My Kind of Holiday: The Kid Detective (Giveaway!)

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Many kids write a holiday list sometime around the beginning of December.  They tend to have certain “must have” items in mind.  But you might find that those must have items change as the holiday approaches.  It can be hard to figure out what they really want versus what they want because someone else has it right now.  And once you do figure out a specific list…then you have to figure out where to hide everything.  What’s a mom to do?

That’s where Target comes in.  The first thing you want to do is look through Target’s Kids’ Gift List to find the perfect gifts for your little (and not so little) ones.  Then you need to think about storing the gifts in sneaky spots and creative presentation.

This year Target teamed up with retired CIA intelligence officer Jonna Mendez to help moms determine what gifts their kids want the most this holiday season – and how to possibly store those gifts when the kids seem to be just about everywhere…

Jonna is both a mother and a grandmother, too, so she knows a thing or two about preparing for the holidays!

I followed a few of Jonna’s tips on hiding gifts around the house, and I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful hiding places that I never even considered prior to this little exercise.

Check this out:

 

Target Kids’ Detective Tips: Clever Storage Phase

Shopping and finding the perfect gifts are only half the battle, now you need to find clever ways to hide the gifts without the kids finding them!  Since Santa visits my house, looking for hidden gifts isn’t really an issue…but still, you have to find the best spots (birthdays require gift storage, too).

  • Kids’ Gift Detective Tip #1:  Hide the gifts in plain sight.  Parents often go to great lengths to hide gifts in what tend to be the most obvious places for kids to look (or they lose them – I wouldn’t know anything about that, though).  Try hiding gifts in boxes that are always stored in the garage or laundry room, under the sink behind the “do not touch” cleaning products, or in the linen closet behind the guest towels.  Kids expect gifts to be completely hidden and not easily accessible.
  • Kids’ Gift Detective Tip #2:  Disguise the gifts as everyday items.  For smaller gifts, try hiding them in your sock drawer…inside the socks.  Or consider hiding them in a healthy box of “mom and dad” cereal that the kids won’t touch.  For larger gifts, hide them in suitcases that are rarely used.
  • Kids’ Detective Tip #3:  Hide the gifts at someone else’s house.  If you have older kids or kids that are sneaky, ask a relative or friend to store your top gifts.  Or how about at the office?

Be sure to visit ABullseyeView for more great Kid’s Detective tips! (Seriously, though, that post is super cute and includes great ideas – like invisible ink, just saying.)

I had a great time finding sneaky hiding spots around my house (even if I almost dropped a really expensive bass on the hardwood floor…oops!).  The holiday season can be a bit overwhelming and stressful – playing Kid Detective will snap you right out of it and bring back the holiday magic!

I hope you’ll track me down on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and play along using the hashtag #mykindofholiday.  The nice people at Target are having a great time with this and truly enjoy seeing your pictures.

And now for a little extra holiday magic courtesy of my friends at Target…

One lucky U.S. reader will win a $25 Target gift card!!!!!

How do you enter?  Easy.

Leave me a comment below telling me your BEST Kid Detective tip.  You have to leave a tip to be entered to win, so get crafty and share your ideas!

Contest closes on December 6, 2013 at 8pm PST.  Get your entry in now!

Disclosure:  I am a member of the Target Inner Circle.  As such, I am given exclusive access to the brand and upcoming promotions.  As always, the opinions contained within this post are my own.  Play along!  It’s fun!

 

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My Kind of Holiday: Baking with Kids!

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What’s my kind of holiday? (You know you have those catchy ads stuck in your head, too.)  One spent baking with my kids, of course!

All of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood involve time spent around our kitchen table cutting, baking, sprinkling, and frosting Christmas cookies.  Gingerbread cookies were carefully decorated with raisins and those little silver balls that didn’t seem edible but somehow were.  The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafted through the air as we waited for them to cool so that we could begin phase two of decorating:  Frosting them until the actual gingerbread was no longer visible.

