Olivia Gets Promoted (to Middle School)

Six years after my oldest daughter first stepped onto the Adelante campus, she’s about to walk away with greater knowledge than I could ever teach her, and no I’m not just talking about Spanish and math. On her first day of  kindergarten I worried if the husband and I made the right decision to send her to a Spanish immersion school. Now I have no doubts. Yes, she’s fluent in Spanish, but she’s also learned about countless cultures she’d never have been exposed to if we enrolled her in a different school. And she never would have met one of her closest friends.

Together since kinder
Together since kinder

They sat next to each other on the first day of kindergarten and they were still sitting side-by-side at today’s elementary school promotion to middle school.

Still sitting together
Still sitting together

I’m so proud of these two girls and the rest of their 5th grade class for all they have accomplished.  They started out as these little kids barely able to read or make it across the monkey bars on the little playground, and blossomed into smart, funny, creative ‘tweens whose legs would drag onto the ground if they weren’t too cool for the monkey bars today.

An amazing group of faculty and teachers helped them grow and master the monkey bars and long division, and I’m so grateful to them for caring as much for our kids as we do.

One of Olivia's many great teachers, Maestra Austyn
One of Olivia’s many great teachers, Maestra Austyn

Leading the way was an incredible principal who moved on to a new job this year, but was swarmed by the kids when she came to today’s ceremony.


This show of love says it all. The kids care about her as much as she cares about them. I cried while watching this scene. I also cried during the teacher speeches. And I cried when a few of the kids spoke.  I didn’t cry when she received her certificate, but that’s only because I was taking pictures.


And while she’s walking into a whole new adventure called middle school, I’ve got no doubts what she learned at Adalente will serve her well in the future.

So here’s to Adelante’s Class of 2014 and my (mostly) sweet Olivia.


1 down. 2 more to go.


Election Loss

Losses are tough. It’s part of life, sure, but even now I hate losing. I’d venture to say the only thing I like less than losing, is seeing the heartbreak in one of my kid’s eyes when they lose. That happened this week when Olivia found out she narrowly lost the election for Student Council Vice-President. When I say narrow loss, I’m talking about three votes. It didn’t help that Olivia was among the students who cast a ballot for her opponent.

There was plenty of anticipation about this election. She was excited. She made flyers and crafted what can only be described as a one-of-a-kind poster.


She gave a speech, although she wouldn’t tell us what she prepared. When I asked, I got the triple-whammy. A look, an eye-roll, followed by, “Mom, No!”  While I didn’t love all the attitude and angst leading up to the election and the outcome, I give the kid major props. This was all her idea and she was really excited. The election was held last week, but in what felt reminiscent of the 2000 election, we had to wait a week for the outcome.  When she found out she lost, she was crushed.

Yes, all kids need to learn about winning and losing. Yes, the husband and I talked to her about learning from this loss, but we also said it’s OK to feel bad. Losing sucks, but promised her that sucky feeling will eventually subside, and this loss will make her next win so much sweeter. Let’s hope she believes us.

3 Kids, 1 School, 1 Year Only


We have hit a major milestone in our family, one I won’t ever take for granted. This is the only year all three of the girls will attend the same school, unless of course Olivia fails a grade, or Carrie skips several, neither of which I foresee happening.  I’ve been looking forward to this year for well, years. I’m not only happy to have one drop-off, but ecstatic to have zero preschool tuition bills. That saved money should go into the kids’ 529 accounts, but probably won’t.

The girls have been just as ready as I have been to go back to school. Their backpacks have been packed for days and their clothes laid out. As is tradition, we stopped by the school on Friday to check the class lists. As expected, Carrie got the same kindergarten teacher as her older sisters had. I hope that means the teacher likes our family.  For months, Erin was concerned about getting a certain 2nd grade teacher because her 1st grade teacher said she was strict. As we scanned the class lists, we saw Erin was indeed in that teacher’s class, but so was her best friend. Crisis averted, or so I thought.  Olivia wasn’t so much concerned about her teacher, as she was about who was going to be in her class. For the last two years, she and two of her closest friends have been in the same class. This year, one friend is in a different class.

