Expat Life in Paris: What’s it really like?

Coucou,

Yesterday Antz and I picked up our cartes des titres (annual immigration renewal) for our second year in France. Voila!

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It just happened to be the hottest day in France’s history and our celebration was short lived for two reasons, the first was Antz carte de titre is expiring five months earlier than mine because he has an issue with his health insurance. The weird thing is we both submitted identical paperwork (we have the same insurance) so this is French bureaucracy at its finest. We will have to reapply in October to fix this costly mistake. Then on the way home from the Prefecture, Antz realized he accidentally left his phone on the desk of the lady who helped us. We hurried back and got his phone, so despite these hiccups, we are still here (at least until January 2020!) which is a victory.

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I wanted to update our expat life in Paris since it’s been quite awhile. Antz has been working freelance (with US clients) and Liv is finally on summer break. I am busy this summer hosting many friends visiting from the US. If you follow me on Instagram (you follow me, right?) then you can check out my Stories named Summer 2019. This is our first summer in Paris that we haven’t left town. I would love to share some of our daily experiences and observations that are different from our life in Los Angeles. Full disclosure, I don’t want to make this into a Paris vs LA comparison post or sound like I am complaining too much, I just want to give you a real perspective of some of the obstacles expats may confront. This doesn’t mean we don’t love living here and we are grateful everyday. I just want everyone to know, nowhere is perfect, even though photos may perceive it to be.

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School summer break – Liv’s school summer break begins after the first week of July. This is four weeks later than her school break in LA. It was difficult for us counting down those long four weeks mostly because France was experiencing a canicule (insane record high heatwave) this year and it was so hot that school was cancelled due to the extreme temperatures. The French have a strange aversion to air-conditioning so when it’s hot, it is miserable. The good news is she had swimming class every Thursday at school which is wonderful. I used to race across town on Fridays after school for Liv’s 15 minute swimming lessons in Pasadena and most of that time she spent just waiting for her turn to swim. After five years of lessons, she wasn’t really making progress and I didn’t feel like it was worth the money and stress. So, we love that extracurricular activities are included in the school day here FOR FREE! It really helped her cool down during the heatwave.

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During the last week of school, Liv’s class put on two performances for the parents. The first was a music and choir recital which was adorable beyond words. The older class sang “I’m Singing in the Rain” in English and I couldn’t help but giggle at their sweet accents. Liv’s class performed a play in French and Olivia portrayed a funny duck. We had no idea what the play was about but thoroughly enjoyed our duck’s antics. Antz made her costume using stuff around the house, bien sûr. He even painted her old Adidas yellow and felted a duck bill.

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Liv & her 3rd grade teacher

Most French families have second homes in the countryside so most of Olivia’s school friends are away on vacation during the summer. It’s been helpful that we’ve had so many visitors from LA so she’s seen many of her old friends. She also spent the first two weeks of summer break in camp! It’s a daily camp at the local recreation center (centre des loisirs). Everyday they ventured out into the city for field trips, swimming and nature hikes. She loved it!

It was a little hard for us to navigate the camp schedule because the website is in French and I couldn’t access my online account due to a glitch, so Liv had to translate for us the best she could. Our friend who works at her school helped us register her. It’s little things like this that sometimes can be frustrating. I need help setting up an online account so I can access the camp website yet there’s really no one to help me. I even went to the local Mairie (town hall) to get help to set up our account online but the woman told us she was new at the job and couldn’t help me. So everyday we didn’t find out what her schedule was until she came home and told us about it. I am still waiting to receive a bill in the mail for the camp a month later. Sigh, Que sera, sera.

This is a typical daily commute for me.

During the heatwave, Liv and I took the bus outside of Paris to go swimming. We arrived at noon but the attendant told us due to a “technical” issue the pool was temporarily closed. Such a bummer because it was burning hot and it took us over an hour to get there. Instead of going back home, we decided to go Pokemon Go hunting nearby and grabbed some sushi for lunch.

I love the Montreuil Mairie (town hall) and I caught a new 3-D Invader.

