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Friday, July 31, 2015

my favorite Thursday of the year - TARGET summer clearance TOYS SALE!

I still recall the first time I shopped the Target summer toys clearance sale. It was about 4-5 years ago when my friend told me about it, and I was ecstatic about the savings! I could not believe what I found for so cheap! When she told me this happens every year, the last Thursday of July, when Target marks down many of the toys to 70% off, I could not believe I'd never heard about it before! I felt like my friend let me in on some secret club that only savvy #thriftymamas knew about!

Now that I've been going for a few years, I realize so many moms still do not know about this great savings! I'm here to shed some light on it so you can save money big time next year. I literally mark this sale in my calendar every year so I don't forget.

Basically what the big sale is all about is Target making room for new inventory and getting rid of items they've had. They start in the beginning of July marking items down various percentages, getting to 70% on the last Thursday of the month. This means BIG savings for you!

Who should shop the Target toys sale?
  • MOMS - If you buy gifts for your children for birthdays, Christmas, etc. or if you're invited to birthday parties, have nieces and nephews or friends who you shop for during the holidays, this is for you. Moms can also stock up on potty training prizes, board games for camp, or toys to keep your little ones busy on an upcoming trip on an airplane. You could even find little treats for holidays like Halloween and Easter if you feel like saving items that long! A deal is a deal, right?! 
  • GRANDPARENTS- My mom gave me money this year to shop for her. I found items my two kids and niece and nephew would love, got them 50% off, and my mom will wrap them up and give them to the kids for Christmas. A win-win! This sale is also good to get a second item that you already have so you can keep it at the grandparents' house for your kids to have something to do there.
  • DAYCARES, SCHOOL WORKERS- I found so many great toys that daycares and providers would love - for cheap! I also work as a school counselor and could use some of the board games in my office. 

Not all toys are marked down, it's about every few toys on a shelf that you see that are marked down. Some brands are rarely marked down- like we love John Deere tractors and I've never been able to find one of those marked down. Others are marked down each time - like a lot of Disney type items are usually marked down pretty well.

It's all types of toys though - so baby toys through girlie toys to big boy toys and Lego type items. It's not one type of toy marked down, which is nice, there is a wide range. This includes games, too!

The weird and yet fun part is that what is marked down varies from store to store. For example, at one store I found Transformers marked down, and another store had no Transformer toys marked down at all. It depends on what the store's needs are. Knowing this can drive you nuts if you are a bargain hunter, wanting to get to every store. It can also be SO fun, finding those great deals, going to various stores, especially with friends. Make an evening of it!

These Palace Pets were originally $50! Marked down to $25 we got it for!

My daughter will love getting this Doc McStuffins toy at Christmas!

I scored this princess doll for $5.64!

Can you spot the red clearance tags in the items above? You have to look!

This Batman item below you can see was marked down several time. It's originally $50! The reason it's marked down a few times is because during the month of July Target starts with marking the toys down 20%, 30%, reaching 50% the last week of July, then the last Thursday in July is always the 70% off markdown day.

The items remain marked down until they are gone, from what I have seen. It's first come, first serve. This year, I went the night before the Thursday sale and scored big on items 50% off.

Remember to check these end caps: lots of deals there that you may miss if you don't walk up and down every aisle.

This was one of my favorite finds this year: the Melissa and Doug jumbo blocks. I've wanted these for a while and now scored them for only $9! Anything Melissa and Doug on sale is my favorite!

There are some items (below) that are just on sale, not 70% off but still a great deal!

This year I found lots of race cars and remote control trucks on sale - things that were $50 were marked down to $20-25! That's an awesome gift!

Thomas the Train items are hard to find on discounted clearance, so checking for those is always something I do. These bigger sets were a big savings!

Great items from Planes and Big Hero 6!

Be sure to look high and low. There are items hanging that have been marked down, too.

Here is a great game on sale that didn't have a clearance sign under it on the rack, but rather a red sticker on the item. These stickers are always in the upper righthand corner from what I have found so it's easy to look for.

At both Targets that I shopped at, I found more toys on clearance that were in the summer aisle for some reason. I found great deals here! Make sure you walk around all of the toys, summer, sporting goods aisles.

