5 Things I Didn’t Expect About the End of Elementary School

I’ve pre-mourned this day since he walked through the doors of the kindergarten. I knew he’d leave this building some day and I think I’ve been dreading it since he was 5.

Let’s face it, I was pre-mourning the fact that he’d leave my house and go to kindergarten since the day he was born. I literally looked into his tiny newborn face and said to myself: “One day he’s going to leave me and go to kindergarten.”

5 Things About the End of Elementary School

Nevertheless, here we are, about to close the door on the elementary school experience and walk through that big wild door to Jr. High and the for reals teenage years.

Now that we’re here, I’m surprised at how I really feel.

I can see a little bit of the man he will be.

I can see glimpses of his grownup face in there and little glimpses of his grownup self. He had to do an exercise at school the other day where he had to spend a set amount of money and had to prioritize how it was spent on schooling, vehicles, housing etc. He bought a minivan, well, because that’s sensible since he wants 4 kids. But he also bought a house on the beach {in a sensible town in North Carolina}.

I like his brain. I like who is he becoming.

He’s a good kid with a good heart and a growing sense of humor. I like the things he’s interested in and the way he thinks.

I’m also still realistic. I know that he’s going to get deeper into this thing called being a teenager and that I’ll likely wonder where he went and if he’s coming back. I want to take a snapshot of now.

We can watch Jimmy Fallon together and laugh.

Jim Gaffigan too.

Sometimes he wanders down from bed later at night to catch my husband and I watching a few shows. He knows he can linger around a little longer and takes full advantage. I fell asleep on the couch last night to the sound of my husband and son laughing at Jim Gaffigan on NetFlix. He gets the jokes. That’s kind of cool.

He’s ready.

He just is. I can tell that he’s outgrown elementary school and that he needs more. More out of school, more out of friends, more out of life.  He’s ready to get moving.

I’m going to be OK. I think.

It’s exciting to watch your kids progress. I don’t want to freeze him. He doesn’t want to be frozen either. I’m OK.

{I’m not going to lie either. I just counted how many more summers he has left at home and had a small midlife crisis.}

The next phase of pre-mourning? High school graduation.

The One About Race and Stereotypes

As many times as I hear that race doesn’t matter, and that racism isn’t a problem anymore, I don’t believe it. I grew up in Utah. It’s not the most racially diverse place. My mother was born in China and moved to the United States when she was 16. My father was born in Utah. His ancestors came from Europe. For the most part, I never felt different than my friends based upon my race although most of my friends were white. I felt like most of my friends didn’t see me as their Chinese friend but just as their friend.

Dad and Mom: Sterotypes and Race

The first time (and only time to my memory) someone said something cruel to me regarding my race was when I was in high school working at my parents’ gift store at the mall. The man was clearly angry and took it out on me by spitting out an insult, “Go home to your own country!” Honestly, I was stunned. I went to the back room and cried. Although I knew he was wrong, that he was ignorant, that this was my country and that words shouldn’t hurt me, it still left me sad.

Mom and me: Stereotypes and Race

For all intents and purposes, I grew up pretty sheltered to any racism directed at myself. But I’ve never been immune to Chinese stereotypes. Because I did well in school, we all made the joke, (me included) that it was attributed to my Chinese genes. I’ve always felt like I should laugh along at jokes about my Chinese heritage.  If I didn’t think these jokes were funny, I was sure others would think that I was being too sensitive. And in certain situations, I felt like I had to make the joke because it was an elephant in the room and I was just verbalizing what others were thinking. Squinty eyes, loving rice, yellow complexion, incorrect pronunciation – all typical stereotypes of my racial heritage. I can only say for myself that having these stereotypes put upon me are not a huge burden. But I know that my case is different than for those of other races. While I was expected to be a math whiz, and to love jewelry, no one has ever clutched their bag tighter as I walked past them or looked at me with disdain when I bought my baby formula with WIC vouchers, wondering how I could afford a smart phone if I had to get government assistance to pay for my peanut butter. While I was expected to know how to use chopsticks and love taking pictures, I never had people wonder if I was a terrorist when I stepped on a plane. The racial stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated by media and adopted by many are all too common.

