Life in CA

Summer Outdoors

I’d like to think that my seemingly more active lifestyle has inspired the rest of the family to be active as well.

We purposely took away a few of our regular activities to make time to just be outdoors.  My girls love being outdoors anyway, more than I’d care to admit.  Thankfully, I dodged a camping trip this summer.  Whew!  I probably was the only one happy about that though.  But I want to say, we more than made up for it!

We did spend a lot of time at the pool this past summer.

with Maga in the pool!

We had play dates and friends, and all sorts of good fun over the 4th of July weekend.

As my mom says, more summer fun!

On another night, we were able to get them out and bike.

Chasing them down the path.

One of my prouder moments last summer was teaching Sam how to ride her bike.  Jamie has the balance bike and soon hopefully she will join her sister pedaling away.  It’s nice to see she’s not as timid about taking risks.

For our 13th year anniversary, the girls requested to go to the beach.  My children are like me – we love the sand and the sea.

Strong waves, cold water.

Although I’m not particularly too fond of this sea because it is COLD!

We spent a good portion of the day in the cold water and on the sand.  The girls were happy to build their little creations and turn into mermaids.

Then went to visit some of the tide pools.  I have to admit it was fun, although I was mostly worried about the slipping and hitting of the head.  Thankfully there was none of that, but now I have a mental note to buy water shoes for next time.

She’d escape to the sea if she could.

And I didn’t have to worry about cleaning off, we had our trusty portable shower!

We don’t leave home without it.

We did more than one beach clean-up over the summer too (Yes, a True Girl Scout makes the world a better place!).

Separating the plastic and fishing lines from the seaweed.

We pretty much marked all the major holidays this summer and special occasions with some outdoor fun.

Over the Labor Day weekend we went up to Big Bear and did a quick hike around the neighborhood.

Climbing uphill.

Then there was some kayaking fun in the lake filled with moss.  Ewww.  I can’t say the girls didn’t enjoy it though.

At least Dad got some exercise.

As we move into fall, we look back and it still felt like a jam-packed summer.  I think I’m still recovering from it all.  But I can’t deny it was a lot of fun!

Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Lessons (on Parenting) On Becoming a Better Mom

We Went Camping

Yes.  Yes we did.

We spent the last part of the girls’ spring break in the Mojave National Preserve.

We made it!

Camping is a big deal for me.  Like skiing, it’s not in my vocabulary.  I can only “rough it” so far — especially now that I’m older (and supposedly wiser…  it makes me wonder sometimes).  What we did  before was not remotely close to camping in the desert in low temperatures and gusty wind conditions.  And no bathrooms.  Or showers.

I need my showers.

Did I mention no bathrooms?  They were vaults.  Outhouses with toilet seats inside that lead straight down into a hole.  Where everything drops.  No flush.

Photo Credit: Utah Jones (Vaults look so… decent — in this photo. It’s deceiving.)

No flush.

I flashback to our Yosemite trip, where the vaults were nowhere near desirable.  I would hoist Sam and Jamie over it and pray they wouldn’t fall in.

I’d have to say – I was at the edge of my comfort zone, just about to lose my footing.

I had panic attacks.  I lost sleep and I had toilet nightmares.  I looked to Immodium as the solution.  I wanted to back out many times.

But we were going to do this.  I took a deep breath, and prepped my “vault bag”.

From a water proof toilet paper necklace to gloves, I had it all.

I bought a portable shower and a privacy tent, which was quite the entertainment for my fellow moms.

Left: Daddy practicing the tent
Right: REI’s top portable shower pick!

We camped at Hole-in- the Wall, an area that got its name from the uneven cooling of lava and ash from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.  The oxidation of iron in the volcanic mater is what makes some of the rocks look red.    And all toilet humor aside, I will admit it was beautiful.

Photo Credit: Utah Jones

We took a hike on Ring Loop Trail, and Jamie almost ran into a snake (no kidding).

The kids climbed boulders, and took in the wildlife.  Sam loves nature, and her energy and positivity was contagious, especially to Jamie.  The girls did some crafts and completed a badge or two (including the National Parks’ Junior Ranger patch!)

Kids on rocks. My heart in my throat.

And we were in excellent company.  I wasn’t the only mom with vault nightmares — but we made the best of the situation and lived to joke about it after.

It was also because the vaults weren’t as bad as we’d expected (except for one instance when I had to clean it in its worst state. I am forever scarred).  So it was tolerable, even at 2AM in the morning when Sam would need it.

The weather conditions were rough though.  The winds howled all night and snapped a tent in half.  The ranger said the next morning that it shifted to 45mph and were considered “perilous”.  Gee, thanks.  A lot of us didn’t sleep due to the noise and the movement the wind was making on our tents, thinking they’d collapse at any minute.

