Liz Manji and Jaleesa Peluso: Parenting is hard, Laguna Beach Parents Club can help

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Parenting is messy, challenging and, at times, all-out crazy. I doubt there’s a mother or father out there who hasn’t at some point needed a respite – and someone to talk to who is in the same situation.

Laguna Beach Parents Club (LBPC) Co-Presidents Liz Manji and Jaleesa Peluso have both experienced the power of this nonprofit to help parents navigate the bewildering land of parenthood – and help children integrate into the community.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

(L-R) LB Parents Club Co-Presidents Jaleesa Peluso and Liz Manji

Peluso and Manji met through a playgroup in 2018 – they attended with their sons (Jaleesa’s son, Jasper and Liz’ son, Liam), who are now 5.

Since 2005, the Laguna Beach Parents Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has provided children’s activities, social events and support for local parents. They started out with 50 families and now membership is at 300.

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Courtesy of LB Parents Club

The club’s Pink Party at the Lawn Bowling facility

“The club was mostly social in the beginning,” said Manji, “and then it evolved past social to playgroups by age, starting at birth. That concept stuck over the years, and then everything was set up and they became a nonprofit. There’s always been a rotation of different board members and right now we have a six-person board.”

Manji joined LBPC after moving here from Scottsdale, Ariz. “We wanted to raise our son here, and we have good friends in Laguna. I joined Parents Club so I could meet other mothers and for Liam (to find friends) because he’s an only child,” she said. “The club isn’t clicky at all, and the members are awesome.”

After meeting in the kids’ playgroup, Manji and Peluso become good friends and that led to serving as co-presidents. (Their terms are up at the end of the year.)

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Courtesy of LB Parents Club

Mom’s New Year’s hike

Peluso’s journey to Laguna Beach was farther than Manji’s; hers started in the Netherlands. “I was just finishing a semester in college, and I needed a little break,” she said. “I was really into the skimboarding thing, so I came to California since it was the headquarters of skimboarding. I met my husband Aaron (a professional skim boarder and the founder of Exile Skim Boards), and we were just best friends right away. We did the long-distance thing while I finished business school back home and I eventually moved here.” They also have a 3-year-old daughter, Jade. Peluso is a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Halloween Costume Parade

According to Manji, “We have playgroups by age for children – that start at birth – and it is so beneficial to be with other mothers whose children are the same age. There are exchanges such as – ‘you’re not sleeping, I’m not sleeping, apparently, it’s normal that we’re not.’”

The club has playgroup coordinators who organize an event every month for their playgroup, such as strawberry picking at the Ecology Center, tide pooling, arts and crafts, hiking, a music event or a pool party.

“It’s really evolved, we have pretty fun playgroups and the playgroups are smaller because they’re just by age, so that you’re meeting parents in the same phase of life, and those kids will eventually be with each other in school,” Peluso said.

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In addition to the monthly playgroups organized by age, the club offers a myriad networking and friendship-building activities, and they have club-wide social events for parents, club-wide events for the entire family, Laguna Beach community-wide events (Halloween Parade and Easter Egg Hunt), holiday and seasonal celebrations, kids crafting events and host a book club.

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Courtesy of LB Parents Club

Dad’s Night Out

As much fun as kids’ activities sound, the parents also have their own enjoyable events: Mom’s Night Out (such as spa day and whale watching) Dad’s Night Out and Parents Night Out. Also, from picnics at the park to golf tournaments and local outings, the club organizes monthly events for parents and children.

In addition, LBPC hosts a Monthly New Member Coffee. There will be a Coffee Connection in June – the club is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce at Jedidah’s Coffee in North Laguna.

What’s incredible is that membership is only $99 a year for a family, which allows access to all their club events and activities.

“I did the math at some point, and I think we were more than 100 events annually, although some are very small,” Manji said.

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Courtesy of LB Parents Club

Easter Egg Hunt

The events range in size from small to large and very large. Halloween and Easter are the biggest ones. “I think we had 400 people at the Easter egg hunt at Alta Laguna Park,” Peluso said. “It was a lot, but it was really fun. The club stuffed plastic reusable eggs with age-appropriate candy and other treats.” (Kudos to Jess Williams and Brianna Crowley, the events planners.)

The club is partnering with SchoolPower on June 7 for a Parents Night Out at the Rivian (members only). “We’re watching Anchorman and SchoolPower is supplying all the libations,” Manji said. “It’s awesome that SchoolPower is doing it with us because all the younger parents are now learning about the great amenities we have with the Laguna Beach school system which is very special. Laguna is unique and amazing.”

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Courtesy of LB Parents Club

2022 Playgroup Walk

Whether you are a mom-to-be, have a newborn, toddler or school age child, LB Parents’ Club helps parents by providing valuable support – as well as offering a wide variety of social activities. For example, if a new mother is experiencing postpartum anxiety, there are others out there to talk to, so there’s no need to feel alone.

As a LBPC board member said on their website, “Through sponsored events, holiday celebrations and playgroup meet-ups you realize Laguna’s ‘village’ is a whole lot more than the center of town – it is your neighbors, friends and peers in parenthood.”

For more information or to join, call Jaleesa at 949.395.0960 or email Liz at info@lagunabeachparents.com, or go to www.lagunabeachparents.com.

Follow LBPC on Instagram @lagunabeachparentsclub.


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