The sugar cookie dough was dyed red and green for extra holiday cheer, and the sprinkles added just the right amount of sparkle.  We laughed, chatted, attempted to create new and different designs (my brother was always the master of the hand-rolled candy cane cookie), and spent time together. After months of school and time spent with friends, holiday time always brought us back together again.

It’s a tradition that I just can’t live without.  In my house, the holiday season doesn’t really begin until the very first batch of cookies goes into the oven.

My kids have been baking and cooking with me since they were old enough to stand upright in the “kitchen helper”.  Time spent in the kitchen means bonding, laughing, telling stories, and creating something from nothing.  It’s a time to stand side-by-side and simply be together.  We love every minute of it.

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And the holiday cookies?  Well…it’s always nice to end up with a delicious treat.

When Target asked me to share my favorite holiday tradition, I didn’t think twice.  Every time I bake holiday cookies with my kids I experience both happy memories from my past and beautiful new memories forming in my present.  I love to watch my kids create.  I love to listen in on their little conversations and answer their questions about my holidays as a child.  I love to share my stories and listen to theirs.  Sitting around the table making Christmas cookies with my kids leaves me feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for this amazing life and family that Sean and I have created.  Small moments like these always bring me back to simplicity.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

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Due to a very long list of food allergies and my own preference, we bake everything from scratch around here.  But you don’t need to be a baker to make your own holiday memories that involve tasty treats.  In fact, Target made it easy for you this year.  With an entire aisle dedicated to holiday baking (how cute are these “Ninjabread Men“?), you can pick up baking kits and all of the baking essentials in one quick trip.

Check out these fun holiday baking kits and tools:

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I picked up the Nordic Ware Petite Holiday Cookie Cutters just for fun (I have an alarming amount of holiday cookie cutters in my home and truly didn’t need more), and I have to tell you – they are by far my favorite holiday cookie cutters (seriously, I’m known to buy expensive cookie cutters from high end cooking stores).  The shapes are great and the cookies are the perfect size.  At $9.99 for a pack of fifteen, you really can’t go wrong.

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From recipe books to baking kits to baking tools and more, Target has everything you need to create amazing memories with your little ones this holiday season.

In case you do want to bake from scratch this year, I’m sharing my super amazing sugar cookie and cookie frosting recipes below.  Happy baking!

Practical Katie’s Super Yummy Sugar Cookies

Make ahead tip:  This dough needs to chill for at least two hours, but you can also make it the night before.  Plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups of butter, softened
  • 3 Cups of granulated sugar (Baker’s Sugar is kind of awesome, by the way)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 Cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (completely optional, but adds a nice touch – especially around the holidays.  So does a touch of nutmeg.  Your call.)

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Stir (not beat) in flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Form into a large ball, cover, and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Roll out dough on parchment paper (cover with flour, granulated sugar, or powdered sugar to avoid sticking) to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.  ***Bonus tip:  Only use the amount of dough that you need at any given time and let the rest continue to chill.
  7. Cut shapes.
  8. Bake on parchment paper for 6-8 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and decorate using cookie frosting (below) and approximately 10,000 sprinkles!

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Cup butter, softened
  • 5 Tablespoons of milk
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • Food coloring – optional (I use all natural food dyes)

Directions:

  1. Cream together the sugar and butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually mix in milk and vanilla with a hand mixer.
  3. Add food coloring, if desired.

*Note:  Apparently many people prefer to use shortening instead of butter in cookie frosting.  That’s not really my thing and I love the way this frosting sets, but don’t let me stop you if you’re a believer in shortening!  

Please share your holiday baking fun on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using the hashtag #mykindofholiday…we’ll be watching!

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Disclosure:  Target sent me a box of baking goodies to get us in the holiday baking spirit.  As part of the Target Inner Circle, I have exclusive access to the Target brand and some promotions.  As always, the opinions contained within this post are my own.  I really did buy those Nordic Ware cookie cutters…and I just had an extra set shipped to Connecticut, where we will be spending the holidays!  Love them!