So all in all, it was quite the experience.  And all I can think of is:  I survived.  In between laughing fits, my friends ask why I put myself through all of that.  Were we crazy to go despite all my concerns and apprehensions?

I only had one reason.

This little girl.

My little adventure-seeker and nature-lover could not be bribed (yes shame on us – we tried) to go anywhere else.  Sam really wanted to camp in Mojave.  She researched about it, read about it, and even proposed a presentation of the trip to her teacher.  She was excited.  And she got Jamie excited about it too.  My timid Jamie, who hesitates through new experiences, jumped straight into this one.  All thanks to her big sister’s infectious excitement.

I can’t deny this was a good experience for them (once we flush all those concerns down the drain).  I would never in a million years, think to offer this to them though, but now we’ve opened new doors to explore.

My girls are the only people who can push me to the limits of my comfort zone and beyond.  It amazes me how far beyond my comfort zone I’d go, to give them a chance to experience these unique opportunities.  Parenting has definitely taught me to “suck it up” and “weather” it out, in a manner of speaking.

On top of the world. Well, the desert.

And I survived!  Sleep-deprived and muscle aches in tow, I surprised even myself.

Oh Motherhood.  It changes you in ways you can’t explain.  And you don’t realize it until it’s there… or until the next morning when you feel your (my) aching back.

Life in CA My Mommyology Recommends

My Mommyology Likes: Matilda the Musical

Last fall, one of our busiest seasons to date, the girls sold Girl Scout Nuts, Chocolates and Magazines (Who knew that Girl Scouts had something other than cookies?).  They both had checked off the top prize, which were tickets for two to watch Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical at Segestrom.

I love the simplicity of their merchandise too!

Matilda is one of Sam’s favorite books.  We’ve read it several times and watched the movie with Jamie, so even she was familiar with it too.  It was a fitting goal for both girls.

Thanks to my Grandfather who took me to all the classic Broadway plays once upon a time, I learned to love and appreciate musicals.  It’s something I’ve carried with me to this day, and hope to impart as well to my girls.  I’ve already taken Sam to see Wicked back in Manila, but Jamie had not been to a musical with us yet — so we hoped Matilda would be her first.

I was excited — I’d read some pretty good reviews of Matilda, and heard that it was a must-watch from friends who saw it in London.  It is peppered with awards too from Best Actor to Best Musical, so I was curious and I had high expectations for it.  Knowing the book inside and out, and after watching the movie several times, I think the girls had set some high expectations as well.

Thanks again to benevolent friends, family and staunch girl scout supporters outside the grocery stores, the girls did get their tickets to Matilda!

We made it to Segerstrom! Thanks girls!

And thankfully, they had enough sense to take their parents as their plus ones (not like I would have let them take anyone else otherwise, right?). 😉

I absolutely loved it.  The music was fabulous and the acting was fantastic (particularly from a 10-year old actress, and the award-winning Bertie Carvel, who played Ms Trunchbull).  As a parent, at the back of my head, I kept wondering what kind of little girl these actresses are in real life.  How do they study?  And do they do anything else?  Hannah was the one we watched — and she was brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.  They were all so good!

We were completely amazed and entertained.  The way they produced their main sets — a classroom, a school playground, the library and a living room (with just a TV), was also so much fun.  Everything looked seamless from the balcony seats we had.

Scene from “Revolting Children.”

They tried to stay as close to the book as possible, but if you read it (or watched the movie), you’d know which parts were true and which parts they took license to change.  The change however, didn’t affect the essence of the story and it still had the same effect.

The girls loved it so much, they started searching You Tube videos for clips of the performance or the songs.  And at dinner every night, we would have the Matilda soundtrack playing in the background.  I only wish I bought the CD as we left the theatre.

To round out my experience of these Broadway musicals, my Grandfather purchased the songbooks of Les Miserables, Ms Saigon and Phantom of the Opera so that I could learn some of the pieces on the piano.  At least at some point in my life, I could claim that I knew how to play Last Night of the World, On my Own, and All I Ask of You.  But that was a very long time ago!

And so, I did the same.

I might start tinkering with this book too!

Sam’s piano teacher has asked her to practice sight-reading some pieces, and why not make the task much more enjoyable by having her do it on something she loves.  Actually I think she spends more time on it than her regular pieces.

To close out the loop, Jamie has now gone looking for her sister’s book, and has said she’ll start reading it tonight.

Maybe Matilda will make it to Jamie’s recommended reading list!