By the time we finished lunch, I called the pool and they told me it was open again. So, there is an inconsistent summer schedule in most of Paris. Did you know that a swim cap is required at public pools here? Liv’s cap never stays on because of her thick hair.

Most businesses have signs on their doors saying they are closed for weeks for summer holiday. August is the official month that Paris shuts down (the French enjoy five weeks of paid vacation) but most of my favorite places like Monoprix, our bakery and the farmers market will hopefully remain open. It’s been tricky when my friends visit because they want me to take them to all my favorite places but they have been closed all month.

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Our favorite American bakery have been closed for weeks.

We are fortunate to live close to Monoprix (French Target) which is open everyday except Sunday evenings (they close at noon). I practically live there, I go almost everyday.

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For the past year we have been carrying heavy groceries home in our bags so last week I made our first delivery order online. I was shocked that the minimum order was €50 and the earliest delivery time is the next day. It was almost a challenge to meet the €50 minimum to place the order. Luckily, I was able to stock up on bottled water, bags of ice and every heavy item I could think of. I used this app to place the order. If you happen to live in France and are thinking of placing an online order, please use my friend code for a discount for the both of us. The groceries arrive in crates which are easy to bring in our elevator. This is my €55 order.

I don’t know how often I’ll order delivery but it is a helpful service to utilize.

Since many restaurants are closed for summer vacation, we’ve had to resort to getting fast food because they are the only places open all-day. It’s not even close to how often we would eat fast food in Los Angeles but after a fourteen year boycott, I had to break my No-McDonalds policy out of a starvation necessity. Here’s the difference, McDonalds in France have grass-fed beef, growth hormones are illegal, there is no such thing as super size and the largest drink size seems smaller than a kids size! The restaurants only have kiosks to place an order and there are no refills on drinks. You can order fresh croissants and even a McBaguette. There is no fast service in Paris, you wait much longer for your food but they rarely get your order wrong and if you order food to go you will always get napkins, and they package your drinks so they won’t spill. I do find it absurd that they charge for ketchup but offer curry sauce and mayonnaise for free. Honestly, McDonalds reminds me most of back home. P.S. I think the pizza here is dreadful.

I’ve been eating healthier because the food here isn’t full of pesticides and hormones. I do still crave food from America. Antz made this silly photo of me along with my favorite foods.

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The pepperoni pizza, hot fried chicken and butter crunch candy are only available in the US and I miss them the most!

Navigating daily life in Paris can be a 50/50 split. The French have a way of making everything beautiful but also miserable. French people believe that air conditioning will make you sick so they have practically outlawed it except for tiny portable units that are noisy and only work if you stand directly in front of them. They are very progressive in their culture but some things they refuse to move forward on. If you order ice in a restaurant they look at you with utter disgust. Their language is elegant poetry that I could listen to all day, yet a nightmare to learn with a varying degree of arbitrary rules. Paris is a living piece of art. My favorite part of living here is discovering new street art and gorgeous architecture. It’s so refreshing not to be overwhelmed with advertising billboards, loud airplanes and tacky strip malls. I love finding new street art in our neighborhood. Sadly, someone has been going around the city painting over Invaders, the wall that awesome mural Liv is standing in front of was just demolished and someone tore down this Madame Chat. It’s so annoying that there are haters out there that must destroy to feel better about themselves. I am lucky I have so many photos of this precious art that is always disappearing.

Beauty is truly everywhere here however…don’t spend too long looking up at the stunning buildings because there is dog poop everywhere! It’s terribly smelly this summer due to the hot poop on the sidewalks. It’s weird how there are absolutely no stray animals in Paris yet so much poop. There’s also a urine epidemic that disgusts me. Yucky men pee in broad daylight on the streets with no regard. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen men standing against a wall or tree peeing in public. Listen, I can tolerate the smoke, I am used to the traffic noise but the pissing in public and nobody bats an eye, I do not like it at all. Women aren’t squatting on the streets openly peeing so why do men get to spray walls like feral animals? The city even puts out these open urinals (I suppose to suppress the peeing on buildings) but I don’t understand why this is even necessary? There are enclosed toilets everywhere so why do I have to walk around in piss puddles because baby boys can’t hold their pee pee until they get home like us ladies have to. Ugh! Do not fight me on this, it’s gross and needs to stop. Put your weiner away guys!

