It's here, Friends. The end of Summer.
I'm sure you're feeling just like I do. A new school year is a sneaky reminder of how fast time flies by, making you wish you could hold on to your little ones just a bit tighter. At the same time, you're relishing the anticipation of a break from 24/7 parenting to enjoy some time to yourself, connecting to other adults and pastimes you enjoy; or maybe just taking a nice long nap. My Maggie will be starting pre-school in September, and it feels really bittersweet. I'm going to miss her like crazy but I'm also counting on some guaranteed free time to get a jump on finishing work projects and prepping our home and lives for the new baby that will be arriving shortly.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, most of us Moms are still racing around last minute trying to complete school supply shopping lists and getting haircuts and new shoes for the kids and re-adjusting sleep schedules in anticipation for next week....which brings me to the start of my "Back-To-School for Mom" (#BTS4Mom) series with Target® and Target Inner Circle®!
Target® is helping me bring to life some sanity saving projects and gear us Moms up with some of our own Back-To-School supplies! Hopefully when it's all said and done, we'll be feeling a bit more empowered and prepared for the year ahead.
I asked some Mom friends what back-to-school season is like for them, the highs and lows, etc., and I discovered that with the exception of a few things here and there, most of their answers were the same:
- The result of getting everyone out the door on-time, fed, dressed and prepared for the day is an energizing feeling. If you can accomplish that first thing every day, you're already winning at life.
- Caring for our families is fulfilling and we enjoy making an extra effort to show our kids that they are special and loved.
- We rely on our mobile and tech devices to keep us connected and organized.
- We hate packing lunches.
- An afternoon shopping at Target® alone is on par with a day at the spa.
- We all need something for us that recharges our batteries: a glass of wine, a good book, coffee with friends, going for a run or my favorite- crafting and creative time.
I want to help my fellow Mommy friends make the most of their favorite daily moments and try to make the not-so-favorite tasks a bit more pleasant, so with those things in mind, I created the a Back-To-School for Mom shopping list: my "Tech Tools That Rock" round-up of favorite digital devices:
1. iPad // 2. FitBit Zip // 3. Orla Kiely for Belkin iPad/iPhone cases // 4. Portable Hard Drive // 5. Nook e-Reader // 6. iPhone // 7. Polaroid Instant Camera // 8. Griffin Stylus // 9. Roku // 10. HP Photosmart 5520 Wireless Printer //11. Belkin iPad case with detachable keyboard // 12. App Store Gift Card
I picked each one of these items because they are all little sanity savers in one way or another. The only items I left off this list are a Laptop or Desktop computer, because I assume if you are here reading this post, you probably already have one and are computer savvy enough to navigate the world wide web. The other item I didn't exactly include is a digital camera...and I'll get to my reason behind that in a moment.
Sadly, even though it is 2013, I also couldn't find the one item that would do the actual job of grocery shopping, ushering the kids through the morning routine, packing a nutritious nut-free brown bag lunch while simultaneously cooking dinner and doing the dishes and laundry.
There is a good reason we Moms rely on our mobile devices for so much. They are the ultimate accessory for keeping us productive and sane! Everyone should have a smart-phone and/or tablet to help get through their busy days. I have both an iPhone and an iPad and recommend these as my tech choices because I love how they perform along with the plethora of reliable app options.
To soup up your mobile experience, I also recommend trying a few great accessories- I particularly LOVE the Orla Kiely for Belkin cases- a Target® exclusive- so much so that I bought the case before I bought the iPad. I also have another one that serves a dual purpose: The Belkin iPad case with detachable keyboard. Having the keyboard to use on the go for emails, blog posts or other text intensive tasks that can be completed without having to haul my laptop with me, is a worthwhile time saver. I also recommend a stylus for note taking or drawing, and an App Store gift card to give you permission to buy a bunch of fun apps to try out; most of them are free, but some are a couple bucks- so Treat Yo'Self!
