Family, Kids, Opinion, parenting, School, Uncategorized, writing

Counting the blessings… in the midst of mess

Getting ready for school can be a bear…

I woke up this morning, stuffy-nosed and bleary-eyed from the winter cold I probably caught as a result of working at the elementary school for the past week, and meandered into the bathroom. I was only the third person this morning to go to use it, and I swear I had it clean last night before retiring to bed. But lo, there were washcloths all over the counters, towels on the floor, various toiletry items strewn about the tiled vanity. Oh and I failed to mention the large gob of toothpaste on the edge of the sink.  Seriously, how many washcloths does it take to wash a sixteen-year-old’s face? Please don’t answer that. And who, who, was attempting to brush the teeth of a whale shark, because seriously that’s the only animal who could possibly need that much toothpaste.

I was getting ready to yell at Jacob, as would be my usual custom, and remembered that he had about a minute-and-a-half to finish getting ready before his carpool would arrive to take him to zero period marching band. And in that brief moment, I remembered something far more profound.  That mess, and many of the others in our house, in our car, and elsewhere, is made by those for whomI am most thankful for.  This family, this home, are my greatest blessings in this life.  And I have to remember that everything I chose up to this point- my education, my decision to work outside the home, my decision to not work outside the home, and more- was in the hope that we could give them the best chance possible.

I decided in that moment not to yell at Jacob, not that it meant I wasn’t yelling for the rest of them to get in the car now about 35 minutes later. The morning carpool runs had to be completed.  But as I drove home from the soul-sucking morning rounds in Los Angeles County traffic, I did reflect on how thankful I really am to have these four children with all their strengths and struggles. And how very lucky I am to get to be called their Mom.



Kids, Money savers, Shopping, Style, Travel, Uncategorized

Saving money Saturdays: the Citadel Outlets

Happy Tuesday! I know it’s not Saturday, but we took a trip to the Outlets on Saturday, so that counts. Sort of.

Take a trip south on the Interstate 5 from Los Angeles, and you’ll see a set of peach-colored buildings with Babylonian-style architecture.  This is where you want to stop.

The Citadel buildings have an interesting history.  The site was built back in 1929 as the Samson Tire Company, and at the time, was the largest tire manufacturer west of the Mississippi. It became Uniroyal Tire in 1962.  Manufacturing ceased in 1978, but the site was purchased by the City of Commerce in 1983 to prevent its demolition. Today the site is a mixed-use facility with offices, the Doubletree Hotel, and L.A.’s first and only outlet mall.

I love the Citadel Outlets for two reasons: One, it’s only about a 20 minute drive from my home, even with the characteristic horrible L.A. traffic.  Two, the Citadel features many of the stores where I would typically shop. All three Gap brands are carried here, as are luxury brands Coach and Kate Spade, and business attire essentials Ann Taylor, Van Heusen, and Tommy Hilfiger. These are just a few of the 130 brands one can find at the Citadel.

As with any shopping trip- outlet or otherwise- be sure to do your due diligence and compare quality and price. Certain stores such as Kate Spade carry both items that are designed specifically for outlet stores and past season merchandise. Others, such as the Disney Store, have sales that are not much different from the typical retail store. You’re not always guaranteed a bargain just because you’re shopping at an ‘outlet.’ That said, with a little research and some willpower, you can score some really great deals. Okay, a lot of willpower.

Happy Thanksgiving? The Citadel is all decked out with plenty of time for the Christmas holidays.
Halloween, holidays, Kids, Opinion, School, Uncategorized, writing

How old is too old to go trick-or-treating?


It is an age-old question about, well age. I was asked by a few folks, what age is too old to go trick-or-treating? I figured that the question was posed as I am now a parent to two high school students.

Kids middle school and below are clearly in the candy-collecting range. And adults with very young children circumvent the issue by trick-or-treating “on behalf of” their infant. I’m sure their two-month-old will enjoy that stick of Laffy Taffy. And yes, we do get a few in our neighborhood. Perhaps we should discuss the matter of how young is too young to be taken out trick-or-treating, but that is a different post for a different time. So that leaves that awkward, in between age consisting mostly of high schoolers and entry college students.  How old is too old to go trick-or-treating?

I’ve heard a myriad of opinions on the matter, running the gamut from “high school kids have no business trick-or-treating, bah humbug!” to “we give candy to everyone who comes to our porch.” Perhaps the clearest guide for whether a child is too old came from my daughter’s Venturing Crew advisor: once the child is taller than either of their parents, he/she is too old for trick-or-treating.  I would almost agree with this measure, however it disfavors kids with naturally petite parents.  I would have had to stop going out with friends in sixth grade, as I outgrew my Filipina mama who stands at barely five feet with shoes. And my younger boy, who has always been a taller kid, matched my height at the end of fifth grade. Seems a little too young to end the fun, don’t you think?

My personal take on the matter is this: A kid, or shall we say student is welcome on my porch regardless of age or size, if they are going out to have fun with friends in good will, not to cause vandalism or other potentially harmful mischief, and are good-mannered as many of the high school age kids who visit our neighborhood tend to be.  I do prefer that they take the time to dress up, even if it’s just a mask or a cape added to their street clothes. Come on kids , it’s Halloween. Show at least a tiny bit of effort. But I would rather teens be out safely having fun, being kids, than doing things they shouldn’t be doing. And I love seeing the creativity some of the high school kids put into their costumes.  Ernest Hemingway and the Refrigerator from a few years back are still probably my favorites.

I’d be interested to hear your take on the matter.  Feel free to leave your thoughts on the comments below. And Happy Halloween!

Kids, Organization, Uncategorized, writing

The years are short, but the days are busy

This is what October looks like. And not every practice is even written down!