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Shopping Black Friday with Target…Online!

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Target is opening stores at 8pm on Thanksgiving, giving shoppers earlier access to Black Friday doorbuster deals.  I know what you’re thinking, that’s so unfair to the people who work for Target.  Before you hit “share” on that Facebook graphic making the rounds…consider this:  Some people actually prefer to work these extended holiday hours.

Target had this to say about holiday scheduling: “In advance of the holidays, Target works closely with its team members to understand scheduling preferences. Target compensates all hourly team members who work on a national holiday, including Thanksgiving, with pay equal to time and a half their hourly rate. Team members who work shifts from store open on Thanksgiving to 8 a.m. on Black Friday will receive additional compensation on top of holiday premium pay.”  Read the press release for more information.

People have bills to pay and mouths to feed.  That extra compensation might be very helpful to someone out there.  And while Black Friday shopping was never a thing for my family when I was young, plenty of families have made it a part of their holiday tradition.  The stores will open.  Many of you will shop online on Black Friday.  Target has been planning for this since last Black Friday!  Isn’t it nice to know that employees are compensated well and given a preference?

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the fun stuff…amazing holiday sales!

In addition to the Black Friday doorbuster deals, Target.com will also host a “Cyber Week” sale.  During Cyber Week, shoppers will find new deals every day, with more than 100,000 items on sale throughout the week – across several different categories.

There will also be exclusive deals for Cartwheel and Target REDcard users.

Due to a traveling husband and two young children and given the fact that we are traveling for the holidays this year, I will be looking for my deals online with my REDcard this year.  Here’s what I have my eye on:

  • Element 50” 1080p LED TV, $229.00
  • Kitchen items on sale during Cyber Week
  • Select sleepwear for men, women and kids, $5.00
  • Buy one, Get one 50 percent off select toys* including Lalaloopsy, Our Generation, and more (what can I say?  The girl loves her Lalaloopsy dolls!)

For more real-time deals and news on holiday shopping at Target, follow @ABullsEyeView on Twitter.

Be sure to use #mykindofholiday on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to let us know what deals you find along the way!

Disclosure:  As a member of the Target Inner Circle I am given exclusive access to the brand and information about upcoming sales.  All opinions contained within this post are my own.  I am looking forward to finding a deal on a TV and all other items mentioned in this post!  

***Stay tuned for more great information about making this holiday season special with Target!***

 

Go Back to School with Target! (Giveaway)

IMG_7566 Love with your whole heart. Girls can change the world.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve really been avoiding the whole back-to-school thing this year.  After an amazing summer spent running, swimming, and playing with my kids, I’m just not ready.  The tides are changing in our little family of four.  In six days, my daughter begins first grade.  It seems big, important, and a little bit overwhelming.  And in a couple of weeks, my baby begins his final year of preschool.  I’m not ready to say goodbye to the preschool years.  I love longs walks to the fire station and days spent scouring the library for a new and exciting book about trucks.

But time marches on.  And parents need to embrace change and enjoy each small moment that each stage brings.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

It’s been hard to pump up the excitement factor on this whole back-to-school thing when, quite frankly, I’m dreading it.  With one small exception.  Target.

When my friends at Target asked me to bring the kids to New York City for a night in August and attend a back-to-school event, I simply couldn’t resist.  We rode the train together for the first time.  We wandered the city in search of a park, and even managed to find one!  We enjoyed a beautiful hotel and a fun night in the big city on the other side.  And then we went to the Target studio for a morning of crafting and checking out the new styles and school supplies.

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Wow.  I mean, wow.

The inner nerd in me has always loved school supplies.  I remember carefully selecting notebooks as a kid, and then holding them close and breathing in their fresh, unwritten scent.  As a secret writer, I loved the feel of the blank pages and couldn’t wait to fill them with thoughts and stories.  And I was always in search of the perfect pencil case, the perfect binder, and the perfect notebook.

