Wednesday, January 5, 2011

MyGym Review - Parsippany

I went to MyGym in Parsippany today. I called and didn't get anyone on the phone, which was a little frustrating, since I wasn't sure it was worthwhile suiting up both kids, since the class might be filled, but I went ahead and got everyone together.

When I got there I saw why there was no one answering the phone - it was a two woman shop & they were very warm & welcoming. They gave me some paperwork to fill out with basic info and did not ask for money, I assume because new people are always extended a free class. Parents enter the floor in their socks, kids go sockless and shoeless (I was glad I'd painted little Miss' toenails, because she was very proud to show off her feet).

The place was super clean and inviting with bright colors and different play spaces, including tumbling mats, a huge industrial-pipe sized "hot dog" filled with air that kids could bounce on and ride, a nice sized ballpit with two entrance points to keep kids moving through, a toddler basketball area, a balance beam and a high beam, a smaller trampoline that served as a catalyst to a big trampoline, a plastic slide and two side by side larger wooden slides.

The center of the carpeted floor was a circle & circle time was about gentle exercises, songs, guided play and puppets for parents and kids. The staff kept things moving throughout the one hour class - there was a "surprise" activity - playing with bean bags, swings that were suddenly produced and hung from the ceiling, beach balls that swung from the ceiling and a giant parachute that we all grabbed to keep the "popcorn" balls popping.

Mom2Mom: The moms were nice, the staff was absurdly nice, the place was clean & the play was very guided. My daughter is a bit of free spirit, so I'm not sure it's for us, but I can definitely see a lot of kids really enjoying this. There is a $10 coupon in the Entertainment Book for the first month & the cost is around $80/month for one class a week, plus two one hour time slots on two evenings for free play.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Playgroup at St. Ann's in Parsippany

Today was my first foray into playgroups. My daughter is a veteran of group activities - at almost 2 and a half, she's been enrolled in daycare since she was 3 months old.

My daughter was baptized at St. Ann's Church in Parsippany and we really haven't been to church since. Anyway, they had called me several times about a playgroup, while I was working, so I looked up their website.

They meet Tuesdays from 10 AM - 11 AM. The room was large - chairs for both adults and small children. There were maybe 6 kids playing with a chest of toys that included a dollhouse, trucks - the basics and there was a small carpet rolled out for them. It was low-key, nothing rowdy and my daughter was not intimidated and jumped right in. I was asked to sign a liability form and given info about upcoming playdates. There was no religious talk or push to join or attend the church (I personally do not attend, so I was definitely a newcomer).

We arrived late, so at around 11:35 or so a parent initiated cleanup, which surprised me, since I thought playgroup was ending early. The kids were rounded up and there was a nice storytime at a kid-sized table, with kid-sized chairs. After that, the mom/story reader supplied juice and cake (they rotate responsibility for snacks). This was followed by supervised coloring at a separate table, with photocopied images that followed the theme of the storytime, which was about how Mexicans typically celebrate Christmas.

The moms I met were very nice and very welcoming. I met two who live within a half mile of me, which was great! I will definitely attend this playgroup again.

Mom2Mom: Low key, somewhat structured play, engaged parents (no wild kids), birth to age 5, low key moms in sweats/jeans, very welcoming to newcomers

What to do with a toddler and a newborn during the day?

Having worked since my 2+ year old was only 3 months, I never had to think much about what to do to occupy her. She was busy at daycare and afterwards normal family obligations took up the rest of the time (to the point where we were mostly too busy).

I've been on maternity leave since a few weeks before I had my now 6 week old. It's mostly been too cold out to have my toddler outside with the newborn during the day, so I've been looking for things to do. Today I googled playgroups and found one meeting at St. Ann's Church in Parsippany - no cost. I showed up, my daughter jumped right in, the other moms were nice and we didn't talk about religion at all, except during storytime when one of the moms, who is of Mexican descent, talked about Christmas in Mexico, which I found very interesting - she also brought along a special Mexican bread/cake that she shared with the kids.

It's tough to find things to do locally with kids, so I'm starting a Morris County Mom calendar. I will post reviews of events I attend in my blog

Monday, January 3, 2011

Banking for toddlers

My 2 year old is enamored with her piggy (well, actually duck) bank and loves to find coins to put in there, even going so far as to take them out of our wallets, on one occasion. Her duck was overflowing, so we decided to take her to the bank today. Our bank is Wachovia, but we went to TD Bank, since we *thought* they had free coin counting.

My daughter walked in very cutely with her quilted purse in the shape of a horse bulging with a ziploc bag of coins. She & my husband went inside while I waited in the car. About 5 minutes passed and they came out - neither smiling. She kept asking me, "Where money go?" sadly. My husband carried the bills and told me they took 6% of Carina's piggybank, since we're not customers. I had been thinking what a nice service it was and that maybe we should have an account for her there, but seriously? 6%?.

Again, she & daddy went into Wachovia and deposited her $47 and change from the piggybank (I guess loose change really does add up!), along with Christmas money gifts from relatives in her savings account, then also put our newborn's Christmas checks into her account. Our bank gave her a lollipop, which she was very happy with and promptly stopped wondering where her money went.