This adorable kitty on a leash at the post office, I absolutely support.

Désolé, on a sunnier note, Liv and I spend a lot of time at parks near our apartment. I love the small parks full of shady trees and benches. I haven’t seen many swings in parks here. There rarely is grass lawns that you are allowed to walk on. They usually have dirt or sand which bums me out because it’s dirty but there is a park with shock absorbent pavement similar to York Park in Highland Park. Most parks have ping pong tables so we bought our own set to play.

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For every complaint I may have, the trade off is we still live in freaking Paris! The most romantic city in the world. Like any place it has it’s typical up and downs. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve been told one thing and then the next day the exact opposite. We have been battling with our landlord for over a year to fix our excruciating slow wifi speed and replace our intercom phone so we can buzz visitors into our building. I spend hours sending emails and making calls to customer service and I rarely get results no matter how wrong they may be. It is practically criminal to admit a mistake no matter how glaring it may be. It’s become funny to us how many contradictions we encounter. The rules always change but no one tells you what the rules are, it’s up to you to figure it out. I’m quite proud that I’ve managed to rent an apartment, enroll Liv into a great school, made many friends (although several of our expat friends have moved on) without speaking the language or having any family here to help us. Everyday we still pinch ourselves we are here.

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I love this flawed yet magnificent place and I feel French in my heart even with my ‘orreeble Fwench azcent! Merci, for reading my blog and I hope you stick around whilst I catch up on our travel posts from this past year. I am working hard to upload, edit and post over 100,000 photos.

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Bisous,

The Hall Conleys

Life in Paris: Month Deux

Bonjour mes amis,

It has already been two months since our arrival in Paris! I cannot tell you how fast this time has flown by. We exchanged our house in LA with a sweet French couple in Nation (12th arrondissement) for the first two months so we could have time to apartment hunt. I am so happy we were able to live in Nation mostly because we were able to experience a new part of the city we have never seen before.

I feel like I have finally mastered taking Liv to school on the Metro. I used to be confused about which direction the train would go and call myself out as an obvious tourist during the ride by watching for every stop. Now, we know all the train lines and have the cool, I can’t be bothered look while on the train. I do still get secretly excited when an accordion player is on the train. Although once on a crowded train I got my skirt caught in the door.

Side Note: My hair is huge here. I spend hours flat ironing it and yet the second I go outside it turns into an instant pouf. Must be the humidity, there is so much moisture in the air.

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Liv and I usually discuss our plans for the week and how we are adjusting to life in France during the ride. I ask her about the differences between LA and Paris. She makes statements like France is so much more cultural and historic than California. She told me, “In Paris everyone takes public transportation but hardly anyone in LA does. Most people at the grocery store are grumpy but here they care about helping you.” She also said the food here is much better than LA. She’s doing well in school. I have met some of the parents of her classmates (although very few speak English). Her curriculum is very similar to her French school in LA but they go off the campus for PE (which is called sports) and I feel terrible because I can’t help her with most of her homework (only math and English).

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After I drop her off, I usually take the bus home because the Metro is very crowded and grab my luggy to pick up the day’s groceries. I still can’t get over how frequently I have to shop here. We go through groceries like crazy!

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So far we absolutely love living in Paris. I still cannot believe we are here after dreaming of this for so many years. However, there are some downsides to life in France. Please don’t think I’m some entitled brat complaining about my great life, I just want to keep it real and show both sides of our life.

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It is very expensive! So far we have plunked down quite a bit of euros for household items (new towels, shopping at Ikea for our new apartment, basic toiletries). It’s harder to stick to a budget because we had to stock up on basic items. Our first week here I bought Liv a scooter, new clothes and had to replace a pair of shoes she outgrew. This month Antz and I needed some new clothes because we (happily) lost weight! I spend €225 every month on our Metro/bus passes but sometimes in a pinch, we need to use Uber and depending on how far we are from home, it can be expensive. We needed to rush home from Versailles to make it to a birthday party on time and it ended up costing €65 for a 30 minute ride.