If Matilda comes to your hometown, or you get the chance to visit Broadway or London, by all means, make it a part of your itinerary.  I highly recommend you watch it at least once.  It’s still enjoyable even if you haven’t read the book, much more meaningful for those who have.  I’d definitely love to watch it again!


A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes On Becoming a Better Mom

The Road to 2500 (Boxes of Girl Scout Cookies)

It’s Girl Scout Cookie season once again and our first year with Girl Scouts has come full circle.

I cannot begin to tell you enough how much Sam loves Girl Scouts.  She says it’s because she gets to do so many fun things and learn.  And it is true — our troop is quite the active one with a ton of activities on a regular basis.  She has most of the patches and badges to show for it too.

These are just some of the ones at the back...
These are just some of the ones at the back…

I’ve to admit:  never in my wildest dreams would I have thought to go camping and sleep in a tent — but thanks to Sam, we now have that experience under our belt.

Throwback to that weekend. Yeeesh.
Throwback to that weekend. Yeeesh.

She claims it is one of her most favorite activities thus far, and would love to do it again (eeeep).

Her other favorite thing to do is sell.  Be it Fall Product (nuts, chocolates or magazine subscriptions) or cookies, selling “a lot” motivates her.  Everyone tells me she has a knack for it (it’s true — her Mindprint results show a high score on interpersonal intelligence.)  And when I ask her why she wants to sell “a lot”, she says it’s because she gets to do more fun things.  That is after all the essence of the program.

A portion of the girl’s sale is given to the troop to fund the supplies and activities the girls decide to do.  It’s everything from community service to just plain fun.  On top of that, each girl gets a personal incentive depending on the volume they individually produce.  The prizes are cumulative, so the more she sells the more she gets, be it a fancy item or Girl Scout cash (aka OC Bucks or Cookie Dough), used towards items or activities offered in the program (such as camping!  You get where this is going) Sam gets to pick every prize at every level.

After last year’s attempt at cookie selling, Sam was able to earn enough Cookie Dough to buy her Brownie uniform and a little stuffed toy for Jamie.   Last Fall, Sam opted for most of the cookie dough incentive, and the top prize:  Tickets for 2 to see Frozen Disney on Ice.

My husband has said time and again that if we really wanted to see the show, then we could just buy the tickets (Of course, him being the ever thrifty, practical gift-giver, we probably wouldn’t have watched it out of our own pockets!).  Even at a lower goal, she would’ve learned what she needed to learn anyway.

I don’t disagree, but I also see the value of her earning her way to what she wants.  Girl Scouts is girl-led, so she makes the decisions herself.  It’s usually a question to the parents as to whether or not we are willing to support that goal.  Sam has the advantage of having her mother as a 2 on the Enneagram, so really — HOW could I say no?!

With a lot of hard work and support from friends and family all over the world, Sam got her Disney Frozen on Ice (we bought Jamie a ticket).

Frozen on Ice isn't complete without Jamie!
Frozen on Ice isn’t complete without Jamie!

She also got the added bonus of being recognized as the Service Unit’s top seller for Fall Product 2015.

The nice surprise (or added bonus).
The nice surprise (or added bonus).

Fast forward to Cookie Season 2016.

Our troop leader asked the girls for their goals and Sam put hers down:  2500 Boxes of Cookies.  Why?  Because the Council was going to give the girls and a parent a VIP experience at Disneyland.

Maybe it's because we didn't renew our passes?
Maybe it’s because we didn’t renew our passes?

I freaked out (silently of course)How on earth were we going to do 2500 boxes of cookies?!  A girl we knew said they did it with 42 booth sales (selling outside supermarkets, each shift lasting 2 hours).  42?! There’s no way I would stand outside a grocery store for 84 hours doing that!

After the meeting I had a chat with Sam.  I wanted to see if she really understood what it entailed to sell that many cookies. I tried to talk her down to 1000, with still a decent prize of watching Cinderella.  She sold over 800 last year, so it seemed doable with a reasonable amount of booth sales.

“Don’t you just want to try for 1000 first Sam?”  I said very calmly.

“But mom.  That’s YOUR goal,” she said.  “2500 is my real goal and this is my cookie business, right?”

Was my mouth hanging open?  I don’t remember.

“Sam, I want to know — what happens if you don’t make 2500?  It’s just quite a big amount.”  My fear was that she’d fall apart if she didn’t reach it and it would hurt her self-esteem.

She was silent in thought and then eventually responded, “It’s okay.  Then we’ll try again next year,” she said with quiet confidence.  So matter-of-fact this child.  “But mom… we WILL try, right?  We’ll really REALLY try?!”