Tips for shopping the sale:
  • Arrive early but not too early. I usually am there by 9 a.m., and typically the workers are marking things down as I'm there... so I just walk around them, then go back to the areas they just marked down. 
  • Go slowly. You have to look. It takes time. Plan for an hour.
  • Don't bring kids! No room in the cart, they are distracting, and you'll want to shop for them so they can't see what you are buying. 
  • Think ahead to upcoming holidays and birthdays to buy for. Don't just think of your own kids or nieces and nephews. Consider activities like Toys for Tots at Christmas or the holiday swap party you attend, or birthday parties for friends you know you are invited to every year. Stock up on stocking stuffers or potty training prizes. It's a good time to have a supply for cheap money. 
  • Don't just look for big red clearance signs. Look at actual toys... upper righthand corner is where they typically have the red clearance sticker on them. 
  • Don't just stop in the toys section. Keep walking a few more aisles to the sporting goods and summer items aisles. At various stores I found more things on sale in another aisle of clearance items, random mix but good stuff! 
  • Visit various stores in your area. Each store marks down different items. Some items will be discounted at all stores, but many items are random based on the specific stores' needs. We have a couple of Targets near me, so I visit both if I can, it's so much fun!
  • This sale happens once (or twice, sometimes in January they do the sale also) a year, so plan for that. Budget for this sale and know that you will be spending money in one lump sum but saving in the long run - by 50-70% off the original price! I always budget about $60, sometimes I'm under and sometimes a little over. 
  • Go the next day. My friend shopped the day after and still found great deals! 
  • It's not really online. A few things are marked down online, but not as extensive as going into the store. 
  • Shop the entire row AND end caps. Those are the sides of the rows where typically you find things cheaper and marked down at Target. There are sometimes great deals there so don't miss it. 
  • Talk to your friends ahead of time to see what they are looking for, you just might find it for them! I always have my sister on speed dial, as I'm texting her pictures of items I find. If your friend does the same for you, you can both find even greater deals! 

These two baby items did not have any red clearance tag on the shelving unit, just the red stickers on the actual toys. This is what I mean by you need to walk slowly down the aisles to really check for deals. They are hidden, so only the savvy mama shopper can find them! :)

Here's what I scored this year!

This sale is my favorite thing in July! I look forward to it every year -literally writing it into my calendar! I am a school worker so in the summers when I'm home and not paying for childcare, I try to get a jump start on my Christmas shopping. I have two kids of my own and then I have 9 nieces and nephews, and a Godson and friend that we shop for... plus as many birthday parties... soooo shopping for toys is kinda my job it seems! Whenever I can score a deal, that's great news!

I didn't go all out this year but found some awesome things!

I tell my friends it's hit or miss when you shop the Target sale. Whether you love it or don't find anything is based on a few things:
1. Your effort, time and patience. If you don't have time to walk slowly through to find things, you aren't going to see the good deals.
2. What you're looking for. If you are only searching for Legos and they don't happen to mark those down, then you will think this sale isn't great. But if you are there for a random assortment of types of toys, you'll LOVE it!

I have never found a Tonka truck on sale, so I was psyched to get that for like $9! My best score this time was the Disney Princess Castle! It is typically $50-55 and I got it for $35! I've had this on my list to buy for my niece for Christmas anyway, so SCORE! I spent about $65 total, psyched!

I also went shopping for my mom. The items below were $97, originally $200!

Some great Web sites with more Target info:
  • My favorite blog and Facebook group that shows you more about saving money at Target is All Things Target
    • Here is an article from her where she shows you what people scored on the 2015 toys sale: 
    • Here is an article about tips for shopping this sale:
    • Here is the Facebook page for All Things Target:


smart & savvy - book - Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals

This was the best book about sensory concerns! This was the specific one I was looking for, that included direct suggestions on what you can do when you see your child do xyz behaviors that are linked to sensory overload.

There are SO many behaviors kids will exhibit if they are struggling with sensory issues. I had no idea that some of these behaviors I've seen in other kids could be linked back to their nervous systems and sensory concerns. This was a very enlightening book, an easy read, and definitely a book you should purchase and have on the shelf if you think your child struggles with sensory issues.

I highly recommend this book to parents, educators, etc.

