Deal Alerts! Be in the Know

Ever decide you want to buy something at one of your favorite stores only to find out you missed a great sale by a week? Did the free shipping promotion end just yesterday? I really, really, hate paying retail for anything other than a one-of-a-kind item so I take advantage of deal alerts offered via e-mail by most of the well-known retailers and even some smaller companies. Here’s how you can stay in the know and save a few bucks.

Make a list of all your favorite places to shop. If they have websites, chances are pretty good you can visit their sites and sign up for their e-mail lists. Sometimes, let’s face it, you get mail from these stores that are of no interest to you BUT this is also how you receive notice of any pending sales, giving you an advantage over others and first dibs at the sale merchandise which could sell out quickly. You will also get handy promotion codes for free shipping and additional discounts. Many times I have been excited to find out about a sale from a catalog in the snail mail only to be crushed that the stuff advertised in it is already taken in my size. I don’t get my mail until 4 and I live on the west coast. By the time I get mail, the east coast folks have already shopped their hearts out. It’s so much better to know about the sale ahead of time. If you are flexible with your store choice and simply want to see who has a deal going on right now, check with a site like www.dealalert.com or www.freeshippingdeals.com.

Got too much mail in your inbox already? Set up a separate account just for store e-mails. Another option is to become a fan of the store on face book and receive alerts that way. Depending on the number of stores on your list, though, this could potentially clog your news feed. For this reason, I prefer the e-mail account. I check it at my leisure and often find out about sales ahead of time. Like the one going on over at Land’s End – got some great quality tees for my kid at half off!  And I never pay shipping. Works for me!

The Librarian

Works-For-Me Wednesday

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"Oh Woe is Me," said the 12-year-old!

It’s officially summertime!  In years past I would yell loudly, yayyyy!!!  Last summer was a blast, we had passes to the local water park and we were there at least twice a week.  This year is a little different.  I opened up a photography studio 4 weeks ago.  Having a brick and mortar store is extremely scary.  You have to make your overhead, period.  Before when I was working out of my house, if I had a slow couple of weeks, no problem!  If I wanted to take 4 days out of the week to go out with my kids, no problem!  Not the case now, I have a need to perform business model, yikes!

So back to summer.  Little C is content, he has his summer school and loves it, he only goes twice a week which puts the pressure on big time for me to book all my sessions in two days.  The problem lies with Big E, he’s twelve.  It took all of 2 weeks for the novelty of the studio to wear off.  Before he was all “Can I have a summer job and work for money”, to “Do I have to go?”  I mean come on… its 2 days a week?  Is it really so terrible to spend 5 hours at a studio making $8/hour twice a week?  Maybe its the age, I don’t know, but he would be perfectly happy spending 14 hours a day on his computer.  But of course there is no way I’m going to allow that!

The thing that gets me, is that I can plan a super fun day, have one of his friends over, sleepover, give him the moon, it still isn’t enough.  He wants to be entertained every minute of every day or else he wants on the computer.  It baffles me so much.  What happened to the days when kids would just go outside in summer and play?  Take the bike out and explore the neighborhood.  I feel like computers and video games have robbed some of our youth of activity.

So here’s my question to all you Gen X Moms readers, what is there for a 12 year old boy to do, that isn’t a fortune?

The PhotoAddict

How I “Scar”ed My Daughter

Today’s post was contributed by Kelli, a guest blogger from our moms group.

My sweet daughter is four years old and very shy. As a stay-at-home mom, I have had the pleasure of spending every day with her, watching her grow and develop. I thought I’d done a pretty good job of raising her until June 5th, when I “Scar”ed her (perhaps for life!) by taking her to see the stage version of the Lion King.

It all started when my best friend called at 8:30AM to say they had an extra pair of tickets to that day’s 2PM performance and would I like to take Minnie. I did have a passing thought, “I wonder if Minnie is too young for the show”, but I shoved it down. Perhaps I should have listened to my inner voice but the temptation was too great. I thought to myself, ”Well, my older son and I loved it, so Minnie will love it too” and agreed to the fun-filled day. Besides, Minnie’s best friend was also coming, she’d have company.

Lion King

Our seats were this close!