Everyday I preach about how doing their best (and knowing they’ve put their best effort into it) matters more than high scores or the perfection of their activities, because I believed that would come naturally if you gave it your all.  And here it was, echoed back at me in a perfect example.  Nothing could’ve been clearer.

It was a good wake-up call for me to see that our biggest hurdle wasn’t that she couldn’t do it, but that I was afraid to try.  And like I told my husband, this wasn’t about us.  Because of her age, she definitely needs our help.  It would have to be our goal too.

I’ve been told it’s a good problem to have a highly determined, self-motivated child who knows what she wants.  And so here we find ourselves in the midst of selling 2500 boxes of cookies.

Sam openly and fearlessly declares her goal to everyone.  Mostly they give her praise and wish her luck, and then they look at me with wide-eyes, as if to say, “you’re crazy!”.  Some have verbalized it and some have alternatively said “you’re an amazing mom,”  — which I think is a kinder version of what’s in their heads.

I smile and shrug it off, because when I look at Sam, other people’s opinions don’t faze her one bit.  And because she is so “brave”, she’s gotten many “cookie angels” that have gone out of their way to help her succeed.  It’s completely heart-warming.

We’re out everyday knocking on doors and asking everyone we know.

Rain or shine, we're out there!
Rain or shine, we’re out there!

People have said no and Sam takes it in stride.  We’ve gotten doors slammed in our face too, but she just moves on to the next door.  She’s even asked our servers at restaurants and people we meet crossing the street.  “Hi, do you want some girl scout cookies?  We have them in the car.”  And so make it a point to always carry Girl Scout cookies with me everywhere I go.

She has Jamie selling to her friends and teachers at school, because Jamie wants to help Ate reach her goal (also, Sam promised her a prize if she did).

Jamie bringing in homework... and an order for Thin Mints.
Jamie bringing in homework… and an order for Thin Mints.

Sam’s responses amaze me.

At the ballet studio during idle time someone said, “I’d love to but I didn’t bring cash“.

Sam replied, “Well, we’re here again next week.  Would you like me to bring you a box then so you could have your cash?”  She took note of their cookie choice and waited for them to come back that very next week.

Some have said they’re not ready to buy yet, and her response was, “That’s okay.  Maybe when you’re ready to buy you’d like to get a box from me?” 

I wonder where she learned it because I don’t recall teaching her that.

At Celebrate Leadership, a Girl Scout fundraiser, Sam was paired with the CEO of a large marketing firm.  Sam had gotten a purchase commitment from her, and when we went to the office to deliver the cookies, the CEO took Sam around to meet people and asked them to listen to her sales pitch.  All I had to do was watch (and make sure we took down the right orders). 

Usually a 7yr old would be shy. Sam was not.
Usually a 7yr old would be shy and timid in an office full of people she’d never met before. Sam was neither.

I learn so much from my own daughter.  Her independence, her drive, her patience and perseverance… the way she handles everything just leaves me in genuine awe.  She’s grateful for every opportunity regardless of the outcome.  And she constantly monitors her progress so she knows how much further she needs to go.  She is trying with all her heart.

My own heart bursts when I see her do what she does.  And I am extremely grateful at all the love, support and generosity people have shown towards her.  It takes a village to raise my Sam!

With two and a half weeks done, I still worry we won’t make it.  Sam chips away at the numbers slowly but surely, and has made cookie selling a part of her daily routine.  On Friday, the booth sales start and hopefully it’s the boost we need before the season ends on March 6.

It seemed like she knew what was going on in my head because one night as we were going over the numbers and checking how much more she needed to sell on average, she said reassuringly, “It’s ok Mom, I know we can do it.  I just have to believe in myself.” 

We believe in you too my love!
We believe in you too my love!


Does anyone want some Girl Scout Cookies? 🙂

ExperiMOMent Life in CA Mommy Lessons (on Parenting)

Sleep Training Series Part 4: Sleeping Independently

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on Sleep Training, precisely because not much has changed in three years with respect to our sleeping habits.

The girls still both sleep in our bed.

We still have this whole ritual of “bath, bed and book” before we say our prayers, turn off the lights and turn on the sleepy music.  But they still require my presence in the room; specifically in between them both with arms wrapped around them.  Yes, I’ve turned into a lovey.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the snuggle time and the late night conversations.   I’m well aware they are fleeting but sometimes, I really just need a breather.  My focus and all my energy during the day are already dedicated to them and the home:  what they need, what they eat, their daily activities, the chores, etc.  There’s not much else I do for myself apart from the occasional bathroom breaks.

Also, sometimes I’m just too exhausted that I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow, and so much is left undone.  Usually the time I use to work is when they’re all in bed — and that hasn’t been happening very often lately because I turn into sleeping Snoring Beauty — as my fellow Two Tots Moms like to call it.

