Graduation News!

Our first college graduate!! We are so excited to share in her success and her bright future. Our sweet Elena...all grown up!

The story started in 2010 when our family was blessed beyond measure to meet Siyu Xu, or Elena, as she likes to be called. She was shy, sweet and new to the United States. Her home was thousands of miles away, in China, and she would call us her adopted American family from that day forward. In the years since she moved here, she has graduated high school and college, mastered English, learned to drive, traveled the states, lived on her own, and matured into a beautiful, sensitive, intelligent woman.

This year, Elena has earned a BA in Economics from UC Irvine and is taking time to study for the GRE and apply to graduate school. Her father, who has business in California (and all over the world), will also give her a chance to work and learn the family business. In the meantime, we're excited she'll have more free time to visit.

While Elena has had doors open because of her education in the United States, more importantly, she opened her heart to us and enriched our lives immensely. She is a more than a testimony to international exchange programs, she is part of our family, and we are so so proud of her. Congratulations, Elena!! We can't wait to see what the future has in store.

Love you!!


Holly and Jenn

To PREP or not to PREP...That is the Question

When I was 17, I don't remember my parents or my school making a HUGE deal about preparing for and taking the college prep tests - ACT and SAT. I know, that was the "olden days" and the world has evolved, but does anyone else feel like the pressure is a little much? And I mean on us parents.

So Bella took a prep class. It was determined that the ACT was better designed for her success. She took a test and did OK and she has been studying for the next one...sort of. There are two things you should know right now: my 17 yo daughter does not like tests and she is a master procrastinator. In other words, she's a NORMAL teenager. But her mother, inundated with articles and posts about the frenzy and importance of these test scores, does not appreciate her carefree, lackadaisical approach. Bella argues that she is more than the sum of her grades and test scores and she will land exactly where she's intended to land. I argue that she still needs to invest some time in preparing for the next test because I said so. We're really in sync right now.

Teenagers can be hard to be around. And sometimes, it seems they're impossible to parent, at least in my house. But I think she may be a little right. (Don't tell her I said so.) So instead of hounding her all summer about test prep, this is my new attitude: "Why should I care more about your future than you do?" I've decided to withhold my wisdom-nagging and let other wise people do the work. Like Gandhi. Remember that magic book I talked about in this post? It's my new best friend. I don't use my words anymore, I just leave her messages from the universe. In her room...her bathroom drawer...her wallet...on her phone. It's AWESOME! And I don't have to be there to witness her eye-roll. WIN-WIN!

Feel free to employ this tactic with your own parenting challenges. You can purchase this treasure trove of inspiration here. It's the best $5.48 you'll spend EVER! You're welcome.


Holly and Jenn

Lessons From A Middle School Graduate (Well, His Mom)

First of all, you should know right now that my 8th grade-graduate, 5'10", so-confident-he-rocked-a-mullet-for-a-whole-week son would disown me if he knew he was the inspiration behind this blog post, but sometimes we need to enter the blogosphere where worries and fears, phases and stages are pondered, if nothing more than to let someone else know they're not alone. So this post is brought to you for the greater good.

Today, my son completed middle school. He has been immensely blessed to have his dad at school and a network of really great people in his life during these sometimes tough years. And he been really lucky to learn some good/hard life lessons. Like, when he said something about a friend behind his back and the friend called him out on it, he had to own it and make amends. And guess what, that person forgave my son and he learned about how jealousy can make you act like the worst version of yourself. (Even grown ups can relate, right?)

There was also the first crush and break-up on Valentine's Day. (My heart still aches for him even years later; I may even imagine giving stink-eye to the heart-breaker if I ever passed her on the street. Kidding not kidding.) But eventually, after lots of painful pacing and head-shaking, he TALKED to us about it and discovered that letting something out is the only way to let the healing in.

Here are some other things he learned over these three, very important, very impactful years:

When you don't read the book and just read the spark notes, you don't know enough = Half-assing your way through life won't lead to success.

When you commit to a group project and your partner doesn't do his/her part, your grade will suffer = Pick wisely. Also, be a good partner.

When you hear someone talk about wanting to end the pain, you aren't supposed to keep THAT secret = Listening and acting saves lives and saves you from lifelong regret.

When you put something out on social media and you instantly regret it, tough S@#! = Think before you post. Always. Life is full of consequences.

When you're with friends and someone decides to do something dumb, you don't have to do that dumb thing too = You are NOT a victim. You make choices. And don't pressure someone to do that dumb thing if it's you're idea. But TRY not to do dumb things.

Feel free to use this example with your children in whichever way it will support your conversations about peer pressure, good choices, consequences of one's actions and crack! If your kids know my kids, please leave names out. I don't know what I'd do if my children made me stop writing about them...they provide the BEST material.


Holly and Jenn