I also accepted the responsibility of transporting Granny across town. Minnie and I left for Los Angeles, giving ourselves three hours to pick up Granny and get back down to the theatre in Orange County. I wanted to make sure we did not to miss the magnificent opening number, “Circle of Life”. The day quickly went downhill as we hit traffic and accident after accident, and we didn’t arrive until 2:01PM (STRIKE 1!).

As we literally ran to the theatre from the parking structure, we bumped into the other family we were meeting there, who were also late. Sadly, Minnie’s BFF had come down with a fever and was not coming (STRIKE 2!). Since we were late we had to wait in the lobby, watching the incredible opening song on a large flat screen monitor.

After 15 minutes, we were allowed to enter the dark theatre to find our seats while the play was continuing. I knew we had good seats but was pleasantly surprised when the usher took my ticket and lead us to the second row of the orchestra section, about 15 feet from the stage! We slowly inched our way across the row of people to take our seats almost directly behind the conductor. What a treat!

Unfortunately, the first character my little one sees is Scar, the big bad lion in the show (STRIKE 3 – YOU’RE OUT!). This did not go over well. She immediately jumped into my lap. Then she started to cry quietly. I suggested she cover her eyes and relax since Scar would be gone soon. She didn’t. She got louder and louder until she was yelling, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!” I gathered her up and moved back across the row of people we had just disturbed and took Minnie back into the lobby to settle her down. I really wanted to see this show and was upset she was crying so loud (and mad at myself for the three strikes).

The sweet ushers brought us a chair to watch the musical from the monitor in the lobby and offered to exchange our tickets, but Minnie was having none of that. She was sweaty and her heart was racing. There was no way I was going to get her back into that theatre. She was truly “scar”ed of Scar and I figured I had just given her fodder for a therapy session in the future, “and then there was the time my mom took me to see the Lion King….”

After her dedicated father left his golf game to pick up our terrified child, I was able to go back to my 80 dollar seat (times 2) and catch the second act of this gorgeous play. The music, the costumes, the singing; all were top-notch. But it was hard to enjoy it knowing I had stressed out my sweet princess to the point of complete panic. Next time I will listen to that little voice in my head and in my heart and not scare my four-year-old with Scar!!!

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Kelli!

Silent Sunday

Review – Moms Groups on Meetup.com

When I was pregnant with little C, I was not working. So when big E was in school it felt a little lonely since all my friends were at work. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED being a stay-at-home mom, but the adult stimulation was definitely lacking. I went on Yahoo groups to find some groups with similar interests. I joined a scrapbooking group. I enjoyed the discussion and I even went to a few events that were a lot of fun. Did I make any real connections? Not really. I stumbled upon Meetup.com while surfing the net about 2 weeks after giving birth to little C.  I did a search for Moms with a 10 mile radius of my house.  Holy cow, 15 groups near me! I joined the group. My first meetup was interesting. The first thing you need to know is that I am a very outgoing person. I have absolutely no problems going to a party alone where I don’t know anyone, no problem speaking in front of people and certainly no problem making friends. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a pretty fun person. So back to my first meet up. I went to the park where there was a play date, no one introduced herself to me, I had to go up to the group of women and ask if they were from XYZMeetup group, which they were. I enjoyed the conversation, I really liked being able to talk about breastfeeding with other women that were going through the same things as I was. All in all it was a good experience. There was definitely a clique though, which I was NOT part of. But I took it for what it was and kept going to events.

It’s been four years since my first Meetup and about 3-4 different moms groups later. I think Meetup is a great place to meet other moms, but there are some things I think one should know.

  1. Anytime you have a group of all women together there will most likely be drama.
  2. Don’t go in with expectations of meeting a friend for life. Will you make connections? Of course, many will be on the surface, but if you’re lucky you may find a deeper friendship.  But remember a true friendship takes time to develop.
  3. People will FLAKE. Yes, we are moms, we are scatterbrained and sometimes we forget.
  4. You wont like everyone… and everyone wont like you. It’s OKAY.

So with all these said, I have to say I am in a moms group now that I absolutely love on meetup. I have met some of the most amazing women on meetup. One of my dear friends I meet on meetup and we’ve been friends for almost 4 years now. I think the bottom line is, if you’re going to jump into this world of meeting people online, you just need to go in with the right expectations.

The Photo Addict

Chemicals Are Everywhere!

This number 7 is not so lucky! Find out why.