Fast-forward to today, the first day of school. All three woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. In honor of the big day, the husband fired up the waffle maker and served up homemade waffles and bacon for breakfast.


After a hot breakfast and double checking they all had their lunches, new school supplies, and shoes on their feet, we did what millions of other parents do this time of year. We took pictures.


I saw plenty of awesome Pinterest inspired first-day-of school photos on Facebook that were oh so clever. That didn’t happen with me. I already know they’re in 5th, 2nd, and Kindergarten, and now so do you. I was lucky to get the front door pictures, and one group shot of  them with their eyes (mostly) open, smiles on their faces, and all looking at the camera.


With school starting at 8:05 for Olivia and 10 minutes later for the younger two, I count it as a success making it with time to spare on the first day.

Being the 10-year old that she is, I was convinced Olivia wouldn’t let me and my camera near her classroom. She proved me wrong, not only allowing it, but also flashing a fabulous smile.


Of course when I thanked her, she rolled her eyes and said, “Whatever Mom. You can go now.” She then pushed me out of her classroom. Yep, there’s my ‘tween with attitude.

I decided I’d walk Carrie to her class and the husband would stay with Erin. That did not sit well with Erin. While I helped Carrie find her table and name tag,

That's her nervous smile
That’s her nervous smile

the husband tried to help Erin while she melted down. I’m not sure if she was upset about me not being with her, fear of the so-called strict teacher (who by the way I’ve heard nothing but great things), nerves, or a combination of all three. When I made it to the classroom, I could tell she was upset, but I didn’t see tears. Those started up again once she saw me. I’ve got to hand it to her though, she composed herself pretty quickly, gruffly using the back of her hand to wipe the big fat tears that kept streaming down her face. I felt terrible leaving her, but it was time to go. I walked away, but came back to peek through the window. By that time, the tears stopped, and I got a small thumbs up from her.

Erin didn't want me to take the picture, so I took a wide shot. She's in the far back.
Erin didn’t want me to take the picture, so I took a wide shot. She’s in the far back, off to the right.

The fear or nerves must have subsided pretty quickly because when I called home after-school, Erin happily told me all about playing with her friends. When I asked if she thought this year was going to be as good as last year, she said yes. That one word helped, but didn’t completely erase the guilt I felt all day at work.

I’ve got a good feeling about this year. I’m going to savor and enjoy it. Hopefully, the girls will too.

My Newest Graduate

I feel a little weird. For the first time in seven years I am no longer the mom of a preschooler. I’ve been looking forward to this day for months. This day meant no more preschool tuition and would soon have only one school drop-off, if only for one year. I was convinced I would not shed even one tear. I mean come on, this was my third kid. I’ve been through this two other times.

I walked into her classroom ready for the preschool graduation routine. We sat down in the preschool kid chairs ready to watch an end of the year performance.

Last Day of Preschool. June 13, 2013

With the rest of the parents and grandparents I politely clapped as the teachers led the kids in songs. Then the teachers introduced a video featuring our cute 4 and 5-year-old kids. I was ready for this too. When a teacher started passing around a box of tissues, I privately scoffed. As a hardened parent to two older daughters, there was no way this would pull at my heartstrings. Fast forward five seconds and the tears started flowing. The preschool director threw me a curve ball. In a stroke of genius, she guaranteed everyone would cry. She didn’t just show us our kids. She showed them as they’ve grown up in the preschool in the last three years. Was Carrie really that little when she started? Yes. Yes she was.

Here’s proof.

First Day of Preschool September, 2010
First Day of Preschool September, 2010

Gone are the sippy cups, pull-ups, pacifiers and ridiculously short bangs. You won’t see it in the picture, but also absent are tears, tantrums, and trepidation. Her first week at preschool was agonizing for her, me, and her teachers. She cried so much on the first day the director was on the verge of calling me to pick her up. This year, she barely gave me a second glance before running into her classroom. Her first year she hardly ever said a word. This year, she found her voice.

In hindsight, it was crazy of me to think I wouldn’t cry. How could I not? I wasn’t crying because I would no longer have a kid in preschool. The tears came out of seeing how much Carrie has grown in these last three years.

I have nothing but the utmost respect to the teachers who have nurtured and cared for my kids over the last seven years.