Target got it right this year, that’s for sure.  Check out these gorgeous (and sturdy and inexpensive) binders…

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And these pencil cases?  My fancy girl was in heaven! (And, ok…maybe I was, too.)

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We all know back-to-school isn’t just about school supplies, though.  For some reason, kids insist on growing in leaps and bounds over the summer.  Sigh.  Not to worry, your little fashionista will love the back-to-school clothes at Target this year.  Color is the name of the game and patterns and sparkles are everywhere!  I practically had to drag Riley out of there… Note:  You all know how I feel about clothing that is just a little too mature for little girls.  I love that Target chose cute and fashionable patterns and styles that keep little girls looking little…

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Seriously…I had to pry this headband off of her head.  And don’t get me started on the super cute accessories…

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And for the little boy in your life who maybe doesn’t need so many sparkles…these soft and cozy hoodies and shirts in muted colors are a great option.  (Note to Target:  Please put a construction truck on each one so that my boy will wear them.)

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Finally…due to the insane allergies in this household, my poor kiddos are generally stuck with unscented soaps and shampoos.  Not much fun when you’re little.  Check out these Galvin & Galvin London Kids products that are both organic and hypoallergenic and made just for Target!  Let’s hear it for fruity soaps for allergy kids!

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As if all of this isn’t enough to send you running to your Target store of choice…I have a little gift for you.  One lucky U.S. reader will win a $50 gift card to Target to help offset the cost of back-to-school shopping.  Who doesn’t want that??

To enter:

Leave me a comment here telling me what back-to-school products from Target you are most looking forward to trying.  That’s it.  Super easy.

You have until August 26, 2013 at 8pm PST to enter this giveaway.  ***Please make sure that I have your email address.  You can’t win if I can’t find you!

Disclosure:  As part of my affiliation with Target Inner Circle, Target sent me (and the kids) on an all-expensed paid trip to New York City to preview their Fall collection.  We had a great time crafting with other kids and checking out the new styles.  I truly loved the new styles, particularly the school supplies and girls clothing (and the soaps!).  All opinions contained within this post are my own.

FEED the World with Target

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By now you know that my love of Target is far greater than my weekly trips to stock up on things that I do and don’t need on any given Monday.  I love that Target has simplified the shopping experience for busy families.  I love that Target brings affordable fashion to people everywhere.  I love that they have excellent options when it comes to organic snacks and natural products for the home.

But most of all, I love the philanthropic nature of the company.  From literacy to food banks to partnerships carefully selected in the name of giving back, Target is committed to helping families thrive.  Target understands the importance of helping others.

When I heard that Target launched a partnership with FEED, I couldn’t wait to get involved.  FEED was launched in 2007 when model and activist Lauren Bush Lauren designed a bag to benefit the United Nation’s World Food Programme’s (WFP) School Feeding Program, which feeds and educates hungry children.  She took a special interest in that particular program, and FEED has expanded since then.

The mission of FEED is simple:  To create good products that help feed the world. They accomplish this mission through the sale of bags, bears, t-shirts and other accessories.  To date, FEED has donated over $6 Million and 60 million meals.

Fashion that feeds the world?  It’s a win/win, if you ask me.

Target’s current partnership with FEED runs through 7/31, and they have some great products for you.

I’m the kind of mom who is always downsizing.  I love my Coach handbags…what can I say?  But when I’m on the go with two kids (and sometimes a husband who also needs snacks and water), space is a good thing.  I love this orange FEED cotton tote.  It’s durable, roomy, and so super cute.  And?  The purchase of this $35 tote will provide approximately 28 meals for children and families across America.  Look good and do good – that’s the best combination.

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My little environmentalist is over the moon about these reusable snack packs from FEED for Target.  According to my daughter they are both, “fancy and good for the Earth”.  Is there a better review than that?  I would add that they are BPA free, super durable, and will provide six meals for children and families across America.