But it is also exhausting to have the girls in my bed.  My sleep is nowhere near restful, since they both squish up to me and when I wake up I have anywhere from a foot to half of their bodies on different parts of mine.  It’s no wonder I wake up tired every morning.

This is a typical sleep pattern, according to my Fitbit.
This is a typical sleep pattern, according to my Fitbit. Yeeesh!

Sam is the one who clings to me when bedtime rolls around, and as the older sibling, she sets the tone for Jamie too.  She’s always asking what it is I have to do and why I can’t lie down and sleep with between them just yet.  I’ve tried every gentle measure I could think of and every kind of positive reinforcement to get this habit to change.  I’m short of bribing her to sleep with toys and chocolates (I haven’t gone that far!).

Luckily enough, I didn’t have to.  Thanks to Girl Scouts!

Two weekends ago our Girl Scout troop scheduled an overnight camping at one of their program centers.  It was basically a facility with a fenced-in backyard, and our troop leader said if our daughter wanted to go and it was her first time, then we moms had to go too.  They didn’t want to have to call us in the middle of the night if our girls came out crying asking for us.

Of course, when it comes to Girl Scouts (and earning a badge), Sam is 200% all in.

I prepped her as best as I could for this day, and that meant trying to fall asleep without me at night.  I didn’t want to force her but she really wanted to go camping, and so while it seemed like she was torn about it, every night she would try.  She’d definitely succeed, because by the time she’s settled and the questions have stopped, it only takes her a few minutes and then she’s out like a light.  She definitely doesn’t do it without a lengthy repeated discussion though.

She was excited about the trip and sleeping with her friends, and we tried to focus on that.  I involved her when we packed her overnight bag and chose her sleeping bag.  I even taught her to bathe herself, just in case.  We kept it as part of our regular conversations with friends and she seemed excited and determined to try.

On the day of the trip the girls set up their own tent and got to choose who they’d sleep with.

We're all learning to set up a tent.
We’re all learning to set up a tent.


Sam seemed fine and it looked like she would be able to do it.  The whole day she stayed with her friends and did the activities.  Then at night, she said good night to me and walked away with her friends while I stayed inside and prepared my own bed.

Jamie stayed with me and said good night to her Ate.
Jamie stayed with me and said good night to her Ate.

My first reaction was relief.  FINALLY!  Maybe this was the next step we needed.  Thoughts about reviving the topic of sleeping in their own room came flooding back.  And for a first time attempt for a night out with friends in a strange unfamiliar place, she was doing really well.  I was proud; this was a huge, huge deal!

And then of course, the mixed feelings washed over me and I suddenly got sentimental.  I missed my big little baby.  I don’t remember my parents ever allowing me to sleep away from home and in a tent at that.

I’ve to admit, it’s moments like these when I want to trade in a good night’s sleep and the undone chores and keep them in my bed for longer.

That lasted for a few hours because the fatigue I was accustomed to set in.  Sam had trouble falling asleep, and I had to go up to her tent twice to talk to her.  We eventually made a deal that if in an hour’s time she wasn’t able to fall asleep, I’d finally take her inside with me to bed so we could both get some rest.  At that point, I was more than happy to accept she wasn’t ready to sleep away from me, in a tent or otherwise, and maybe moving into her own room would be more traumatic than beneficial for either of us.  But, (And I think it was because there was a badge involved…) Sam asked to try one last time.

Photo Credit: Patti
Photo Credit: Patti

Our troop leader came in shortly after and said Sam finally dozed off so I didn’t go back outside.  It was a good thing too because my airbed failed me and I ended up on the hard concrete floor (ouch!).

I woke up the next morning and I found her up and playing with her tent mates.  I estimated she got a total of 6 hours of sleep at best, half of what she’s used to.  She was in good spirits though for having accomplished what she did.  Her tent mates did a good job too of helping her through it and gave her the positive reinforcement she needed to stay and not ask for mom.

Happy chatter in the wee hours of the morning.
Happy chatter in the wee hours of the morning.

So we survived, and there was no crying from either of us ;).  And ever since then, Sam has gone to bed with less of a fuss.  She asks me to stay a while, and eventually she’ll let me leave and will quietly fall asleep with just Jamie beside her.  When my evening’s done, I still crawl into bed between them.  It’s a happy compromise for now.  Some nights still aren’t that restful, but I’ll take the small wins where I can get them.  At the very least, we’re making progress, one baby step at a time.

The Moral of the Story:  When you need to sleep-train your child, sign them up for Girl Scouts. 😉