Homeschool Co-op to Montessori Preschool

After two years of classes, the homeschool co-op that I helped run called it quits early last summer. It was a really good run, and while I knew it wouldn’t last forever, I was still so sad to see things end. The co-op had met 2-3 times a week since 2016, first in the homes of the members, until we eventually found a space to rent in a local church. We had a total of 10 families and over 20 children during our years together, and I will always treasure those school days!

Running a co-op isn’t easy. Each member had a lot of expectations and wishes, and sometimes those ideas clashed. However, we worked hard to make things successful for our kids, and in the end, the reason we disbanded was mostly due to our location. We had a few ongoing issues with the church we were at, and after months of not getting a resolution, we decided to break our lease and go our separate ways.

I had already been researching different schooling options for Ace. He is super social, and I can’t always keep up with how much he wants to be out of the house. I had toured a few schools, but nothing felt exactly right. We eventually fell in love with an outdoor-classroom school, but ultimately there were a few safety issues that kept us from attending. When some of the other co-op families found a local Montessori school, we decided to tour it as well. And we loved it!

After a very long, very hot, very boring summer, it was time for Ace’s first day at his new school. I knew he would do great, and he did. He adored it from day one. For me, it’s been an adjustment. I miss being with him all day, even when it was sometimes hard. I miss knowing exactly what is going on in his classroom — I live for his weekly class newsletter! I miss my mom friends and hanging out with other adults on a regular basis. I miss knowing that he is safe and within arm’s reach. Sometimes I think I’d like to go back to homeschooling. Most of the time I can’t get over how much he is thriving.


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A Disappointing 9th Birthday

Charlie had his ninth birthday party last weekend. Due to a numerous factors beyond our control, it turned out to be really disappointing and Charlie ended up sobbing at his party. Mr. Bee and I had very different reactions. He thought it wasn’t a big deal because disappointments are part of life, and in the end Charlie had an ok time. Mr. Bee had very simple family birthday parties growing up after all, and there was nothing wrong with that.

I never had any birthday parties growing up, nor any gifts either. But I had the opposite reaction to Mr. Bee: I was heartbroken for Charlie and really wanted to make it up him. Perhaps Mr. Bee is trying to recreate his childhood dynamic of the simple, family-focused birthdays of the 80’s, while I’m trying to do the opposite because I didn’t get to experience birthday parties as a kid.


The birthday was supposed to be a relatively simple affair because we were busy hosting guests the entire month of November. It was a Harry Potter themed party with some arts and crafts, and a pinata. Charlie loves the Harry Potter series and has read it at least 10 times. To say he is obsessed would be an understatement. But pretty much everything went wrong from the get go, including a friend throwing a birthday party for her daughter the same day, with the exact same guest list. On top of that, Charlie was sick and didn’t eat a single thing the entire day.

The main thing Charlie was looking forward to was wearing a Harry Potter costume for the first time. I couldn’t buy one locally, so we rented one from a costume shop in the island capital, and it turned out to be at least 5 sizes too big.  Once he put the ill-fitting costume on, I could see the look of disappointment on his face. Shortly afterwards, he started sobbing. I told him that we’d get another costume somehow (his actual birthday was still over a week away), and he said that I didn’t understand because I didn’t love Harry Potter as much as he did and this was the single thing he was looking forward to most. He just really loves Harry Potter and doesn’t get to see his friends often since we moved, and he really wanted share that love with his friends.

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Growing Our Family by Eight Paws

In a recent post, I talked about how Snowy is an only child and we intend for her to stay that way.

But this isn’t exactly true, because Snowy does have a very beloved “big sister,” our cat, Allie.

I grew up always having pets. I got my beloved dog, Wishbone, for my 5th birthday, and he lived until my junior year of college. We always had barn cats, along with horses and, for a little while, rabbits. So I’ve wanted a pet for a very long time.

But my life became a far cry from the farm I grew up on, and for the first two years of Snowy’s life we lived in an apartment that did not allow pets, putting our pet-ownership dreams on hold. Besides, pet ownership is a lot of work, and we were busy balancing a young child, graduate school, and my yet-to-be-diagnosed chronic illnesses.

In late October of 2016, Mr. S and I had graduated from grad school, Snowy was 2.5, and we lived in a pet-friendly apartment. We had already decided we only wanted one human child, but it seemed the right time to add a furry “kid.” The timing was fortuitous: someone from our church who rescued large dogs needed to rehome a cat she rescued because it was not safe with the dogs.

Allie was between 6 and 7 when we got her, so she’s between 8 and 9 now. She’s a great old girl. She’s not playful much, prefers to just curl up somewhere, but she’s been a great first pet for Snowy. She is so tolerant and calm, and has helped Snowy learn how to be kind to animals and take care of them (though I obviously still do most of the work; Snowy helps).

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12 Plastic-Free Toys your Toddler Will Love

Before I had kids, I tried hard to limit my plastic purchases. After a few years though, the plastic started to creep in. This year, after learning more about the devastating effects of over consumption of plastic products, we are committing to buying used when possible, and buying plastic-free gifts otherwise. If you have a baby or toddler, here are some unique, plastic-free gifts that everyone can enjoy!