My point of this post – I believe race is an issue that many are uncomfortable facing. I believe that many of us have adopted stereotypes and to say that those stereotypes, especially negative stereotypes aren’t pervasive in American culture is untrue. Recognizing that there is much for us to do as a society to erase these our tightly held beliefs about different groups of people is the first step.

 

Twins? No, they don’t run in my family.

Fun fact. I always wanted twins. Of course, this was prior to any pregnancies and the idea of getting two babies for the price of one pregnancy seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Turns out, I love being pregnant. I don’t get sick. I lose all the hair on my legs so I essentially don’t have to shave for 9 months. I have an adequate birth canal (my doctor’s words, not mine). I get to eat what I want without worrying much. So, I come out on top with the whole pregnancy thing.

I had no trouble getting pregnant with my oldest son. Our second pregnancy was just as easy. And then I miscarried. After that, we had trouble getting pregnant. Testing commenced after I gave it a year, a year that was essentially living in 2 week increments. I went through crazy emotions of whether I would be a mom of an only child, whether I should keep hoping, whether I should take the casual advice of “just relax”. Our fertility challenge wasn’t as difficult as most but that year was excruciatingly painful. I was angry. I was sad. I was doubtful.

As for the testing, all came back normal. One of the tests required that I take a fertility drug. My blood was drawn before and after. The doctor informed me that there was a 7% chance of getting pregnant with twins on the drug. I scoffed and thought that we’ve been trying for a year when there was apparently no problem, why would it work now? And it was just one cycle. Nah, 7% was nothing.

When the pregnancy test came back positive, I was elated but incredibly scared. I looked forward to my first doctor visit  and prayed that I would hear a heartbeat. I was terrified that there wouldn’t be one. My doctor told me the heartbeat looked strong. Both of them. I sat up and asked if he was joking and looked over to see two tiny flutters on the screen.

Excitement began to build as we looked forward to the ultrasound at 18 weeks that would tell us the gender of our babies. Baby A was a girl. Little tears of happiness slipped out. Baby B was a girl. A few more tears. Then the doctor came in to re-measure and asked me how old I was. I knew that was not just a casual question. I knew he was going to come back with news. He did. He poured statistics and risk factors over us as we sat there like deer in the headlights. He told us that baby A had a 7% chance of having Downs Syndrome – that same percentage of the chance of having twins. People were clamoring to find out what we were having but we were still trying to sort out all the information that had been placed before us. It left us in a daze. That fog dispersed once we had some time to process everything and rely upon what our hearts were telling us which was that everything would be okay. What that meant, we weren’t sure but it would be okay. We chose not to have an amniocentesis and never second-guessed that decision.

At 29 weeks, the girls were still being monitored for growth by the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists. The doctor again came in with news. Baby A’s growth was in the fifth percentile. A recommendation of steroid shots and the possibility of an early delivery was thrown about. At 29 weeks, I was scared to think of delivering both girls early. Remarkably, I was calm throughout the appointment. I felt prepared to handle decisions considering our previous experience with the amniocentesis. My husband was on the same page. We discussed things at length and together with the doctor, we decided to wait two weeks for another growth scan before proceeding with any procedures. Two weeks later, Baby A’s growth was back within a normal (albeit small) range.

As I approached 37 weeks, I began contracting. My husband was taking the bar exam at the same time. It came time for us to schedule an induction as my doctors felt delivering between 37-38 weeks was ideal for twins. I opted for 38 and they said I was their first patient who wanted to actually wait longer when pregnant with twins. My husband took the bar exam and didn’t check his phone. I didn’t go into labor. We made it.