We put money away for her for college, but that's a passive action that she doesn't see and I'd like her to understand how to both spend and save wisely.

ShopRite CanCan Sale - Super Coupon Matchup

I found three Super Coupons in my Sunday Star Ledger (my free newspaper came from the Parsippany Pathmark, see post below) - coupon offerings can vary by geography. Since they're ShopRite coupons, they can be stacked with manufacturer coupons for additional savings! Here are the three coupons:

1) Progresso Soup 10 for $10, valid Jan 2 - Jan 22, 2010. You should be able to snag $1 off 4 coupons from the 11/14/10 GM (expires 1/8/11) circular and the 1/2/11 GM circular (expires 2/26/11). You could also print the $1 off 4 from Facebook. Plus, you can get another $.50 off via Cellfire (visit site to sign up & download directly to your ShopRite card in advance of shopping). So, you would only pay $7.50 for 10 cans of soup or $.75/can!

2) A FREE Power Performance Bar coupon (limit 1/household, with minimum $10 purchase valid Jan. 2 - Jan 8, 2011). I've never tried this product, but now I will!

3) Kellogg's Special K 5 for $10 (11.4 to 14 oz box any variety OR 19.5 oz granola good Jan 2 - Jan 8 2011). There is a $1 off 2 in the 1/2/11 Redplum insert (there is a printable BOGO, but ShopRite by me doesn't accept them). If you have two of the $1 off 2 coupons, you can get 5 boxes of special K for $1.60/box - not bad if you're a Special K fan.

For a detailed coupon matchup and couponing primer, I recommend checking out Living Rich With Coupons.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pathmark trip - cheap gift wrap & free newspaper!

I stopped in at Pathmark in Parsippany to pick up a few things - well, honestly, with a picky toddler, chicken nuggets are a mainstay, so we just couldn't do without. I actually found these really cool, healthy chicken nuggets that are dinosaur shaped. They were around $5 a box and the package is a generous 28 oz - they have Omega 3s and iron AND have a great re-sealable plastic bag, so I was able to ditch the cardboard & save myself a bunch of freezer space.

Towards the front of the store was a very small rack that had two bins of wrapping paper at 75% off. I was able to buy 40 square foot rolls for $.25 each and they had some nice patterns available. Great deal!

Next to the gift wrap was a sleazy Star Ledger sales guy with a sign that said "Free Star Ledger newspaper" above a stack of papers. I asked him if I could take one and he gave me a curt no and proceeded to give me a sales pitch about 7 day delivery. At the end of it I told him I was a loyal Daily Record reader and couldn't commit and he suggested I read a free copy and check it out (I was happy to have the extra coupons, since I'm going to re-commit to couponing this year). So, a free newspaper, cheap gift wrap and some miscellaneous groceries - a good trip!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Twos - funny and not so terrible

I'm really enjoying daughter #1. She's almost 2 and a half and it's not so much any one thing that cracks me up, it's the odd combinations of ensembles and actions.

The first thing that comes to mind is two days ago when she walked around the house with her little plastic grocery shopping cart. She had her glo-worm doll in the front part where a baby and or a purse would go. The cart part was loaded with play boxes of food and actual cans she'd swiped from my pantry, which were crabmeat, tomatoes and pineapple. There was still snow on the deck, so she begged to lean outside and I let her have a bowl to play with the snow. She immediately scooped up a bowlful, popped some in her mouth with her finger, said, "mmmm snow!" and added it to her odd assortment in the shopping cart - walking slowly around, pushing her cart, nibbling proudly on the snow and continuing to make "mmm" noises along her meandering route. She looked a lot like a homeless person. She asked to re-fill her bowl several times.

Tonight we had company. After they left, she insisted on putting on her purple winter hat, which is a light lilac fleece with a small explosion of purple strands at the top and a neck strap, which she left undone - my first impression was that she looked like a very young pilot who had recently landed. Her long hair swung in front of her eyes. On her feet were a pair of boots - the last pair of snowboots at Walmart that we bought when caught off-guard by the recent blizzard. The boots are two sizes too big and she put them on herself, with the unfortunate consequence that the toes pointed outwards. Thus adorned she stood in front of her play cash register and joyfully "purchased" her own toys.

New Year - Reinventing the blog

Previously I kept this blog to myself, despite my promise to myself that I would try to market it. So, this is my first post that I am making public.

My New Years resolution is to post every single day in 2011 and self-promote unabashedly.

The exception would be a repeat of the memorably weird illness (Slapped Cheek Syndrome) my husband and I got from daycare in the summer of 2009, which resulted in me having a fever of 103, literally shaking my head to try to clear it on the drive home from work, then laying on the couch on my side trying not to look directly at anything, which, when I did focus, resulted in me losing my lunch, dinner, breakfast, then possibly parts of my esophagus. Luckily, the fever cleared in 24 hours, but then I felt like I was 99 and had arthritis. Initially my husband didn't understand, but awoke the next morning and literally fell to his kneees when his ankle gave out. The two of us walked around like the reverse of the movie, "Cocoon." We endured around 3 days of acute pain, then our ankles crackled for a few weeks afterwards. If that happens again, I give myself permission ahead of time to slack off.