I use my mobile devices for so many things, I can't begin to cover it, but I know my fellow Moms will appreciate the two things that I love using my devices for the most:
Aside from the benefits of all smart-phones (email, messaging, GPS, calendars, etc.) with my iPhone, I don't have to carry a stand-alone camera. I take a lot of photos and I love the quality of the pictures I take on my iPhone. It's an incredible convenience to be able to edit my photos on the go with apps like PicTapGo and VSCO, and share them instantly with my family and friends using social media apps like Instagram and Facebook. I can even upload them directly to photo processing services, like Kicksend and pick up my prints at Target® in about an hour, or use the HP ePrint app to print them out when I get home.
Secondly, being able to use Pinterest on the go is a seriously wonderful reason to have a mobile device in and of itself. I could turn this whole series into a love letter for Pinterest, and if you aren't using it by now, do yourself a favor and sign up. Nothing says quality time to me like an hour or so at Starbucks, sipping my favorite coffee treat, listening to the sounds of adult conversation, while browsing Pinterest for dinner plans, lunch ideas, blog articles on parenting tips and INSANE amounts of creative inspiration and craft projects to bookmark.
The other items in my round-up are a combination of fun and/or function. We've got the technology that you don't really need, but will really enjoy having and some items that you really do need, like an external hard drive (for backing up your digital photos) and a versatile and user friendly color printer.
I know a lot of Moms struggle at finding time for regular fitness and health as their days get increasingly busy. The FitBit Zip activity tracker is a great tool for overcoming the guilt of not being able to get to the gym because it tracks your daily activity and syncs with your PC or smart-phone. You can utilize the food diary to track your calories consumed along with your calories burned. It's a great way to sneak fitness reminders into your day. I don't have one now, because being 6 1/2 months pregnant, I'm not able to focus on weight loss- but I'll be getting one as soon as the Bean is born!
A couple other fun items to buy for yourself (and maybe share with your family the odd time) is an instant camera, like this one from Polaroid. I have a similar one and I love the novelty and instant gratification of it. It's great for parties, or for making little mini photo books of daily adventures or vacations. It's 100% fun and the credit card sized photos make for adorable lunch notes to send as a surprise for your littles.
Need some entertainment that doesn't involve taking pictures? A great item to have, if you don't already, is an e-Reader, like the Nook or Kindle. Being able to instantly download just about any book and start reading is a MAJOR sanity saver for just about everyone I know. And it will also work with most libraries so you can borrow books as well!
If movies are your thing, but you can't leave the house for Redbox or the movie theater- it's time to get a Roku player. A Roku is a wireless streaming device that connects to your television with an HDMI cable and allows you to view Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Facebook and other internet based services on the big screen. There are other brands of streaming players available, but I recommend Roku first because it has the Amazon Instant Video feature, which allows you to rent new release movies instantly.
Last, but not definitely not least, an item that I consider both fun and functional, is a great wireless ink-jet color printer, like the HP Photosmart 5520 All-in-one. I am a printer geek, and the 5520 is one to add to my favorites list. It's not too big, it's fast, the photo quality is fantastic, it works with the HP ePrint app so I can print wirelessly from my iPhone or iPad.
As a graphic designer and crafter, my number one Back-To-School wish for all Modern Moms is that everyone has a quality printer they know how to use to make the most of the creative tools and products that can be found online. As Moms, there are numerous times when this comes in handy: last minute decorations for a school project or bake sale, birthday party decorations, teacher gifts, family calendars and chore charts, art prints for your home, and printables for back-to-school pictures and memory keeping...the list goes on and on. In fact, it's such a passion of mine, that I am going to talk a lot about printing in my next post.
Next up in the Back-To-School for Mom series, I'll walk you through my new Creative Command Center, give you some printing tips and tricks, and share a couple favorite and simple creative projects you can whip up with your printer and a few multi-purpose craft supplies- all of which you can find at your local Target® or Target® Online! I'll also be sharing a special discount my readers can use in the Target® Photo Center for the month of September, and give you a chance to win at $200 Target® Gift Card!
What are some of your MUST HAVES for Back-To-School? Do you have a favorite app, website or software you think other Moms would enjoy or should check out? I'd love to hear your thoughts on technology and parenting, or anything else you might want to share in the comments below.
Full Disclosure: I am a member of the Target® Inner Circle, all opinions expressed are my own. I was provided a gift card to purchase some of the items used in this series, however I have also contributed my own resources and time. Affiliate links are used for items that can be purchased online.