Wooden Boat Rocker and Climber: This rocker is so fun, and perfect as a joint gift if you have more than one kid. When flipped over, it’s a set of stairs for climbing and balancing on. A really great price point for such a big wooden piece, and your kids will use this rocker for many years. Lou is getting this as her “big gift” this year!


Pikler Triangle Climber: Pikler triangles are great for gross motor development and all kinds of play. This can be manipulated into several different positions, and it comes with a slide board and climbing wall. The imaginary play possibilities are endless!

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How to Practice Non-Violent Communication With Your Kids

Growing up in a Chinese-American home, I wasn’t ever taught that I had needs worth validating. My needs were supposed to be whatever the adults in my household believed they should be. It’s no wonder then, that I’ve had problems into adulthood from relationships to career opportunities expressing exactly what I want — sometimes, I didn’t even know what that was, other than a feeling of I wanted something, but what thing?

Now, as a parent and especially because I’m a writer, I know how powerful our words can be. The stories we tell ourselves. The stories we tell our children.

Given that, I started to dive more into non-violent communication (NVC) created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. Used by everyone from CEOs to individuals in relationships to educators to parents, the basic tenet is that when we feel frustration, anger, sadness, or other similar feelings, they’re the result of unmet needs.

For new parents, this unmet need could be not getting enough sleep. And, rather than shaming or blaming our kids when we have a short fuse, the better solution is to figure out a way to get more rest, so that we can show up more patiently. Easier said than done, right?

Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, calls NVC a natural extension of his grandfather’s philosophy of nonviolence. Unmet needs can also be emotional, what NVC calls “trans-personal.” For example, when your child seemingly ignores every word you say, you feel anger bubbling up. Your child isn’t trying to make you angry – they’re fulfilling their own needs like humor, play or exploration –  but your needs and their needs don’t align in that moment.

Welcome to everyday parenthood. Given this, how do we communicate in ways that foster connection with the heart and where we can lift each other up?

Here are four simple steps based on Parenting Beyond Punishment:

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Gift for Early Readers and Writers

Now that Juliet is in kindergarten, she is starting to learn how to read, write, and spell. Fiona, who knows all her letters, is also learning how to write her name, letters and numbers in preschool. Both girls are doing wonderfully and the school helps them practice in a lot of fun and memorable ways. Juliet has learned how to write letters and numbers with some songs, and practices letter writing in many different ways including in sand, in slime, with a magnadoodle etc. With Christmas coming, I wanted to get them a few toys to help build on those skills at home through play.


LeapFrog Reader – Juliet actually got this for her birthday a while back and has been playing with it and on and off through the months. She wasn’t as keen on it before, I think because she didn’t know how to read at all. But now that she is learning sight words, her confidence is building and I see her playing with it more now.


Sight Word Cards -We have different packs of sight words in my collected through the years from Drake and Dollar Spot finds. They are small enough to carry in your purse to pull out when you have a few minutes of down time or need something for the kids to do at an appointment.

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I Used to be Cool (a minivan love story)

I have had the same idea of a “dream car” since I was in high school… a 1982 Volvo station wagon, in white, converted to run on veggie oil. I was very, very close to buying one that had already been converted right before I got pregnant with Ace 5 years ago, but at the last moment decided I needed something a bit more practical. We ended up with small Nissan, and it was fine. I didn’t know about car seats back then, so installing my rear facing monster of a seat made me realize that there was no way our car would work for two kids, especially two rear facing kids. By the time we got pregnant with Lou, our lease was up, and it was time.

Time for the minivan.

I may have a slightly outdated vision on what is cool. 1982 Volvo station wagon? Very cool. 2011 Honda Odyssey? Not cool. But, that is what we ended up purchasing and it took me literally less than 3 hours to declare it the best thing I have ever driven and will probably ever drive. Definitely not the coolest, but when you have heated seats and and doors that open with a button who cares about cool. Certainly not me.

What can our mini-van do? The back row folds completely flat so I can pack just about any furniture that I find while thrifting into the back. Once I stuffed two assembled bookshelves and a learning tower back there. It has outlets to charge up the iPads and a built in DVD system in the ceiling. I didn’t even know things like this existed. There is a sunroof that I like to open as I play loud 90s music when I am by myself on the way to my Saturday night moms only book club. Epitome of cool right there.

I’ve changed diapers in the back of the minivan. I’ve nursed babies in the front, the back, and the way, way back. I’ve stuffed 8 people in for a road trip, I’ve transported 12 tree stumps for a project, I’ve used it as a refuge when I need 5 more minutes to myself, and as a place to nap when our A/C broke on a 117 degree day.

I get more compliments on this sticker than I've ever had before.
I get more compliments on this sticker than I’ve ever had before.

I hear a lot about how buying a minivan is “giving in.” Or sometimes, giving up. I totally understand that perspective, and I probably even felt the same way before I test drove one. But for us it came down to what is most convenient, safest, and able to accommodate our growing family (and my thrifting habits). So instead of framing it as giving in, I’ve tried to think of it as leveling up.

I hope to get my Volvo someday, but I’m never giving up the minivan life.

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