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And if you happen to catch my husband, Sean, on the Born and Raised tour with John Mayer this summer, you’re likely to see him rocking his bass in this lightweight denim utility shirt by FEED for Target.  Sean is always on a quest for the perfect denim shirt, and this one seems to fit his needs.  Not too heavy and the perfect shade of blue for my blue eyed boy, this one is a keeper! The purchase of this shirt provides approximately 20 meals for children families in need across America.

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From clothing, to totes, to kitchen and lifestyle accessories, there are endless choices for you to help FEED families in need.  And all you have to do is take a little trip to your local Target or click a button or two.

Want to learn more about FEED?  Check out the video below:

 

What are you waiting for?  Start shopping to help end hunger!

As part of the the mission to help FEED those in need, Target challenged me to give back in my own neighborhood.  My little family of four looks forward to collecting food to donate to the local food pantry, because no child should ever go hungry.

How will you give back to those in need?

Disclosure:  Target sent me the above mentioned FEED products to try as part of my affiliation with the Target Inner Circle, but I will be heading to my local Target to stock up on more great FEED products!  The opinions contained within this post are my own.  I love these products.  I love the mission of FEED.  And I look forward to collecting food for our local food pantry to help my children help other children right here in our own neighborhood.

Get Fit with C9 for Target! (Giveaway)

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It’s no big secret that busy moms sometimes struggle to take care of themselves.  With kids and jobs and meals and laundry and some version of cleaning and never ending viruses…who has the time?

The two “me” things I’ve always taken seriously since my daughter first arrived over 6 years ago (wow, it almost pains me to write that number) are showering and exercise.  I’ve never once been the “I don’t have time for a shower” mom over the years and I’ve always managed to stay active.  When the kids were tiny…I walked.  A lot.  Like three really long walks per day, minimum.  I even bought those Reebok shape-up shoes and combined running and walking around town.

What else do you do with little ones when your husband is on tour?  You run walk until your legs practically fall off.

But then the kids tired of the stroller routine, and I had to change it up.  So I did.

I got back to my good friend, the elliptical, and ran while they drank milk.  To this day, I still run during milk and Mighty Machines.  Incidentally, if you have any questions about construction trucks at all…I’m you’re girl.

So yes, I take care of me.  I get my exercise (because, honestly?  I won’t sleep if I don’t) and I have mastered the art of the super fast shower with an audience.  I’m good.

Here’s where I fall short:  I don’t ever buy the proper exercise clothes for me.  My kids always have supportive sneakers and comfy clothes to play, climb, or dance in.  My husband has new sneakers for his daily run and some updated shorts, running pants, and sweatshirts that aren’t worn and tattered.  But me?  Embarrassing.  While it might seem like updated workout clothes while working out at home aren’t really essential, they kind of are…

I don’t know about you, but the right gear motivates.  When I have workout clothes that fit and feel right, I’m more likely to push a little harder.  When I have sneakers that aren’t, say, 8 years old…my knees don’t hurt.  And when I can sneak in some yoga, because yoga makes my world a better place, I feel a little better with yoga pants that aren’t practically in shreds.

So when my friends at Target sent me a box of amazing C9 gear for me and the kids?  I couldn’t have been more excited.  Added bonus – I got to spend the day playing and chatting all things family and exercise with two of my favorite girls, Jenny Feldon and Soleil Moon Frye.  The kids and I put on our new cute C9 by Champion gear and headed down to one of our favorite play spaces, AdventurePlex in Manhattan Beach, for a morning of fun!

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You see what I’m saying about the sporty, fitted workout gear?  So much better than what my poor husband usually sees…

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Pardon the fuzzy picture…they did NOT stop moving all day!

There were some great people at the event and the kids had a blast playing in the gym and climbing the enormous, slightly anxiety-producing (for the moms, that is) climbing structure.

And, of course, we compared C9 gear and talked about how great it felt and looked.