Book image from

Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals 
by Angie Voss, OTR 

The entire book is a long list of behaviors kids may struggle with and what it means for them sensory speaking, then each topic has between 5-10 suggested activities you can do to promote a strong sensory experience and diet for that struggle. 

A few topics I found interesting:
  • Force is used when handling objects like pencils, handles, etc. To help this, encourage heavy hard work like pushing things. Use play doh or other putty in the hands. Bounce on a ball. 
  • Gets easily frustrated. To help this, don't talk right away, wait, the child can't focus at this time. Take a break involving movement. Provide a pillow or cave/tent for the child to "retreat" to. 
  • Touches everything they pass. To help this, provide a fidget toy when out and about. Have an animal to pet. Explore various textures in nature. 
  • Change in routine causes distress. To help this, try to stick to a routine schedule, give a warning of changes, talk about the day. Use pictures to show the activities of the day if needed. Use more movement in a time where the routine has changed. 
  • Climbs on others/ doesn't respect personal space. To help this, increase heavy work. Give lots of bear hugs. Try massage. 
There is so much to this book, I'm barely scratching the surface with these suggested activities. You will LOVE this book! 

The end of the book had many useful informational sheets about why kids with sensory issues may misbehave, what it means in terms of sensory overload, as well as what specifically sensory issues are caused by. 

A great resource! Hope you find it informative. 

smart & savvy - book - Sensational Kids

I am so glad I was able to read this book. What a great resource for parents and professionals working with sensational kids - those experiencing sensory processing concerns. I learned so much from this book and know it will be a helpful resource to any parents who have children with sensory issues.

Very easy to read, FULL of information that is understandable and applicable to your daily lives, as well as real life stories of kids who go through these concerns, this is a must-read in the discussion of sensory processing disorder.

Book image from

Sensational Kids - Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder
by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is "the way the nervous system receives sensory messages and turns them into responses." (page 6)
  • SPD can cause problems with: behavioral, emotional or attention activities, as well as poor social participation, self-regulation, and self-esteem (Page 6).
  • We have 5 senses, and then other senses not typically talked about but that impact our daily activities.
    • proprioceptive and vestibular senses "give us our awareness of speed, movement, pressure on our joints and muscles, and the position of our bodies."
    • interoception - sensations you feel from your internal organs. This tells you when to go to the bathroom, stomachache, etc. 
  • "The hallmark feature of children with SPD is that their sensory difficulties are chronic and disrupt their everyday life. Children with SPD get stuck because of their unusual responses to sensory input." (page 17)
"SPD is neurological; it is not parental, it is not behavioral." 
(page 17)
  • "No matter what strategies a determined parent uses - stickers on a chart, praise, discipline, or some technique another parent said worked magic for them - kids with SPD stay stuck. Parents of sensational kids often say it seems as if their children have no control over their bodies. Well... guess what? They don't. Children with SPD behave differently from typically developing children because their brains are different." (page 17)
  • On page 20, the author explains that it is important for parents to consider their children in "context," that is the environment or setting their child is in and how they behave and seem in those settings. This was a great point that I had not read about in other books related to sensory issues. The author was suggesting that perhaps in one setting your child can behave and feel great, calm, have enough sensory input, but in other settings they are all over the place. This is normal for kids with SPD. 
There are various types of kids with SPD and subtypes of issues they face. One subtype is sensory seeking or craving. These kids:
  • clown around at school, falling, bumping into walls
  • seek movement and sensations, over and over
  • if they cannot get the sensation they want they may become demanding, explosive or aggressive. "Labels such as troublemaker, bad, and even dangerous are commonly applied to them." (page 35)
  • poor impulse control
  • symptoms are oftentimes confused with better known ADHD
  • talk at a loud level, like loud noise and music
  • "Their social interactions tend to be invasive; they crowd people and touch them, knock other kids over, or go down the slide too fast and overtake the child in front of them because they're so excited or over-aroused." (page 35)
  • All of this nonstop movement is exhausting so they may sleep really well during the day and then have trouble sleeping at night. 
  • intense, hard to calm, demanding
  • excessively affectionate
  • makes strange sounds
  • the need to move is so strong that it's difficult to organize behaviors and do things step by step, forgetting or not wanting to do things in order. It helps to teach them to sequence behaviors (page 197)
The author encourages parents to develop the mantra "There is hope and help." 