Now came delivery time. Or, induction time. I made it to 38 weeks so off we went to the hospital at 4 am when I waddled my way up to Labor and Delivery. Most of my pregnancy, I assumed I would have a c-section. Although I knew it was safe to have a c-section, I preferred the recovery of a normal vaginal delivery. For several weeks leading up to delivery, the babies had been in a great position – both head down.  The doctor admitted that there was a chance of delivering one baby normally and then having to deliver the second by c-section. I was willing to take the chance.

I’m good with pregnancy. Delivery? Not so much. I freak out. Seriously. I shake and my teeth chatter and the nurses think I’m cold but I’m not, I’m just scared. I got my epidural and I felt that something was happening but I waited because I didn’t want to bother the nurse. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer and called the nurse. She checked me and told me not to push. It was that close. My husband hurried to put on scrubs and they rush me to the operating room (standard practice for twins). During labor, I need my husband to be near me so I can tell him what to tell me. They told him, “You can’t stand there. You can’t stand there either.” Finally, we have a somewhat close proximity to one another and there are about 20 people in that room with us. For all that organized chaos, there was a stillness and peace when those little girls came into the world. Our first beautiful baby girl was delivered and about twenty minutes later another beautiful girl joined us. For all my fears, and all the uncertainties throughout my pregnancy, the delivery couldn’t have gone any better.

I always wanted twins.

The photos in this twin birth story were taken mostly by my husband. You can find him on Instagram @brandons_lens. Some photos were taken by me. You can find me on Instagram @ohhbetsy.

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Twin birth story - baby B

Twin birth story - baby B

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Design Inspiration and Ideas for Your Backyard Treehouse

  By Kerrie Kelly, ASID When I graduated from design school, I never would have guessed that one of my favorite design projects would be a treehouse. But as children, didn’t we all pine for a super secret clubhouse to entertain our friends in? Last year, I got to indulge my inner kid in a very big way when I teamed up with Pulte Homes to build a treehouse that was raffled off to benefit a local child abuse charity in Northern California. The lucky winner had the treehouse installed in his own backyard, and when I saw the look on his face, I instantly became a treehouse advocate. Whether you plan to DIY or hire it out, let’s consider the possibilities. Building-a-Kids-Treehouse-1 Architectural Awesomeness First, a treehouse really is just a small house, so think of the items you’d put in your own dream home. Add some fun, shrink the scale, and see what happens. In the house we designed, we used a ladder for the entrance to create the illusion of heading somewhere special and secret (and slightly inaccessible to the grown-ups), and a slide to make a fast and fun escape. We also used hardwood floors, window coverings and hardware made of branches to carry out an actual design theme. A fun Dutch door was added upstairs to access the balcony and let the sunshine in. In my next treehouse, I’m determined to add a mailbox for messages and a skylight for sleepover stargazing! Design Inspiration and Ideas for Your Backyard Treehouse Just Plain Cool Once you’ve made your house a home, make it a home for kids by adding the extras that make it a place they’ll remember when they’re too big for that ladder. Put safety first, of course, but if a slide is just too mundane for your little one, consider a zipline exit if you’ve got the space for a smooth landing. Of course, you’ll need a flagpole to let that fun flag fly. Other kid-friendly ideas include chalkboards, bird feeders, or a funhouse mirror. And a secret bookshelf that hides the world’s greatest hide-and-seek spot is sure to get you nominated to the “Grown-Up Hall of Fame.” Building-a-Kids-Treehouse-3 The Simple Safety Stuff 
 To keep the thrills and spills to a minimum, you’ll want a solid railing around any outdoor or deck space on your tiny home. As a back-up, a healthy mound of mulch and bark beneath will significantly soften the fall for any of your tenants (who are always out to test bone density and parental stress levels). For your own safety, remember that communities have different ordinances regarding additional structures on residential property. After you speak with the folks at City Hall, make sure to have a conversation with the neighbors if your construction will impede their view in any way. Building-a-Kids-Treehouse-4 We’d love to hear the treehouse dreams we’ve awakened from your own childhood! Award-winning California interior designer Kerrie Kelly writes for The Home Depot. Usually, Kerrie is writing about décor, including doors and windows, for living spaces a bit bigger than treehouses, such as these found here on the Home Depot website. Kerrie Kelly-2

Skip the Crowds: Peak Days to Avoid at Disney World (and When to Go!)