IMG_8829 IMG_8831 IMG_8834


They’ve helped them shine, come out of their shells and prepare them for kindergarten. For that, I’m eternally grateful. While I won’t miss many things about being a preschool mom, I will miss the teachers who not only helped my kids grow, but me too.



The Final First Day of Preschool

It is that time of year when just about everyone I know is posting pictures of their kids on their first day back to school on Facebook, (Me included) although I only posted one blurry photo of my youngest kid.

Last 1st Day of Preschool

Plenty of people can take near professional quality photos with their iPhones. I however, cannot. It may be blurry, but at least it’s a picture.

Beyond not wanting to fall into the horrible cliché of not taking pictures of my third kid, here’s why I shared this less than stellar picture with my 400+ Facebook friends, whether they cared to see it or not. This was a monumental day in our household. This was the LAST time we’d be walking into preschool for a first day of school. Did you get that? For the last seven years, we’ve done this ritual at our preschool, and now this was it. The final first day of preschool. That in my opinion is worth a post.

You would have thought I’d get emotional, but alas I did not. Maybe it was because I was late for work. Maybe it was because I turned into a hardened mother who didn’t really care if her kid screamed like a banshee the second I left. For the record, not a tear was shed. Maybe I was quite certain she was in very good hands. Maybe all of these explanations equal to a whole truth. Whatever the reason, I skedaddled out of there like a bat out of hell, while other parents hovered around the door while their kids sat down for circle time.

It’s quite a different scenario from two years earlier, when I brought Carrie for her very first, first day of preschool.

1st First Day of Preschool

Then I hovered. She cried. She cried a lot. She cried so much the preschool director told me she was about a minute away from calling me to pick her up. Somehow, she and I survived her first day, and although there have been tears at drop-off since that first day, there are more smiles and waves, than wails and sadness.

For that I’m grateful. Grateful and proud that my little toddler in the two-day class is now a glorified “big kid” in the five-day class. She’s grown up plenty in these last two years, more than these pictures can show, but I’ll still be taking the pictures each and every year. And yes, I’ll probably still be posting them on Facebook.

My Sweet Scientist

I’m far from a scientist, so when Olivia came home from school several weeks ago with a science fair flyer I was not excited. While I may not have been excited, she was crazy excited and asked if she could enter it. With a heavy sigh, I nodded yes.

Once I gave her the go-ahead, she giddily powered up the computer to find the perfect project.  Through the magic of the internetwe she found hundreds of options, but finally settled on a sugar experiment after I nixed several other ideas. Olivia wanted to get started on it right away. Is this my child?  Why not be like me and wait until the last possible moment? Eight years old isn’t too young to pull an all nighter right?

Well she didn’t push the deadline envelope, but I did have her wait until the weekend before the project was due to take-over my kitchen and turn it into a science lab.  Below are just some of the chemicals used, otherwise known as sugar, honey, and Equal.

For the experiment she added these to lemon juice and water, thereby turning lemons into lemonade.

Olivia then needed subjects to test the lemonade, and recruited her sisters as well as me and her Dad to taste the concoctions. They may all look the same, but trust me, they didn’t taste the same.



Once we finished tasting, Olivia started work on her report and display. This took all weekend. Her Dad and I were determined to let this be HER project, and mainly helped her with spell check, choosing font size, and printing out the pictures. While that may seem easy in concept, in reality it was insanely difficult not to just jump in and finish the damn project ourselves. But we didn’t. Well mostly we didn’t.

That all leads us to today, March 22nd, Science Fair Day.

The school library was turned into a maze of  science projects filled with young scientists sporting  white lab coats waiting to give their presentations.

I’m not sure who was more nervous, the parents or the kids. Checking out some of the other projects, and seeing just how complex and professionally done they looked, I now understand why some moms and dads were so nervous. I’ve got more than a sneaking suspicion that a few parents couldn’t resist the same temptation I had and took over their kids’ project.  Either that or Olivia’s and Erin’s school has some mini Albert Einsteins and  Marie Curies in their midst.

Sure, Olivia noticed some of the more elaborate projects, but she was still pretty darned proud of her sugar experiment, and frankly so was I. Was it perfect? Nope. But she came up with a plan, executed it, and most importantly, she had fun. There was no yelling or screaming on my part forcing her to finish what she started.  Judging by that alone, it was a success.

