Lately, like many other mommy bloggers, I've been busy with back to school. In addition, I've gone back to work part time and had multiple family birthdays to plan and work on. Now that much of the flurry of activity is done, I've compiled a list below of some of the wonderful products, businesses, etc. that I've come across in my planning and preparation. Hope you find it useful!

Everything Parties

Martha Stewart Kids' Birthday Card Kit. I picked this up at Michael's and boy am I glad I did! There are 6 cards (prefolded with matching envelopes) and 4 sheets of adorable stickers. No more cheesy homemade cards or cheapo drug store cards. Your child can even do it and it will look polished and whimsical. With all the birthdays you will be attending this year, you will surely use up all 6 cards!

Best site for party favors/supplies Oriental Trading. Be sure to check Retail Me Not for the latest coupons before you buy! A close second is Etsy for some cute, original stuff! Best place to buy prizes for games and games (good idea for kids gifts, too!): Five Below. Best place for a kids party "Your Way": I recently rented the space at Time 2 Party for my kids birthday party. It has carnival games so you already have a carnival theme and can use one of their characters for an extra fee. Great deal!

Need a place for a night out with the girls? A great birthday place is Lounge 46 in Totowa. They also have great free food sometimes at night and henna artist. 

Health

The Doctor's Office. Recently I went to my PCP (primary care physician) and I was turned off because there was no toilet paper in the rest room and their test results were wrong. Why did I put up with it? I usually needed to see the doctor fast–to see if I have a sprained ankle or to get antibiotics for a cold. The good PCPs are often booked up months in advance for the first visit. But without insurance I decided I had to shop around. 

What I found was a wonderful surprise. I saw an ad in the paper for The Doctor's Office: walk-in, urgent care in Paramus. The price for a general visit was around $80–cheaper than most which charge $100 or higher. The office is beautiful–cherry wood, super clean and modern equipment, flat screens, comfortable couches and a waiting area after your visit with dim lighting and gentle music. Much different than a crowded and stressful ER! This is a great option if you want your child seen by someone but don't know if you should go to the ER or wait till Monday to see the pediatrician. They do take insurance. I highly recommend Dr. Nunez–she has a great bedside manner and truly cares about her patients!

For the last three months I've been taking Chinese Bee Pollen pills for weight loss and maintenance. I found it to be an effective, all natural (and easy!) way to lose weight and keep it off. I wasn't overweight to begin with–around a size 6. But I was between size 4 and 6, which is frustrating when buying and wearing clothes. Just one pill a day keeps your cravings in check (you eat normally) and helps you lose in those problem areas like belly, butt and arms. After friends/family started getting interested I became a distributor. If you are interested in trying it send me an email: mirabest@live.com. The new site is at: www.justbeeskinny.com. 1 bottle is $50. 

For meals–either late night or a work lunch–I've stocked up on Amy's Kitchen line of Organic Frozen meals. It tastes so fresh and yummy–you know she uses great ingredients. They were on sale at Pathmark for $5 and so much better than McDonald's for a quick meal. I like the Stuffed Pasta Shells bowl and the Chili and Cornbread Whole meal. 

For Kids

After we got home and all the presents were opened there was one that had the adults captivated. The Take-Apart CAT Dump Truck is a great toy for a boy. You can use the drill to take apart parts of the truck. 

One of our favorite bath toys is The Disney Princess Ariel Bath Castle. There is a slide that Ariel or Flounder can slide down (the slide is flimsy and pops off a lot, though). There are two water wheels that splash water. The best is the shell–this part should be submerged. You squeeze a pump and it creates bubbles in the shell underwater. 

If you have Time Warner Cable, go to channel 1048. PBS Sprout Kids on demand has free episodes of Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, Barney and others. We watch this channel everyday!

If you have an iPhone or iTouch download these great programs for kids: iWriteWords (the Lite version is free). Your child can practice writing letters and numbers using a "connect the dots" approach. Also great for teaching them how to spell words like "cat." Toddler Tapping Zoo is a flash card system. When you tap the picture the animal makes its sound. Wheels on the Bus is a really fun digital book that is interactive and cute. 

Shopping

I have my eye on this site (already love the magazine!): www.luckyatyourservice.com. It's an app for your phone where you can see an item that the editors recommend, find it near you or find it online. No more visiting several stores to see if they have your style or color. It will check availability and even have a "concierge" service that will put it on hold for you at the store. I'm sure there are bugs since it's so new but keep an eye on it!

When you shop for clothes are you driven more by your body shape than any other factor? This site is built around that concept and has one of the most comprehensive feature offering I've found: www.myshape.com. It's a fun way to personalize your shopping experience!

Back to School

I looked at a couple different sites for lunch bags. I couldn't decide: metal or soft sided? Also, personalized or not? Maybe a bento box? I eventually settled on the Pottery Barn Kids line. They have a free shipping deal (you can only get the personalization online) which saves you money. I like the retro look and am very pleased with the product! 

Here are some other ones that are pretty good: Laptop Lunches (Bento style and eco friendly), a metal box style that can be personalized: FreckleboxThomas and Friends Side Kick Lunch Box Set is a wonderful option if your tyke is a Thomas friend. 

A great site if you are a fan bento box style lunches is: Lunch in a Box. Another site with great lunch ideas is iLunchbox.  

Enjoy your back to school planning and preparation!