For kids to know, "You are a gift. Enjoy today." 
For therapists working with sensational kids, the author encourages them to remember "Be humble. Be a change agent." (page 109)

My favorite part of this book is where Miller describes in great detail a day in the life of a child with sensory concerns, based on different subtypes. In describing a sensory-seeking child named Ben, the author explained that when the child took another child's toy and was seeming like he was mean, it really was some sensory concerns at play. 

"Ben is not a mean or bad boy, but people sometimes apply those labels because such children behave in ways that distress those around them. In reality, just as Ben is brimming with action, he is brimming with affection, sympathy and support. All his emotions are close to the surface and his remorse about throwing Bea's doll is as strong and genuine as was his impulse to throw the doll. At school, Ben is usually the first child to race to the rescue when a classmate falls down and cries." (page 198)

The author explained that children like Ben create conflict in those around him because he shows both sides of himself - aggressive and upsetting sensory craving with energetic and endearing affection. (page 198)

"Sensory cravers are often responsive, creative, and fun to be around. They can be immensely enjoyable. But when their drive for sensory stimulation is running their lives and running the lives of those around them, they can be overwhelming, too." (page 198)

Miller referred to how difficult it can be for kids with sensory seeking needs to attend school and follow rules. "... the sensory craver's extreme need for sensation is on a constant collision course with behavioral expectations." (page 202) 

Providing kids like Ben with a half hour in the morning and later in the day of physical activity is helpful in regulating these sensory cravings. 

The key for sensory cravers is "self-regulation so that they can be organized." (page 267) There is a great chart in the book explaining specific tips for how to support sensational kids with sensory-seeking needs. 

Miller expressed understanding and empathy for parents struggling to manage their children's behaviors and sensory needs. "Attending large family gatherings, going shopping for new clothes, planning a trip to the dentist, where sensory overload is inevitable, may seem almost impossible to some parents." (page 291)

Many kids with sensory issues are not "acting their age," due to developmental delays, they can appear like their behaviors are those of 4, 6, 8 year olds or appear like 2 year olds. (page 331)

These kids need support. They cannot do it on their own.

"Think of a child first learning to ride a bicycle. Left to figure it out for himself, he may crash repeatedly, get frustrated, feel like a failure, and simply give up. With the support of training wheels or a parent running behind him to hold on to the back of the bike, the child is encouraged, keeps trying, and is eventually able to find his own balance. Sensational kids learning to find balance in their emotional responses need parents or other adults to run alongside them, providing support (co-regulation) until they are able to regulate themselves." (page 331)

Some resources:

we are not alone : moms as warriors, gladiators

The last few weeks have been busy, tiring, HOT. That leads to some cranky kids and an impatient mama sometimes.

We have done so many fun things - beach trips, days at the lake, ice cream for dinner, trolley rides, etc. It's been amazing and fun and I won't complain. However... it's been hard, too, being the solo one all day with the demanding and sometimes overtired 3 and 5 year olds. We've had our moments, for sure. They've tried my patience. I've apologized for snapping at little things. We've reconnected with big bear hugs and fun blowing bubbles outside.

Some moments are the BEST EVER. Others I'm wondering "how can I do this?! this is hard!"

So in these last few weeks I've had some tough moments as a mother, managing the busy-ness and differing viewpoints of a preschooler and almost Kindergartener, along with the heat and just long days of summer.

Through these tough days I've felt like the people around me in public must think I'm awful for snapping or raising my voice. They must think I have no control over my kids. They must think my kids are crazy or I'm crazy or everything is out of control. I've wondered if they are judging me. Me, the person who RARELY cares what others think, lately I've been wondering, when out in public with my busy-bees who aren't listening to me and I'm looking all frantic, taking deep breaths and about to pull my hair out for a moment of peace.

In the midst of these crazy moments though, I've been given some clarity. A moment to really see what is before me, a moment to stop and reflect on what's important, a chance to find some patience. I've been sent some Mom Angels. Some mothers who have seen my struggle and stepped in to give me a smile or even kind words. They have shown me they don't judge, yet understand. They have told me, "I get it," instead of "You're losing it, lady."