There has been a growing public awareness in the last decade or so of the impacts of chemicals used in everyday products like shampoos, skin creams and non-stick cookware. It has been reported that even babies in the womb are exposed to many unhealthy substances that we breathe or absorb through our skin. What can we do? Don’t panic. Information is key.

The Environmental Working Group  is a non-profit organization whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of the EWG and other similar groups, we now have a better idea of some of the threats we face. You can help by donating to the cause or simply adding your voice to petitions for legislation that you believe in. You can talk to others about some of the studies found here or do your own research and support companies and products that go out of their way to protect the public’s health. Particularly products for our most precious citizens – our children!

California Baby

California baby products are recommended as safe. The downside is the expense.

Even if you are in disagreement with any of the proposed actions of these groups, you can tap into the helpful databases the EWG has created to find out how potentially harmful the products you are using can be and what other options you have. I use the cosmetics database quite a bit. To be sure, there are many products I use that the list considers at least somewhat hazardous. I really don’t see myself chucking out everything and starting again but I will take the news into consideration when time to replace things like my scotchguard protected couch. I know not to overheat my Teflon covered non-stick pans. I am willing to replace a bottle of sunscreen or use things without fragrances. My water bottles are BPA free. I can be conscious of where my produce comes from and what my clothes are made of and, hopefully, it will reduce the risks just that much more!

Yeah, it’s Friday!

The Librarian

Eating Out with Toddlers On A Budget

My hubby and I love eating out, and we have tried to not let having two young kids stop us from enjoying some of our favorite restaurants.  But, Bugster didn’t like baby food for long and has been eating “adult food” exclusively since about 9 months.  We’ve struggled with how to keep our dining out costs down while still feeding 4 people full and balanced meals.  Some restaurants actually make this really easy, and I want to highlight a few for you now.  These restaurants have very low-cost or FREE dining options for older babies and toddlers:

1)            Claim Jumper

This national chain has been recognized by Parents magazine for being super kid-friendly, and it comes in tops in my book, too.  When you request a high chair for your table, they automatically bring two other things with it: a package of Oyster crackers to quell your baby’s immediate hunger needs, and a place mat with adhesive backing that they place on the table for you.

The crown jewel of Claim Jumper’s kid friendliness is its free baby plate.  It is a buffet on a plate for toddlers.  There is a dish of homemade chunky cinnamon applesauce, a cupful of mandarin orange slices, 2 cheese sticks (1 yellow and 1 white), and a huge slice of turkey.   And, did you catch that I said this is free?  The best servers offer it to you when you sit down.  But, if they don’t, all you have to do is ask for a baby plate, and it’ll come to the table moments later.

For the entire Parents magazine article: http://www.parents.com/recipes/cooking/kid-friendly-food/best-family-restaurants/

2)            The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is a notoriously expensive national chain that only added a printed Kid’s Menu within the last few years.  So, I know you may be surprised to see them on my list.  But, they also have a free baby plate.  It’s not a meal substitute, but it certainly quells the hunger of a cranky baby!  It is comprised of small slices of their bread (sourdough and brown) and banana slices.  They bring it while you’re still looking at the menu, allowing you to actually get through all 20+ pages of it.  Again, the good servers bring it without asking; but, if they don’t, you just have to request it.

3)            Chipotle

If you’ve ever been to  Chipotle, you know that their menu looks very basic: pick your meat, pick the entrée you want the meat in, and pick your toppings.  But, there is a hidden menu.  First, there are quesadillas.  You can even order different sizes (small is made with taco-sized tortillas, and a big/regular quesadilla is made with the burrito tortillas).  A small cheese quesadilla is perfect for a younger child.  The Big Cheese always gets the same thing – and it’s also not on the menu.  She gets a single chicken taco.  While tacos are on the menu, it’s a plate of 3.  They happily make her single taco for her every time we go, and charge us accordingly.

Bugster’s meal is free.  I order a side of beans and/or a side of rice, depending on the day.  If I request a small side and tell them it’s for the baby, they give me a small (2 oz.?) cup and don’t charge me.  If I don’t specify a size, it’s a little bigger, but the charge is insignificant, maybe $0.85 or so.

See?  Having kids doesn’t mean giving up on eating out. 

Feel free to share your own budget-friendly tips for eating out with a family. CLICK HERE for more tips on eating out with toddlers.