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Liv really enjoyed her €9 smoothie.

Then Monoprix had to come out with this rad limited-time collab with Maison Chateau Rouge. Just take all my money!

The romper was for Liv but if they had my size I would totally rock it. I pretty much cleared out their home decor display.

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However, groceries seem less expensive here than in LA. Like cheese, meat and beverages are super cheap. But let me tell you about the most magical, delicious item in all of France… la beurre!

Back home I buy insignificant salted butter for like $3.99 on sale. Here, I only buy Sel de Mer de Noirmoutier and it is so delicious. I use it on everything, you could tell me it has crystal meth in it and I would still be like “Pass the butter.” I must say, America is missing out on this fucking amazing butter. It costs €2.35!

However dining out is still costing a fortune. We stopped ordering cocktails and are sticking to drinking water but we can’t seem to keep our bill under €75. Recently, while out on a stroll around the neighborhood we found the famous rue Montorgueil. The heavens parted and angels sang as we discovered the most intoxicating smells of baked bread, meats and fresh fruit. The oldest bakery in Paris is located here. It’s now my favorite place to buy fruit and we fell in love with all the restaurants.

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We brought home the best BBQ ribs and a half a kilo of cherries for lunch. Liv gobbled the whole tray in five minutes! Oh, and I am now a basket lady. I have bought three baskets since I got here. This is who I am now. Note: The fluffy hair.

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We found this incredible living wall called L’oasis d’Aboukir. It rains almost once a week so I guess that is why this garden is so insanely green.DSC_0158

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There are a few other annoyances here that I can’t seem to figure out. Like getting mail delivered. It seemed to be easier to get our mail when we were staying in Nation but that could be due to our sweet neighbors helping us out by accepting our packages. In our new apartment, we have a mailbox that we put our names on but nothing has been delivered so far. It took many attempts to find which of the local post offices our address belonged to. My French is not as great as I thought it was. I was able to pick up one package (I ordered five weeks ago!) yet three more are in mail limbo because we were told if our building has a locked gate, they can’t deliver packages. Uh, like every single building in Paris has a passcode door so why wouldn’t they at least email me or leave a note so I know where to pick up my stuff? Today I am going to Fed Ex for the third time to pick up a package that was delivered nine days ago! My Mom sent me a huge care package and it took me two weeks to figure out how to track it down.

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Another thing I will never get used to is the military presence here. I mean, they all seem like nice soldiers but it’s jarring to walk down the street and then boom, there’s five or six fully uniformed army folks casually carrying guns that look like they belong in a video game. I don’t dare take photos of them but they do say bonjour without a smile as I walk by. Oh, and they wear berets. I suppose I am lucky to live in a relatively safe neighborhood because there have been random knife attacks since we have arrived and sadly, I am always cautious when we are in large crowds.

I also seemed to have a hyper-sensitive aversion to noise. I was equally annoyed by the nonsense noise caused by our hillbilly neighbors (they had the world’s lamest garage band) in LA. Here, the sounds are subtle but torturous. For example, we noticed the first night while in bed, the upstairs neighbor’s toilet must be directly above our heads. Imagine the sounds we heard. They also had some type of saloon door that swings shut. This door produced a boom, bump, bump, bump sound all day long, just about every 30 seconds. I was very close to paying them a friendly visit to offer some felt pads but we moved into a new apartment. Just as we arrived at our new home we were welcomed by the constant cooing of les pigeons. They nest outside of our kitchen window and their incessant cooing sounds make me want to murder. Liv and Antz swear they can’t hear them so I’m the only one going crazy over the sound.