It's powerful to be surrounded by women who get it, who see the struggle and show you, "Yup, you're normal, my kids act like that, I feel like that, it's all good."

It's helpful for other moms to see me enjoying my kids and knowing that even if I seem impatient in a moment, it doesn't mean I don't love this motherhood journey, it's just that it's a bad moment, amidst a thousand other GREAT moments.

This all started at the beginning of July when we went to a water park for the day. My kids were very tired so they weren't listening, were whining way too much, and were overall picking on each other, pushing buttons and driving me and each other nuts. We got to the water park early so I could ensure we had a good spot to sit in the shade and got to enjoy the day before I knew they'd melt down in the early afternoon. I tried. I tried to make it great.

So we were standing in line for the water park... a super long line and we were all hot and tired and just wanted IN instead of standing in line. My kids were poking each other, stealing snacks from each other, screeching, talking loudly, pushing, not listening when I gave warnings. I was saying "If you do that one more time we're going in the car. If you ... then we're... I said stop it. Listen to me. Come here. Stop. E-nough!" I was frazzled, yet trying to stay calm, without any control in this situation, it felt like. All the positive things I knew to do and would try on a calm day at home, I couldn't muster enough energy up to figure out right now for some reason. 

The woman next to me had children who seemed slightly younger than my kids. Her kids were perfect and standing nicely, quietly, patiently. I was jealous. In an instant, when I think she could tell I was at my last straw, she sat down with my daughter who was flailing on the ground in a 3-year-old attitude way, and asked her questions, asked how old she was, said how old her child was, and spoke in a calm, quiet voice and helped my kids focus and calm down for a few moments. It was short-lived, but it helped. I was so grateful.

Yet I didn't say a word more than "thanks." I wanted to tell her "THANK YOU SO MUCH, lady I have never met and will never see again. Thank you for modeling to me what I should be doing right now for my own kids. Thanks for not judging me, but rather siding with me, assisting me, showing me that it's OK, I can do this. Thanks for being there." But I was silent, because I was tearing up under my sunglasses. I was guilty. I was embarrassed. I didn't want her to think I was a bad mom because I was just disciplining versus encouraging them in that tough moment. It was a weak spot for me. 

I think all moms have those weak spots sometimes, where we don't do it the way we wish we had energy to do in that moment, maybe even daily, but it never means we're bad moms, ever. It means we're having a hard day, moment, struggling, and that we need assistance, and there is nothing wrong with asking for or accepting help. 

I wish I had said more to that mother. I wish I'd told her how she helped me find some clarity and the realization that I can slow down, take a breath and reassess a situation instead of just get easily frustrated and discipline. I am grateful to her presence that one day. 

I am thankful for the time that we went on a trolley ride a couple of weeks ago and my kids were in a mood. They wanted the trolley to get here NOW. They did not want to wait! (Are we sensing a pattern that waiting is hard?!). It was hot. The snacks were eaten. They wanted to be there now. They were not listening. My son went too close to the road so I raised my voice out of fear he was going to be in a dangerous spot. I was losing patience.

The couple next to me, with their older children who were probably in their 20s, smiled and tried talking to my son to encourage him that yes, the trolley would be here soon. When we boarded, the woman sat in the back with us instead of next to her family. She talked to my son the entire trolley ride. She asked him questions, he asked her questions. She told him about where she was from in Pennsylvania. She smiled at me when my son said really smart things, as if to say, "Wow, you've got a great little guy here, Mom."

She helped me. This stranger stepped in, seeing that I was losing it, that I was on the fringe of turning that car around and leaving that fun trolley ride adventure. She helped me simply by being there and having the patience that was hard for me in that moment. She helped redirect my kids to the positive. She helped me see she'd been here, and that I'd survive, too, this young childhood experience that is so trying on young parents.

She gave me hope that day, that everything was fine, I was fine, the kids were fine, despite our struggles. She helped me see all was OK.

After work last week, I rushed to pick the kids up so we wouldn't miss the library story time that we looked forward to. I think it was that whole "balancing working mom life" stuff inside me hoping to do something fun that summer day. We ran late and the kids hadn't had a good nap that day, so everybody was just exhausted.

