is much more regimented. We had to buy a complete uniform kit, which not only included a uniform for games, but a full uniform for practice. Everything from their warm up gear to their socks to their bag is dictated by the club. They can be benched for showing up in the wrong uniform, wrong socks, wrong warm up. As the girls stay in the league, they get used to it, but for a first year mom who is NOT a sports mom, it was overwhelming.

Fortunately, I am SUPER MOM when it comes to organizing for dance, so I set out to see if those skills would transfer. Labels, special bags, and routine had served us well for dance competitions, and I was certain they could be adapted for soccer.

The potential flaw is that Reagan is not the most organized when it comes to her laundry, and I worried that we would spend multiple days a week fighting over where the practice uniform was, or why a shirt didn't make it into the laundry, or which socks go with which uniform, or any other issues. After the first week, we figured out a plan.

1. I started with lingerie bags. I have a practice uniform bag, a home uniform bag, and an away uniform bag. The bag has the correct shirt, shorts, and socks, along with the corresponding headband that a mom made the girls. I also added a bag for practice warm ups and game warm ups. Each bag has a tag that says what is inside.

2. Those bags do NOT go in her dresser drawers with her other clothes. We bought a separate canvas basket just for soccer gear. Anything related to soccer attire goes in that bin, and nothing else. We store the bin in her closet.

3. As soon as she gets home from soccer, she changes and puts her full uniform into the washing machine. It doesn't sit in her backpack, and it doesn't go in her hamper. Everything goes right into the washing machine so it's done with the next load and will be guaranteed to be ready. Once it comes out, it's put right back into the correct bag.

This plan made everyone's life easier. Everything was always washed and ready to go, and Reagan knew exactly where everything was. On the days I couldn't take her, Adam could easily step in and grab the right bag without worrying. 

I still don't consider myself a soccer mom - yet - but I'm glad to know my dance mom skills are transferrable!

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