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If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World with the kids and want to make sure you go during a good time of the year – meaning less crowds and more deals are available – it’s important to do your homework before you book. Knowing peak and off-peak periods will not only add value to your trip, it will also add to your increased sanity since you will be saving both time and money.

When you go to Disney is key to having a good time and getting the most for your money. With more time and money to spend, you and your kids will ride more rides and spend time doing exactly what you came to Disney to do: have genuine, family-friendly fun.

Peak Season to Avoid

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Avoid holidays. Avoid the weeks that include and surround holidays, particularly Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Easter, Martin Luther King Day weekend, President’s Day and the week before Labor Day. The thick crowds during the holidays will make lines and waiting periods much longer than during off-peak periods.

Avoid school breaks. Try not to book your trip during school breaks. If you are the type of parent that will allow your children to take off time outside designated school breaks or if you’re close enough to Orlando for a weekend getaway, your flexibility – and wallet – will go a long way. The parks push down room prices during low-occupancy or off-peak periods.

Off-Peak Seasons

So now are you wondering what the best times of year are to visit Disney? Remember, avoid holidays and school vacations and here’s what you get:

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January, after New Year’s Day week, except MLK weekend, until President’s Day. Wait until winter break ends and head to the parks. You’ll save time in lines and on hotel rooms pricing. Just be sure to check for ride closures, as some rides are likely to be closed for repairs between early January and mid-February.

The week after Labor Day until Thanksgiving – most of the fall season. Just bear in mind that this is during hurricane season and the temperatures are high.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The crowds are also moderate between Thanksgiving until Christmas, and the holiday decorations the park will be putting up are spectacular.

After spring break. The first three weeks of May before Memorial Day and summertime are also less busy. You will also benefit from Florida’s fabulous weather and Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.

Hurricane season. Hurricane season goes from the beginning of June to the end of November, so prices may be lower as a result, but you will definitely benefit from the lighter crowds as some people won’t give being there during hurricane season a second thought.

Holly Rosen Fink of The Culture Mom contributed this to MiniTime. She is the founder of Pivoting Media who blogs about her love of culture and travel.

ENDS SOON! 5 Beach Resort Deals You Must Book Soon

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Although Disney World is perhaps the top family favorite, it certainly isn’t the only option for families looking for a spring getaway with the kids. The Caribbean, Mexico and Tahiti are also fantastic options and offer even more opportunities for much-needed rest and relaxation.

We’ve rounded up the best spring deals for these destinations for you, so you can vacation at reduced costs – and avoid the Disney crowds (go another time!). But you better hurry up, these won’t last long!

50% off at Grand Lucayan Resort and Spa

What: Get a 50% discount on hotel rates starting at $109/night when book a 4-night stay at the Grand Lucayan Resort and Spa for travel between May 1 and December 20, 2015.

What’s included: Guests also receive an extra $100 resort credit during stay that can be used for on-site dining, spa, golf and other amenities.

Booking dates: From now through April 16, 2015

Kids stay free at AMResorts

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What: Up to two kids stay free at select AMResorts s including Dreams, Now, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas for stays between May 1 and December 23, 2015 when staying in the same room with paying adults.

What’s included: Families also receive $50 air credit per night for travel through August 21, 2015, and an extra $200 or $400 in resort coupons that can be used for spa treatments, dining and shopping depending on their room category and choice or hotel.

Booking dates: From now through April 24, 2015

Kids stay free at the Paradisus Resorts

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What: For travel through December 22, 2015, kids stay free at select Paradisus Resorts so families can save money to spend on more leisurely endeavors. Properties participating in this offer include The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana, Paradisus Palma Real, and Paradisus Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda and Paradisus Cancun, in Mexico.