Oh, so want to know what makes the sweetest lemonade? It wasn’t even close. Go for the fake stuff and mix in some Equal.

Fundraising Mission

I did it as a kid, and now my two older daughters are doing it too. They’ve become pseudo door-to-door sales girls, not selling girl scout cookies, but Sees Candies for their school fundraiser. When they pulled the crumpled forms from their backpacks, they immediately asked if they could try selling the candy to our neighbors. I let out a resigned sigh, and begrudgingly said yes. I had no desire to walk through our neighborhood with my kids while they gave their sales pitch. My girls however, they were beyond excited to pound the pavement.

So on Saturday we did just that. No one answered the door at the first house. The second house either. In hindsight, we probably should have gone on a non-holiday weekend, but my girls could not be deterred. They were determined to get a sale, and at the third house: success!  With a kind smile, our neighbor patiently listened as Olivia spewed out her pitch in a rapid fire speech. Once she finished, she took a quick breath and then held her breath waiting for our neighbor to respond. When she said she’d buy a box, Olivia flashed a huge grin and I visibly saw the look of relief on her face. Behind me, Erin pumped her arm in celebration even though she did not make the sale. We had decided ahead of time the girls would take turns so the neighbors wouldn’t feel pressured to buy from both kids. Erin wanted Olivia to go first so she could learn the tricks of the sales trade from her big sister.  As we walked to the next house, I quizzed Erin on what she would say. She giggled and shrugged her shoulders. The cuteness factor worked in her favor because she got a pretty big sale on her first try. Beginner’s luck I think not.

In all, the girls secured sales from five houses. Not bad for their first outing. I know plenty of parents who bring the fundraising forms to work, guilting co-workers into buying the candy, gift wrapping, or candles, which they neither want or need. I don’t want to become one of those parents. I’m pretty sure I already annoy my co-workers enough with photos and videos and stories about my kids.

So I gave up part of my lovely Saturday afternoon traipsing through my neighborhood with my kids. While I didn’t want to do it, there were a couple of benefits.  It gave me a chance to catch up with the neighbors who were home and who answered their doors, and I got the goods on the latest neighborhood gossip. I also scored major points with Olivia and Erin. And for that I may even chaperone them again while they try to raise money for their school, one house at a time.

Bring on the Playdates!

Its been a long three weeks of winter vacation for the older two girls and me. Yes, three weeks. That’s the Redwood City School District’s answer to the California budget crisis. The state gives the school less money, so the district tacks on an extra week to winter break which means one week less of pay for teachers. Awesome huh?

But I digress. This post isn’t about California state lawmakers failing our school children, it’s about playdates! And when it comes to entertaining my kids when they’re out of school and I’m off work I try to schedule as many playdates as possible. I was off two days this week, so both days I made it my mission to find other kids to come over. It’s a win win for everyone.

Here, in no particular order are the reasons why I actively recruit children to come over and trash our house:

  1. It’s one of the best ways to get my own kids to behave. All I have to do is to threaten to take away the playdate, and they transform from hell on wheels to perfect angelic children.
  2. Other kids can entertain my own kids much better than I can.
  3. My kids tend to follow the lead of their polite friends and say please and thank you without my incessant prompting.
  4. Major brownie points from other parents who can unload their kids at my house for a couple of hours.
  5. I actually like most of my kids’ friends. They’re sweet, funny, and tend to bring out the best in my own kids.
  6. I actually like most of my kids’ friends’ parents. They too are sweet, funny, and tend to bring out the best in me. Plus, most like a good cocktail, glass of wine, or beer as much as I do.
  7. I’m lazy and having kids come to my house means I don’t have to schlep my kids anywhere.

As much as I may like playdates for my kids, I am counting the minutes until we get back to school schedule. They’re driving me crazy, they’re driving each other crazy, and I’m quite certain I’m driving them crazy.

First Week of 3rd Grade & Kindergarten

The first week of the 2011/2012 school year is now history, and by just about all accounts, it was a success, well at least by kid standards.