My final (first-World) problem is our new apartment doesn’t have a separate dryer. They consider this country sophisticated? I was warned about the hard, scratchy towels of Paris so I’ve always traveled with my own towel. The night before we left LA, I took a shower and used my soft, brand new bath towel that I packed in my carry-on. Then as we were re-packing our stuff I realized I only had enough room for either my winter coat or my towel. I was already wearing my camel year-round coat on the plane so I had to make a Sophie’s Choice. I decided it won’t be so terrible to buy new towels in Paris once we arrived. Guess what? Soft, plush towels do not exist here! I was stuck using my face towel for the first week. Monoprix does sell towels but they have a scratchy texture and cost $32.99 each. So, lesson learned, travel with your own pillowcases and towels. I did bring my allergy-free pillowcase covers with me. So, I’m living in 1925 y’all!

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I adore freshly dried linen sheets or hand-washed pajamas but putting on stiff as cardboard undies sucks! Now I understand why everyone has to iron clothes here.

In other fun news, it’s peony season! My favorite flower is in bloom and you can buy four stems for 20 euros. Well, that’s how much they were at the marche however Antz found a sweet bouquet for me for Mother’s day for just ten euros.

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This is how they look three days later, swoon.

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May 1st is May Day. According to Wikipedia, on 1 May 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime, on 1 May. Nowadays, people may present loved ones either with bunches of lily of the valley.

Liv has been a crafting machine since most of her toys couldn’t fit in her suitcase. I took her to La Droguerie to buy a pom pom making kit. This colorful place is located on

9-11 Rue du Jour, 75001 Paris, France

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She was able to customize her own glitter! This kid and I were in rainbow craft supplies heaven.

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We try to go to visit a new arrondissement every weekend. The parks here are absolutely gorgeous. Just don’t ever step on the grass. When the sky turns blue here, you grab a picnic basket and run outside!

Jardin de Luxembourg
Rue de Vaugirard, Boulevard St. Michel, Rue Auguste-Comte and Rue Guynemer 75006 Paris, France

The boat rentals are €4 for 30 minutes. Liv chose Mexico to rep her Grandma Maria.

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I think the pony ride was €8. Sweetest pony but our seven year old child is a giant.

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Parc Floral
4 route de la Pyramide | Bois de Vincennes, 12th, 75012 Paris, France

We also love strolling our new neighborhood to hunt for Invaders.

Liv pointed out the heart shapes in the window panes of that heart.

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One evening we took a stroll and ended up on Île de la Cité just at sunset. I swear I am never going back to the US!! Life here is tres beau.

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Ask me anything about living in Paris.

La Tour Eiffel

It’s been three weeks since my trip to Paris and I still can smell the fresh baked baguettes in the air. Visiting Paris during spring is such a difference than being there during the summer. I was concerned that the weather would be too cold, rainy and gloomy. Being cold makes me miserable but I loved the crisp air. It never rained, so of course I schlepped my rain boots and umbrella in my suitcase for nothing. I really don’t have much cold weather clothes so I bought a new coat from Asos (on sale!). Every day the sun would peek out just long enough for me to take some incredible photos. I know I was driving Aimee insane because I couldn’t walk one block without stopping to snap photos of buildings, flowers or even the lovely cobblestone streets.

So, I know it’s super cheesy and very American touristy but I had to test my courage and check out the new glass floor on the Eiffel Tower. It’s only on the first floor of the tower but it’s really high up *60 meters above ground!* I waited in line for 45 minutes for an elevator which ended up only going to the second floor so I took some quick shots of the view since Aimee was downstairs freezing while waiting for me.

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Looking north at Trocadéro. It was totally cloudy but the sun popped out just as I took these

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Looking east (there’s our Dîner en Blanc bridge!)

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Southern views
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I took this with my selfie stick and my hands were frozen. Don’t I look cold?

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Sadly, I had no one to kiss so I blew an air kiss to Antz and Liv

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The view from the 1st level glass floor

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Can you see Aimee down there?

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I’m not joking about how terrifying this was for me!