What’s included: Guest won’t have to worry about a thing with their all-inclusive package, which include accommodation in spacious family suites and fun activities for every member of the family.

Booking dates: Through April 30, 2015

Kids fly free to Tahiti

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What: With the 6-night Polynesian getaway package, families can get up to 50% in savings as the kids 15 and younger fly free to Tahiti with one paying adult for travel through June 15, 2015.

What’s included: Families will explore the beautiful island of Moorea and receive 2 free nights, transfers and complimentary daily breakfast with accommodations at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort (panoramic view room, 1 night) and the InterContinental Moorea Resort and Spa (garden pool junior suite, 5 nights).

Booking dates: Through April 30, 2015

Kids stay free at Iberostar 

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What: Select luxurious Iberostar properties are offering free stays for kids 11 and under for May 1 to December 23, 2015 travel, so families can go either in the summertime or during the fall break!

What’s included: One or two kids, depending on the property, can have an free all-inclusive stay for every two paying adults. Participating resorts are located in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.

Booking dates: From now through April 30, 2015

Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.

Magical Summer Fun: Sizzling Savings at Disney World

Just Beyond the Castle Walls

Walt Disney World Resort is offering five cool summer packages wrapped with magical entertainment for families of all ages. Stay cool all summer long with “FROZEN” Summer Fun LIVE and Star War Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, four thrilling theme parks, two water parks, and new restaurants and stores in Downtown Disney.

The benefits of staying at a Disney hotel while visiting Walt Disney World includes saving up to 30% on rooms or getting an extra night for free at select hotels for stays most nights June 6 – Aug 27, 2015. Then upgrade to a package by adding theme park tickets. Deals must be booked by June 12, 2015 and are valid for travel June 16 – Aug 27, 2015.

Up to 30% Savings at Disney World Hotels*

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* Enjoy plenty of family-friendly features while saving up to 30% when you stay in one of the select Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts from June 16 – Aug 27, 2015.
* Save 20% at one of Disney’s select Moderate Resorts during travel June 16 – Aug 9 and save 25% from Aug. 10 – 27, 2015.
* You’ll save 15% at a value Disney hotel June 16 – Aug 9, and 20% from Aug 10 – 27, 2015.

Preschool Summer Package Offer**

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What: Families of three can enjoy a magical stay at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort plus theme park tickets for just $989 most Sunday through Thursday nights June 16 – Aug 13, 2015. Your Disney family vacation must be booked by June 12, 2015.

What’s Included: Three nights accommodations and two-day theme park tickets for a family of three.

Magic Together Package Offer***

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What: Families of four can pack in a lot of action with the Magic Together Package valid at select Disney’s All-Star Resorts for just $1,843 for stays most nights June 16 – Aug 9, 2015. Book this deal by June 12, 2015.

What’s Included: Four nights accommodations and four-day theme park tickets for a family of four.

* The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length-of-stay requirements may apply. Savings are based on the non-discounted price for the same room. Additional per-adult charges apply if more than two adults per room at Disney Value, Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. The deals cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Offer excludes campsites, three-bedroom villas, and is not valid at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village and Bungalows, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms. Get 30% savings for select Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts; lower savings may be available for other resort hotels.
** Sample package price based on two adults and one child (ages 3-9) for a three-night/two-day room and Magic Your Way Base Ticket. The number of packages available at these rates is limited. Tickets are valid for one theme park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package.
*** Sample package price based on two adults, one junior (ages 10-17) and one child (ages 3-9) for a four-night/4-day room and Magic Your Way Base Ticket. The number of packages available at these rates is limited. Tickets are valid for one theme park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package.

Mimi Slawoff of WriteMimi.com contributed this to MiniTime. She is a Los Angeles-based journalist and a seasoned family travel expert who explores the world with her three children and writes about their journeys.