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All in all, it was a great day of family fitness.

We love family fitness on the weekends.  Park time, bike rides, long walks, swimming…we are an active family and we love to be active together.  And the right gear makes those active adventures that much better.

Check out this great video with Soleil highlighting the event and the C9 collection.

And now…a little something for one of you!

I have a $100 gift card for one U.S. Practical Parenting reader so that you can get some amazing C9 gear and get fit!

To enter the giveaway:

Leave me a comment here and tell me what your family does to stay active.  How do you get out and moving as a family?

A winner will be chosen on Friday, May 24th at 8pm PST.  Get those comments in!

 

Disclosure:  Target sent C9 by Champion clothes and shoes to me and the kids as part of my affiliation with the Target Inner Circle.  The C9 event was sponsored by Target.  However…all opinions in this post are my own.  I do love my new C9 gear and feel great wearing it!

Win a LeapPad2 Explorer from Target!

 

 

 

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***This contest is now CLOSED!  Megan is the winner!***

By now you all know how much I love Target, right?  Not simply because I spend half of my life and a good portion of my money there (although what’s not to love about one-stop shopping that also keeps the kids happy?).  And not just because they sometimes send me amazing products and pitch in when I ask them to help me help hurricane survivors.

What I really love about Target is their commitment to education.  As I’ve shared with you before, Target’s commitment to learning, especially reading, has them on track to give $1 billion to education by 2015.  They are focused on literacy.  They are renovating and restocking inner city school libraries.  They are working with local food banks to provide food to families in need so that students have the energy to learn.  They are making the world a better place one step at a time.

But it doesn’t end there.

Target offers a great selection of educational toys for kids both in stores and online.  We can’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that technology will go away.  It won’t.  But, as parents, we can be proactive by purchasing tech toys that are educational in nature.

Target recently sent us a LeapPad2 Explorer to test drive.  While my kids are no stranger to the iPad and they know their way around a touch screen better than most adults, they honestly LOVED (I mean really loved) the LeapPad2.

Here’s what Riley (age 6) had to say about it:  “It’s the best size for me to hold and I’m not worried about dropping it.  I really love the game where I make my own pet and practice writing and spelling (Pet Writing App – included) because I love the Stylus Pen!  And it’s purple, which, you know, is my favorite color.”

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Here’s what Liam (age 4) had to say about it:  “I like the caterpillar game (Roly Poly Picnic 2 – included with free download) because I can hunt for letters and the art game (Art Studio App – included) for painting trucks and things.”

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So what do I think?

I love that these tablets are made specifically for small hands.  They are light, durable, and easy to use.  I love that all of the apps are educational in nature.  There are over 325 stories, math games, and literacy games available for download, and you don’t have to worry about skill level and appropriateness for children.  They are ALL designed for children.  Another great feature?  You can program up to five different users and profile them according to age, so Riley gets Kindergarten level content while Liam’s is Pre-K.  It really takes the guess work out of it.

I am married to a musician and we are an Apple family.  These kids can use iPads, iPhones, and MacBook Pros beyond what you would expect for their ages.  And I am an enforcer of everything in moderation.  When they get tech time, which isn’t very often, I set a ten minute timer and they hand it over when the timer beeps.  No arguments.  No tears.  We have it down.

But there’s something very nice about having a safe technology device meant just for them.  I don’t have to worry about an accidental opening of something like Facebook (despite hiding it in a special folder) or Liam rearranging my apps for the 90th time.  And they love having something built just for them.  Although I never thought we need a LeapPad2 around here, I’m really glad that we had the opportunity to try it out.  It’s a keeper.

And…I have one LeapPad2 Explorer, courtesy of my friends at Target, for one of you!  Yes, you read that right.  This is the place to grab a LeapPad2 Explorer before Christmas arrives!

