Family, Kids, Opinion, parenting, Pets, Uncategorized, writing

Sami’s hammies: another pet story

The tagline for this site is “Four kids, a dog, and a squeaker in the San Gabriel Valley.” It goes without further explanation that the four kids are my four children, the dog is our Golden retriever, and we reside in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. But what is the squeaker?

The answer is simple.  The “squeaker” is Sami’s hamster. The hamster does change from time to time, as their lifespans are fairly short. Since the inception of the blog five months ago, there have been two hamsters- Almond Biscotti and Peppermint Mocha.  Both Syrian hamsters of the genus Mesocricetus, they are what you’ll typically find at any pet store. Our always come from the PetSmart in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena.

hammy 1

The hamster stories are rather unremarkable, except that Sam seems to choose hamsters that end up developing a bit of personality, perhaps in keeping with their Starbucks-inspired names. Almond Biscotti liked to rest atop her terrarium, wedged between her water bottle and the lid.  She also had free run of the house during out week-long trip to Disney World last year.  We were standing in line for Jungle Cruise when I received a call from our neighbor’s son who was watching the pets for the week. My first worry was that something had happened to Owen, but no. Almond had escaped and was nowhere to be found. We arrived home at the end of the week to find a couple of clever hamster traps, a bathroom littered with hamster droppings, along with a hammy-shaped gap in the bathroom door she created to either get in or out of the room.  I suppose at least she kept her mess in the bathroom…? And go figure, I found Almond in a corner of my bedroom the night we got home as I was about to turn in for the night. After ten minutes, moving the heavy wood dresser, and two shoeboxes, the husband and I caught Almond.  He woke Sami to show that her hammy had been caught and placed back in her home, and all was well. Until a few months later with I found that she had been hiding inside a chest of Ikea Alex drawers in the girls’ room. She had made herself a little nest, which explained why she seemed to be able to disappear when our neighbor would come to check on the pets.

But our favorite hamster was Chestnut Praline Latte. Her time at the Haas home extended one year from early 2016 to 2017.  This hamster was special, a really sweet hamster who never bit or squealed, but had a penchant for escaping. And hiding in the most interesting places.


One morning the kids for whatever reason decided to have Chestnut run in her ball. She was left rolling about the house in said ball as I made the carpool rounds. I returned home to find an empty ball and no hamster. A thorough search of the house and the faint sound of scampering lead me to the most difficult, worst possible spot to access: behind the refrigerator. Our fridge pre-kitchen remodel was wedged in a space created by an old cabinet and an awkwardly placed wall dividing the fridge space and the washroom on the other side. To move the refrigerator forward enough to access the back required shimmying the appliance between that wall and another awkward cabinet, with a maximum of three inches total to work with. Shimmying completed with the help of a friend, sure enough Chestnut was having a ball in the disgusting confines of the bottom of the refrigerator.  This became her favorite hiding spot up until the kitchen was remodeled and the old fridge with a cardboard backing was replaced with a hamster-proof LG side-by-side with a metal back.  Post remodel, we found her hiding with Sami’s stuffed animals after returning home from the Sierras, in the linen closet with the blankets, and in a Longaberger basket.

But for all the crazy hamster adventures, Chestnut was probably the one Sami bonded with the best. Sam would take her out and play with her for hours. This hamster was also the first pet that she had actual charge of.  She had to feed and water her, play with her, and make sure that her bedding was clean and dry. While Sam couldn’t quite clean the terrarium by herself, she was able to initiate the process. In short, Chestnut Praline was instrumental in beginning the journey of helping Sami to learn responsibility.  She was also the one to give her a first lesson about grief.  Chestnut Praline finally passed away in 2017. We noticed that she was not her typical active self, and seemed to be struggling, though she had been fine earlier in the day. Sami tried to feed her and warm her up, but to no avail. Chestnut would pass later on in the evening. Her ‘funeral’ would consist of a decorated shoebox with a Tsum Tsum and some food and her older brother playing Taps on his trombone as she was taken to her semi-final resting place, and many, many tears.

Today, Sami has her Peppermint Mocha, a sweet gray hamster we picked up just a couple weeks ago.  I do feel that it is good for her to have a pet of her own. The lessons on responsibility, along with lessons of love and care are ones she can carry with her. And hammies are just too cute!

sami hammy


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?