All Smiles Before School

Olivia was psyched for school. It helped that her best friend since kindergarten was in her class for the fourth year in a row. The Friday before school started, we trekked up to the school three times, just in case the classroom lists were posted earlier than the 5 p.m. deadline. Olivia was as anxious to see that class list as a high school senior is waiting on their college acceptance letters. That’s a bad analogy because now I’m thinking about college for the kids.

O.K., I’m moving back to elementary school. The first morning, Van and I both took the girls to school. I walked Olivia over to the 3rd grade area, while Van stayed with Erin. I joined them as soon as Olivia was settled, which was about a nanosecond, because she was off and running once she spotted her friends. Erin was definitely nervous. She didn’t want to play on the playground before school started, and you could see the fear and trepidation in her beautiful brown eyes.

Once the bell rang, the kindergarteners and their parents filed into the classroom. Since we were at school one day earlier for an ice cream social, Erin knew what table was hers, and she made a beeline for it. She sat down, looked at the kid to the right of her, and looked at the kid to the left of her. Neither was crying, so even though I think she was on the verge of tears, if I could guess what was going on inside of that head of hers, I would guess she was thinking that as long as her table-mates weren’t crying, she wasn’t going to shed any tears either. So she moved onto coloring.

Coloring Makes Everything Better

Shortly after taking this picture, Van and I were ushered out with the rest of the parents. We then took a quick step inside Olivia’s classroom, saw she was doing just fine, and then we both headed off to work.

After school, Erin called me to tell me about her day. Her response? “It was kinda ok.” Uh-oh. That’s not the response I wanted. I wanted her to say, “I loved it Mommy!” Here’s why she didn’t love it. Apparently, she asked a little girl if she wanted to play with her on the playground, and she got dissed. The girl said she was already playing with three other kids. When Erin told me the story, my heart broke for her.

Erin seemed even more hesitant about the second day of school now that she knew what to expect. She’s a trooper though, and walked into her classroom without much more than a second look at me, after I waved goodbye. I thought and worried about her all day, but apparently it was needless worry. When she called me after school, she said her day went much better, and she made a friend! I seriously nearly lost it when she told me that.

New school years and new classrooms. They’re a rite of passage for kids and their parents. As a kid, I know every year it got easier. I thought the same would be true for parents. It’s not. I shudder to think how I will react in two years when Carrie starts kindergarten.

Sayonara 2nd Grade!

It’s that time of year again. Time to say goodbye to another school year and hello to summer vacation. I’m happy I’ve got a kid who is bummed that school is out for the summer. I’ve got to admit though, I’m not sure how much learning is actually going on in the final week.

Like plenty of other schools, the last week has been filled with dressing up. Last Friday was crazy hair day, and I put my braiding skills to good use to help Olivia come up with this crazy hair creation.

There was also twin day, which actually turned into triplet day. The night before there were plenty of phone calls as the girls planned out what they would wear. That gave me a sneak peek of what I can expect in the coming years. I can only hope she texts more than she talks because I would really rather not hear any more of those conversations.

My favorite day was cultural day. Try as she might, my Jewbodian 2nd grader wasn’t quite able to combine her two cultures, Cambodian and Jewish into one look, so she settled on a Cambodian. Slacker mom that I am, I neglected to snap a photo, but trust me, she looked pretty darned cute wearing her Halloween harem pants, and one of my big scarfs wrapped around her for a top.

The last day, today, is decades of fashion, and after much consideration and raiding my closet, she settled on totally 80’s.

"Like, Oh My God!"

Yes, I’m not afraid to admit I still have a denim shirt in my closet. I still wear it too, although I usually keep the collar down. The gold belt however, is all her.

Overall, Olivia has had a fantastic year. She’s really coming along in her Spanish. Dare I say she’s fluent? Yes, I dare say it, even though I can’t really understand what she’s saying.  She’s a great reader and apparently gets her math skills from her dad, because she’s a whiz. I’ve already discussed her spelling skills, or lack thereof, but apparently she’s not alone in this. As I was bragging about Olivia’s creative spelling, other parents also bragged about the same thing. Whew.

And lest you think I’m ignoring my other two girls, they still have another week of preschool, so I’ll do a year in review for them next week.