I’m back, after a crazy busy week working our elementary school book fair, balancing the kids’ activities and my own schedule, and trying to stay sane through it all. Don’t get me wrong. I’m incredibly blessed to have these four children, and for them to be so involved in great activities. Jacob is part of a smaller, but award-winning marching band, and Emily is on one of the country’s top-ranked Speech and Debate teams. Those activities and their practice schedules are enough to drive one bonkers. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So I keep not one, but two calendars. I like many these days, rely in part on my mobile device to keep my schedule. We have a family iCalendar which I update so that the husband and I have things synced. I learned that this does not take the place of actually communicating the schedule with him once a week, but that’s a work in progress.

I suppose I’m ‘old school’ in that I also depend on my paper planner book. I guess I’m more visual than I thought, because seeing the color-coded blocks in the family schedule really helps me to remember who needs to be where when. I use a weekly planner small enough to throw in my purse and carry around, but large enough to write significant details. I like that there are two sections for each day of the work week: one for calendaring and one for to dos. The to do section is where I keep track of what I need to accomplish for the day, along with significant completed tasks or events I want to remember, and my daily spending. I have not gotten into the bullet journaling trend. I like my calendar separate from my actual journal, but functionally my planner is probably a sort of hybrid of ‘traditional’ calendaring and bullet journaling. Whatever my color-coded method can be called, it works for me, and that’s what’s most important.

What are your tips for keeping your day organized?

breakfast, Brunch, coffee, Food, Kids, Style, Travel, Uncategorized, wine and drink

Girls’ Weekend with my favorite ladies

Another weekend is come and gone, and this was one for the books. The boys in our family each left for the weekend one at a time, starting with the husband on Friday, the younger boy Saturday before dawn, and finally my high schooler in the early afternoon. I call it ‘bachelorette weekend’ whenever the boys leave: the girls and I visit museums or other locales the guys think are either lame or too far to drive then come home for some hardcore scrapbooking and wine while binge watching movies the guys think are too girly or lame.

This weekend was not much different, except that I had to remember what time each of them were set to leave and make sure they and all their related gear got to the correct dropoff points. But after the morning’s drives we were able to enjoy a sweet Saturday- just  the ladies.

We started our girls weekend with brunch at one of my favorite spots, Magnolia House on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. It was the first time I  brought the girls, and they loved it. Sami especially liked the avocado toast, a slice of sourdough with a generous heap of avocado and topped with almonds, pickled onions, and burrata cheese. I was a bit skeptical of her choice (I usually get the huevos rancheros), but it was really good. Our server was very sweet and patient with Sami who sometimes has anxiety over those seemingly minor decisions such as what to eat.  I would not call Magnolia House ‘kid-friendly,’ especially for younger kids. It has a really trendy vibe and full bar with some interesting cocktails (of which I did not partake on this trip), so it’s definitely better as a grown-up girls’ brunch or date night. But Sami, who is 10, did just fine. Brunch was followed by some shopping on Lake Avenue. Emily scored a pair of Steve Maddens at TJMaxx for under $30, and Sami picked up an adorable Halloween costume at  Pottery Barn Kids.

The afternoon and evening hours took us further from home. We spent the rest of our glorious Saturday in Malibu. After driving the windy, but beautiful Malibu Canyon Road, we found ourselves at the famed Surfrider Beach, part of Malibu Lagoon State Beach. We were excited to explore the tide pools and observe the sea life that lived among the rocky pools. The girls went between playing in the waves and exploring the area. It was a beautiful, blue-sky day, significantly cooler than the 90-degree San Gabriel Valley- perfect for a day at the beach.

After playing in the ocean for a couple hours, we walked the sagescrub lined paths to get back to PCH and headed to the Malibu Pier. The Malibu Farm has both a cafe that serves coffee and snacks and a full service restaurant. Both are located on the pier. Reservations are recommended for the restaurant, though we were able to move ours forward. The Malibu Farm, as might be assumed, specializes in fresh dishes made from organic ingredients. I wasn’t really hungry after a really late lunch/snack, and so wanted dessert. Sami ate in the car on the way over and Emily lost her Subway sandwich to a seagull, so the girls were ready for dinner. And dessert. After some indecision and much debate, we finally ordered two kids meals with orzo pasta and two desserts, an organic soft serve and the grilled chocolate cake. The kids pasta was very good, and not too salty as many kids meals can be. To me the soft serve tasted like Costco. Though the girls really enjoyed it, I was less impressed, especially when the cheapskate in me remembered that I could get twice as much ice cream for $1.35 compared with $6, organic or not. But the grilled chocolate cake… What can I say other than it was heaven on a plate. The texture was perfection- thicker than your usual cake, but light enough to just melt in your mouth. It was served over a sea salt caramel drizzle and a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream. For $10 it was a splurge, but it was large enough to share among the three of us, and it was a chocolate masterpiece.

The Malibu Farm’s price point is for me on the higher end of my scale, but I would definitely return. The food was delicious and the portions generous.  We took home half of Emily’s kids meal, and I was able to share some of Sami’s. There are a few things I’d like to try the next time we go, such as the lemon basil ice cream and the berry merengue. Our server was really great. He made good recommendations, and was super friendly toward a trio of indecisive and somewhat giggly (but otherwise well-behaved) girls. And the view of the Pacific Ocean is just spectacular.

This is just a snapshot of what one can do on a visit to Malibu, a city that boasts 21 miles of scenic coastline. There are many dining and shopping options, along with museums such as the Getty, and hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. And while I didn’t do any hardcore scrapbooking, Emily did stay up to binge watch “Gilmore Girls.”