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My best #fromwhereIstand so far

Lizzie’s Guide to choosing Private schools in Los Angeles

I would love to share our journey finding Olivia’s incredible school. First, I would recommend watching Nursery University and Waiting for Superman on Netflix. Also subscribe to Beyond the Brochure. Please know, you do not have to be wealthy, have the best connections or even have the best luck. I do encourage patience, persistence and planning. This is a good article of what you want to look for in a private school.

I have this weird thing about hyper-planning. I will plan a vacation down to the minute on our itinerary, the penny for our budgets, hell, I even plan what photos I want to take. My point is, I like researching, organizing and making lists. I enjoy gathering all the information I can before committing. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of being organized. Put together a folder with your child’s birth certificate, their most current vaccinations, fill out admission applications in full. I have been asked to include a family portrait with applications so be sure it’s one that leaves the impression you want to set. You will have to do your own homework when looking at schools. Attend the annual open house, *usually held in at the end of the year* schedule a tour of the campus or sit in on a class, meet the parents or older students and get their perspective. I asked one parent if the tuition was double would they still send their kid to the French school and she said absolutely!

Liv’s teacher takes amazing photos of the class *there’s a Romeo & Juliet in her class!*

When I began researching schools I knew I had a limited selection because I wanted a private school that was non-secular. I didn’t want anything with too far of a commute, so many of the good schools I’ve heard of in the Valley or on the Westside were out. I focused mainly on Pasadena, La Canada/Flintridge and Silver Lake. Then I scoured websites, read online reviews and started narrowing down our choices. I really fell in love with a school close to the Rose Bowl but it presented too many problems for me. It only went to 6th grade so I would have to find a middle school and there are few good local middle schools. It was also very expensive at close the $30k per school year. We knew we would be investing in our child’s future but it wouldn’t do us any good draining all our finances for a school we couldn’t afford comfortably. I was worried about potential snobbishness since the school was in an affluent area and lack of diversity. I got a book with a list of all the different private schools in LA and started looking into a multilingual program. It was a no-brainer for me to lean towards a French school mainly because of my fascination with French culture but also knowing our kid could learn Spanish directly from Grandma Maria *Antz Mom* I only knew of one French school on the Westside that is famous for it’s alumni. When I looked further into it, I knew it was out of our price range and at least an hour drive each way. I spent a second interested in a new progressive school in Calabasas but again, spending 3 hours a day driving back and forth didn’t make sense, even if the school was founded by a well-known celebrity *so glad I didn’t seriously consider it!*

Some time went by and I found a school nearby that I’ve driven past for years but for some reason I always thought it was out of our league financially and we would be denied admission due to not being French citizens. I sort of dismissed it and focused on finding a good pre-school. When we found Camelot Kids Pre-school, I fell in love. I began meeting parents who knew people whose kids went to the French school but they all spoke French. The owner of Liv’s pre-school told me about an open house in December of 2012. We went just to satisfy my curiosity, totally under the impression the school would be too expensive. Just driving up to the campus I was struck by how stimulating the campus was. Unlike most LA schools, there are no prison style fencing. The grounds are on six acres uptop a hill which gives it a sense of solitude away from the city. There is an organic garden that is tended by the students and the local community. The buildings are historically protected 1960s modern designed by famous architect John Lautner. I loved the concept that the children learn at different paces. So the kids with a French background don’t have an advantage over non-French speaking kids. As a matter of fact, most of the kids that come from French speaking homes may understand it well but aren’t speaking French confidently yet. The teachers said they usually become fluent around 1st and 2nd grade. It was astonishing to hear children speak French so effortlessly. I expected to only see French kids but there were Korean, African, Haitian, Swedish, Japanese, Hispanic all happy and eager to say Bonjour to us. I am so used to LA pissy attitude from kids that I was shocked to encounter such politeness and genuine courtesy. I know I may over-talk this school but honestly, I invite anyone to attend their open house and tell me if you aren’t blown away by the history, the philosophy, the down-to-Earth feeling, the community awareness, the academic curriculum, so many awesome activities about the school will make you a believer. The tuition was pricey but not as expensive as other schools. I also loved the idea of Liv attending one school for her entire academic career. It makes her learning consistent and puts less pressure on me finding good schools later. I put Liv on the waiting list and was disheartened to discover she was on the 3rd tier list. The way the school works is priority is given to French students *one or more parent must speak French or have European citizenship* of course siblings are given priority admission, then other International students are on the second waiting list and folks like me with no French language are on the third list. The school only allows admission to non-French speaking students up to Kindergarten since the learning of a language is most effective during a child’s first five years. I was hopeful but also nervous. The first year went by in a blink and by the following year I was sweating. We put her back on the waiting list but we were still at the bottom waiting in limbo. I was a mess when they finally called me for her interview last January. I was planning to send Liv to Camelot Kids full-time but I decided to continue part-time so we could save for the French school. We reached out and met parents from the French school. We asked people to put in a good word for us. We did as much as we could without a cash bribe. In hindsight, I didn’t need to worry as much as I did because the school has three pre-school classes *close to 40 spots* and we were a perfect fit for the school. I am sure they seek students of different nationalities, students who show a desire to learn and parents who are committed to their kid’s education. It’s important to showcase your personality, for example, I don’t have a French background but I’m still very knowledgeable about France and spending the summer there with Olivia was helpful. I still stressed out when we didn’t hear anything and we started thinking about a plan B. There aren’t that many French multilingual schools but people told me about charter schools *I wasn’t so into the idea of lottery based admission* and top public schools in good neighborhoods *but really lacked diversity* Our hearts were set on the French school so we were willing to stay on the wait list another year with our fingers crossed. Well, just around the time to re-register Liv in Camelot Kids we got a phone call that Liv was accepted!