After spending the story hour time chasing the kids around at various spots in the library and reminding them to walk and be quiet inside... we managed to get outside. My son had just run away from me, being silly, but it was unsafe near a parking lot.

The look on my face must have been one of "I'm done," because as I was putting them in their car seats, another mom who was putting her kids into their car seats in her van said to me, "Best time of day, right?" with a smile, as her kids were kicking and screeching.

She rolled her eyes, laughed, and said, "Hope you have a good night." She seemed sincere, like she cared, like she got it, and as though she was teaching me, "Just laugh, Mom, just laugh it off, because it's NUTS and we can't do anything about it, it is what it is with kids. It's OK, you're doing just fine. Let it go." 

I was thankful she saw me in that moment, instead of judging me over at my mom van trying to gain control of the behaviors.

I'm sure by now you're wondering geez why are her kids so misbehaved?! They aren't. They are just kids who have long tiring days with a busy tired mama, and I'm being real in sharing with you that it's not all roses and butterflies every day. I think more of us need to share those tough moments so we know we aren't alone.

The best moment this month was last week at a grocery store. My kids were just ready to go to the lake already, they did not want to be in the store picking up food for later. It was REALLY HOT. More not listening, trying to touch everything in sight, bugging each other, wanting to sit where the other sits, etc.

The woman in front of me looked at them, then looked away. I swear she was judging. I was thinking she must think we're so loud. Instead, she turned back around to smile at me and said, "It must be the heat. I've already put my youngest in time out three times today. I understand."

"I understand."

She understood. She got it. She did not judge me or this experience. She didn't look at this one snapshot of my life as a mother and think I'm a bad mom or that I don't have my stuff together. She saw this tough grocery store moment, that ALL moms and kids struggle with, and she told me, "I understand." 

As she walked away, she smiled back at me and said, "Have a good day." She seemed to mean it, not just as a parting phrase.

And we did. We had a great day after that, perfect in fact! I did a million things right after that: put sunscreen on and reapplied it later, fed my children healthy snacks and lunch, made sure they drank water, snuggled each of them 142 times so they know they are so loved, built sandcastles and splashed in the water... I was a great mom that afternoon, after that ridiculously tough morning.

Because that's how how motherhood days go, right? It's insane, muddy, messy, crazy, up and down, difficult, challenging, stressful, tiring, soooooo tiring... and then it's the BEST day ever, the best second or moment ever. 

Motherhood is amazing, despite how tough it can be sometimes. 

So lately I'm catching up on old Scandal reruns... and in that show Olivia Pope refers to her team of workers, friends, confidantes, people who get her the most... as warriors, as Gladiators. These are people who show up, who never quit, who don't judge but rather totally understand. They are there for the difficult times. They stand together, solidarity, side by side, doing what's right, and sometimes having really tough days. 

I know it's just a term in a show, but honestly I feel like I've found some Mom Gladiators this month. In the Target aisle when a mom smiles at my kids who won't sit still in the cart, or when a grandmother at the table next to us in the restaurant where I feel like the kids are being so loud we might get kicked out, she says to me, "They grow up fast. Enjoy it," as though she misses these loud and crazy moments. 

There are Mom Gladiators everywhere, warriors who are fighting this tough battle sometimes that we call parenting. I firmly believe there are more mothers who get it, understand, feel for you, and want to show you that you aren't alone, rather than those who judge and feel like they are better than you or would never have kids behave like that or do it the way you're doing it. I really believe there are more Gladiators out there than we give other moms credit for. You just have to be open to seeing them and taking in their messages and looks of understanding. 

Better yet, YOU be the Mom Gladiator. Be the one who shows up and holds the door open, smiles at the mom, says out loud, "Oh I've been there, too, many times. You aren't alone." Be the one to buy an extra coffee for the mom behind you, or to distract the little ones in the cart before you as the mother is desperately trying to just pay the bill and get out of there. 

See kids' behaviors as just that - behaviors from kids. They're kids, unpredictable, silly, emotional, growing kids. We're mothers, trying our best, giving it our all, and we are only human, we have moments where we aren't our best, and other moments where we shine. It's all part of it. We are normal, OK, and doing just fine. We're great, even, even in those tough moments, we're great. We're Gladiators. We're Mothers.