Here’s the deal:  Christmas in basically in five seconds, so this giveaway will go FAST.  You have 24 hours to leave me a comment detailing your favorite family holiday tradition (that does NOT include technology).  Want a second chance to win?  Stop by Target and check out the LeapPad2 stories and games they have.  Then head back here and leave me a 2nd comment telling me which one you think looks interesting for your child and why.

What are you waiting for?  Get your entries in NOW!

By the way…this LeapPad2 Explorer comes loaded with 5 apps, 2 built-in cameras, and video recorders.  It also has a Stylus Pen attached and a USB cable.  Warning:  You do need batteries.  And it’s purple – although, for once, Liam doesn’t seem to mind.  That’s how engaging this thing is!

Disclaimer:  Target sent me a LeapPad2 Explorer to review for you and a second one to give to one of you.  My kids have never used a LeapPad 2 Explorer prior to this.  All opinions contained within the post are my own (and those of my children).  We think this product rocks and we want you to have one too…so get your entries in and MAKE SURE that I have your email address!

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A Very Target Holiday Surprise for Hurricane Families

Los Angeles has been my home since July of 1999.  I moved out here after I finished my MSW program at the University of Pennsylvania with the intention of staying for two years at the very most.  I had recently lost my father.  I needed a change.  I craved new surroundings and warmer weather.  But I never intended to stay.  Of course, that’s the big joke out here.  No one ever really intends to stay forever, but we all do.  For one reason or another, we all plant new roots and adapt to this new lifestyle.

Music keeps our little family here.  In January of 2000, I met the love of my life.  He blew through town on tour with his band.  We met, we ate dinner, and we fell in love.  And then we did what everybody else does.  We had a fairytale wedding, we bought a house, we had a baby, we bought a bigger house, we had one more baby, and, before we new it, we had built a life in Los Angeles.

But pieces, very big pieces, of our hearts will always belong to New England.  We were born there, we were raised there, and, more often than not, we think about ways to spend more time there.  Because home is where the heart is, which means that we have two homes.

To say that watching the destruction unfold as hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut was difficult, is to significantly downplay the emotions we experienced that week.  We worried about my family.  We worried about our friends.  And we worried about people we’ve never even met.  Because when your heart belongs to a place, you worry about that entire place, not just the people that you know the best.

We immediately did as many others did:  We donated money to the Red Cross.  We wanted to ensure that help would be available as soon as practically possible.

But it never feels like enough, does it?

So I reached out to my friends at Target.  Please help me help them.  I need to help them.  The truth is that we all go on with our lives.  Bad things happen, we help where we can, but then we move on.  We don’t have much of a choice.  We all have bills to pay and children to feed.  We all have to-do lists a mile long and family to care for.

But the many, many families who lost nearly everything in that storm?  They don’t have the luxury of just moving on.  They are cold, tired, and displaced.  They are overwhelmed and lacking adequate support.  They are just getting by.  And while the rest of the country prepares to light candles and stuff stockings, these families are just hoping for warm meal.

Take, for instance, the story of the mail carrier and the nurse.  They have two little girls.  They lived in a raised ranch prior to the storm.  Their mortgage company made it a requirement that they buy flood insurance, but when the storm hit…the insurance proved useless.  They have been told that their first floor is considered a basement, and therefore not covered.  In that “basement”?  Kitchen, living room, furnace, washer/dryer, all of the books and toys belonging to those sweet little girls.  And…this family lived paycheck to paycheck before the storm.  Now? They are renting and apartment and trying to get by.

Or, there is the story of the Breezy Point family.  They have three children:  A four year old daughter and infant twins.  They just put the finishing touches on their home before the storm.  Now?  It burned to the ground along with 110 other homes in the area.

I could go on.  I could tell you hundreds of stories just like these.  All of these people are now renting apartments, living with family, or living in shelters.  Hannukah and Christmas?  Where would they even begin?

That’s where Target comes in.  I asked and they answered.  Target sent me 10 holiday gift cards to send to 10 families in need this season.  With the help of my new friend Kerri, who is a saint if I’ve ever met one, I will surprise 10 families this week.