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It took almost three years of waiting to get Liv into this dream school. I love her teachers! So far she already has made new friends and lucky for us, she has no qualms about speaking French aloud *she’s much better at pronouncing her R’s than I am* I have phrasebooks, iPad apps and my friend, Fanny is tutoring me once a week via Skype so I hope to keep up with her so we can practice together at home. I have already memorized the days of the week and the months of the year!

Her first visit to her classroom last month
She loves her new playground

Many people ask me why we chose a French-language school. Aside from being bilingual by 2nd grade, she will be challenged academically. We are excited that Liv will graduate with a dual diploma, an American high school diploma and French Baccalauréat which will make her eligible to attend any university in Europe. The fifth grade class spends two weeks in Paris for their class trip. The graduating class has 100% Ivy League school acceptance rate! The extra-curricular and athletic programs are excellent. The school embraces technology and is constantly upgrading their facilities. There is a strong alumni relationship and most of the students return to teach or volunteer for events. They celebrate many international holidays *so excited for Winterfest in Décembre* and have many cool field trips planned.

Liv’s school is best described by their core values:

  1. First and foremost, academic excellence.
  2. Collaboration, communication and community.
  3. Commitment to the curriculum.
  4. Utmost respect for all individuals within the school community.
  5. Cultural diversity.
  6. Intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness.

I look forward to this new chapter in our lives. J’aime l’école française!

Thanks for all the support and well-wishers, we are so happy to share this adventure with you. Bonne chance!

Picnic at Barnsdall Park

Liv’s new French school had a picnic at Barnsdall Park for the Pre-Kindergarten class. It was a lovely afternoon. We met so many nice people. I feel so fortunate to send Olivia to such an esteemed and diverse school with really cool kids. Liv really hit it off with an older girl who taught her how to do a handstand. I have been saving my Oh Joy for Target party stuff for just the right occasion. I didn’t take that many photos because I was too busy running my mouth!

So excited to finally use my Oh Joy for Target picnic basket
Olivia’s new classmate, also named Olivia!
Such a perfect view
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We made a drink with pomegranate juice, lemonade and sprite
Liv is super stoked to start school next week

The first day of school is coming up soon. Si excité!

Paris for Kids

Our first trip to Paris we were in our early twenties so we explored the city’s bars, nightclubs and less child-friendly restaurants. Now that we are parents, we are discovering what Paris has much to offer for family fun. So far Liv has really enjoyed Jardin des Tuileries.

