Dec 302016
 

There have been a lot of changes for our family lately and that has been affecting my writing.

After weeks of stress and uncertainty we finally realized the American dream and purchased a house. The month of November was spent in the chaos of moving and trying to get settled in. I still have about 20-30 boxes to unpack in the garage but we are making steady progress.

My latest project, Treasure Coast Homeschooling, has been growing and I’ve been spending time on that. I also had to do some updates to my freelance website Florida Virtual Bookkeeper. And adding to my addiction for taking on projects, I am now a leader for my children’s Spiral Scouts circle. This meant that some time was spent working on their website and taking the mandatory leader training.

When I finally sat down to write I discovered some issues with the back end of this website that then took some time to fix (all good now!).

All of the above + trying to settle in and the craziness of the holidays barely left time for homeschooling so writing seemed to always end up at the bottom of the list. I have still been active on Facebook and Instagram so those of you that follow me there know that we are alive and well.

My youngest child

I want to introduce my new assistant, Reese. She is a 6 month old calico kitten that keeps my lap warm and relaxes me with her purring while I write. Sometimes she’ll edit my writing by walking across the keyboard so I apologize in advance if I miss a typo that she may have added after a final draft.

I usually don’t do New Years Resolutions because I know that I won’t keep them but my goal for 2017 is to be more steady with my updates. I am not going to be ambitious and promise that I’ll post weekly although that would be great if it happened but I will at least aim for monthly posts so we won’t have this 2+ month gap that just happened because life got in the way.

In a couple of days I’ll update with more info about how homeschooling is going and our holiday. In the meantime, I thank you all for reading and wish you a very happy new year.

Oct 132016
 

Last week we dodged a bullet.

Hurricane Mathew Cone

I made this image on a whim and it ended up going viral with several thousand shares

Hurricane Matthew was scheduled to come within just a few miles of our coast as a very powerful Category 4 Hurricane.

The reactions of the locals ranged from “the sky is falling, run for your lives” to “it’s nothing”. Thankfully our prepper skills came in handy.  Since we plan early for hurricane season we didn’t have to deal with the madness of Walmart, Home Depot, etc. We live in a mandatory evacuation zone due to my front door being less than 1,000 feet from the river. Normally I would be mandated to work at a local shelter but my son was sick and contagious and thus unable to be in the shelter childcare.

I have a bug out bag with essentials so packing wasn’t too difficult and the only stress for us what where/when to evacuate. I did have an internal struggle between wanting to bring everything that I didn’t want destroyed in the storm vs. bringing just what we need to get through the storm. In the end I compromised, I brought our textbooks and curriculum as I would have hated to see them destroyed and just tried to protect the rest of the items from water if the house flooded.

We lucked out with a decent rate at a local hotel thanks to a homeschooling association discount so we didn’t have to go far. During this process my children learned a lot about the weather, hurricanes, weather forecasting, trajectory tracking and more. So while we haven’t cracked open a book in days, learning has been a continuous process.

Curriculum

Our curriculum evacuated with us

In the end the hurricane made an unexpected wobble in it’s trajectory at the last minute that had it passing further away from the coast. We still had a sleepless night listening to the howling wind but were blessed to get through it unscathed and still having a home to come back to. Not everybody was so fortunate, that could have been us.

Now I am trying to get back to some semblance of normal, difficult as our household is in flux due to uncertainties about an upcoming move. I used to be a gypsy but lost those skills. The stress has impacted routines and affected our immune systems, we tend to be fairly healthy but not this month. For the first time ever everybody in the house is sick at the same time, that is not very conducive to productivity.

I am supposed to be packing but I am writing this instead because I didn’t want to leave you hanging. There it will be a while longer before I can get back to a semi-normal writing schedule but I hope to be able to pipe in as I am able. Meanwhile I’ll be posting on Facebook

Sep 062016
 

This post includes affiliate links.

I was recently approached by Pley, a toy rental company offering me 1 free month of service with no obligation to review although they would appreciate that. I decided to give the service a shot since it is something that I had looking into and considered trying in the past.

As part of the sign up process I got to select which toy we wanted to receive, I was afraid of renting a LEGO set due to our experience with another toy rental company and my kids being heartbroken at having to return them so I chose a different toy that my children had expressed interest in at the store.

Order processing was super fast! I got a shipping notification within minutes of submitting the order but the shipping method used was very slow so the cross country trek took over a week.

Box opening

Box opening

The toy pieces arrived in a mesh zipper bag with laminated instructions which I like. There were no pieces missing and the kids were super excited. There was a surprise gift included for my son to keep, a silicon Lego bracelet that he could attach bricks and minifigures to, he loved it!

What I liked:

  • Affordable plans
  • Quick shipping notification
  • Toys are sanitized
  • Environmentally friendly- the website keeps track of reduction in CO2 emissions
  • No commitments, easy to cancel.
  • 500+ toys to choose from including 400 Lego sets
  • User friendly website, easy to report problems such as missing pieces
  • Free gift- my son was surprised to get a LEGO compatible bracelet to keep
  • Laminated instructions
  • Customizable wish list, select categories to be suggested toys, x out the ones you are not interested in, star the ones you want to get
  • Ability to buy the toy if the child wants to keep it
  • Pley donates a toy to underprivileged children for every new member
  • Ability to print return label from website if you loose the one included in the box
  • As soon as the return tracking is active you can choose next toy that you want which saves time in waiting for the next toy
  • Referral program.  You can earn free months of service by telling your friends about it.

 

What I didn’t like:

  • No search feature for toys, I have to scroll through pages and pages of Lego sets and can’t search by name
  • Some toys are not a good value. I saw several Lego sets that can be purchased for less than the cost of 1 month’s subscription so I recommend using this for bigger Lego sets and fancy toys to make sure that you are getting a good value
  • Despite it shipping quickly, it was with a slow method that took over a week to arrive, time is money when you are paying a rental by the month.
  • Toy purchase price was a couple of dollars higher than the regular price at several local and online stores

 

The kids were captivated

The kids were captivated

About the toy itself

We chose the Nano V2 Helix 180° toy.  This is something that the kids had showed interest in at the store so we decided to try it.

The toy instructions were practically useless, not very user friendly but thankfully the toy wasn’t hard to figure out.  Once assembled the boys had a lot of fun playing with it and customizing the configuration of the tunnels.

The bug would sometimes get stuck on its side and we had to right it before it entered a tunnel otherwise it would get stuck on the tunnel, other than that it was a great toy.  The boys liked it enough to want to keep it but we chose to return it to buy a slightly different version of the toy that offers more configuration options.

 

 

 

Pley plans

Affordable plans with no commitments

Bottom Line

This toy rental service is a great concept and fits a need in the market. This service is good for people that have limited space and don’t want to accumulate toys that don’t get played with after a while. Your child can play with the same toy until the novelty wears off and then choose something different.

It is also good for when your child wants a very expensive toy that you don’t think would be a good value long term. For example, I love building with LEGO but don’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a fancy LEGO set that I will only build once. With Pley I can rent it, build it, take pictures, play with it for a bit and then return it without such a huge hit on my wallet.

 

Disclosure
I received a free toy rental with no obligation for a review. The opinions expressed are my own.