Kerri, out of the goodness of her enormous heart, started Greater Hartford – New York Relief Runs.  For weeks, she has been running back and forth, delivering supplies, helping where she can, and even delivering warm pizzas to families.  She is amazing.

Kerri helped me identify the first 10 families, and Target answered the call to help.

Sadly, we have a list of families that goes on for days.  There are so very many families in need this holiday season.  I don’t know about you, but the thought of children having absolutely nothing to open for Hannukah and Christmas just breaks my mommy heart…

So now I’m asking you.  Will YOU help brighten the holiday season for families in need?  It’s as simple as heading over to Target and purchasing a gift card in whatever amount you can spare this season.  $10, $25, $50???  Every little bit helps, and every child deserves a holiday.

Please, if you can adopt a Sandy family this holiday season, leave me a comment below.  MAKE SURE that I have your email address.  Kerri and I will work together to match families.  You will be given a family and address and you can send that Target card from the comfort of your couch…it’s just that simple.

And also?  Please share this post on your Facebook wall when you get a chance.  The best way to spread the holiday spirit is to come together and help those in need…and our friends in NJ, NY, and CT need us right now.  They really, really need us.

Thank you, Practical readers.  I know I can count on you.

Target: The Inner Circle

Today is a great day.  Today I can finally share some very exciting news with all of you…

Let me back up for just a minute.  You might have noticed that I never really traveled down the road of advertising on Practical Parenting.  It’s not that opportunity didn’t knock a few times, it’s just that I didn’t want to force you to stare at ads for products that have little to do with parenting or read posts about products that wouldn’t appeal to you.  We’ve created a wonderful little community here, you and I, and I didn’t want to grab every opportunity that came my way just because I could.

But I’ve always believed that when something really great comes around, something that has the potential to truly make a difference in this world, you get on board.  There are companies out there that we all know and love that are also doing great things to improve the lives of children and parents all over this country.

And one of those companies is Target.

Did you know, for instance, that Target is committed to helping more children to learn to read proficiently by the end of third grade and is on track to give $1 billion dollars for education, with a focus on reading, by the end of 2015?  Did you also know that their School Library Makeover program, launched in 2007 in partnership with the Heart of America Foundation, aims to impact 150 in-need elementary schools by the end of 2012?  Target is also working with school districts in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. to develop a literacy pilot program.

Target is on a mission to help kids learn to read.  And that…is my kind of mission.

I’ve worked with kids with learning disabilities for years.  I’ve worked with inner city kids who had very few resources at their fingertips.  And, yes, I’m talking about pencils and erasers.  I’ve worked with kids who didn’t have enough to eat and therefore lacked the necessary energy to pay attention in class.  I’ve worked with kids who never once visited a library.

Reading is the great escape.  Reading opens up imaginary worlds and brings facts and figures to life.  Learning to read is not negotiable.

There are children and families all over this country who need the very services that Target is committed to providing.  I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that we all need to help one another through life.  I was lucky enough to have a great start in life, including the very best teachers at some of the very best schools in Connecticut.  I have never once forgotten the teachers who helped when I needed help and pushed when I needed to be pushed.  I have never once taken for granted the opportunities that paved the way for me to end up right where I am today.

And I’ve been doing my best to pay it forward ever since.

When Target asked me to join their Target Inner Circle program, I practically jumped through the phone.  I am honored to have been chosen for, and thrilled to take part in, this incredible program.

In working with Target Inner Circle I will share with you some of the great work they are doing for literacy, tell you about some great new products for kids and families, and maybe even share a few things with you along the way.

I can’t wait.

Tomorrow I’m off to take part in a School Library Makeover program event right here in Los Angeles…and I look forward to telling you all about it.

As always, thank you for your unending support of this wonderful parenting community, and please join me in supporting Target’s efforts to promote literacy across this great nation of ours.

Stay tuned…