The garden is enormous. There are gorgeous trees for shade and musicians playing everywhere. I was in heaven!

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The playground was hardcore. I was worried she would fall off of everything.

I cheered Liv on across the rope bridge

It was crazy high but she was brave, way to go kiddo!

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Metal slides are hot on the bum!

Created in 1564, Jardin des Tuileries became a public park in 1667. It borders the Louvre Museum and is massive. It’s pretty much the Central Park of Paris. There is so many activities to do but we wanted to try something that I wish we had in California public parks…TRAMPOLINE!

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 Best jump!
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I adore this face! She was so happy

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It cost €2,50 for five minutes and Olivia had the time of her life! This kid never gets tired. I remember having unlimited energy when I was a kid too. I suggested that we install trampolines in the new park they are going to build in Highland Park but I suppose American kids aren’t ready for something this awesome. I do know that an in-ground trampoline is high on my wishlist.


As much as Liv could have jumped all day, it was too hot so we ventured out to do some indoor shopping and sightseeing. Angelina is one of the nicest dessert shop/tearoom we saw in Paris.

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Shopping for kids in Paris is a dream…if you are a wealthy person. We chose to spend our cash on food, experiences and some gifts to bring back for our family so I didn’t splurge on $50 Petit Bateau shirts *Antz is giving me a high five* However, if you are in Paris and feeling extravagant, I recommend these stores.

Bonton

Milk on the Rocks

Antoine & Lili

Petit Pan

Le BHV (department store)

One night after a long nap, we went to the Pathe Cinemas in le Opera and saw Malefique! I was secretly hoping it would be dubbed into French but it was in English with French subtitles. I found it to be very interesting. Angelina seemed to be in her element and the story wrapped up nicely. Olivia loved it!

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I thought it was cool how the French movie theaters operate. You can choose to purchase tickets with a person or use a self kiosk like in LA but they charge one euro for 3-D glasses so if you don’t want to buy them you can still watch the movie normally. We found ourselves in a Portlandia sketch due to the theater being six stories underground.


After the movie we walked around the neighborhood late at night and found a place perfect for a four year old on a Saturday night. A retro video game arcade! I used to love these places when I was little. Now that I’m older I get a headache from all the noise and flashing lights but it makes my kid happy so I smile and play along. We didn’t have much change but she enjoyed herself.

Look what else we found in Paris! Good ole fashioned American-Mexican cuisine.
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This means that Anthony could possibly live here!!

I am extremely bummed because I made a dumb mistake and somehow lost 400 pictures I took with our Nikon J1 camera. I will try not to dwell on it because I have the memories of the experience but I lost many special moments *La Doguerie was so much fun* Lesson learned; Never, ever accidentally hit delete!

Hither & Thither in Paris

Life in Paris is vastly different than in the States. Here, walking is the main mode of transportation, next the Metro and only if you are in a hurry do you take a taxi. We have logged many miles walking all over town and it’s crazy how close to everything we are. It took some time getting used to zigzag walking through the crowds. There is an art to not tripping on the cobblestone, getting burned by someone’s cigarette and not being hit by a taxi as you cross the street. By the way, jaywalking is the law here. You never wait for the light to change and even if you have to stop traffic like you are wearing an Iron Man suit, you walk when you are ready to go.  We did laundry for the first time in our apartment. The washing machine has a spin cycle that in theory dries your clothes but wrinkle free 100% dry clothes do not exist here. We are considering going to the laundrette to wash the towels so they can dry thoroughly.

Our rental is right in the middle of the cheap, tacky shoe district. So let me know your size if you need some €7 shoes!
Parisians do not use their umbrellas when it’s raining. You may carry it but unless it’s a hurricane downpour, you look silly using an umbrella
The greatest marketing idea, awesome taxidermy mice for a pest control business
Early morning walk, never smile in Paris
Look up, you will always spot Invader tile art

The most odd cake toppers I’ve ever seen
We found a cute child’s second-hand shop where the clothes were more expensive than brand new
I don’t know how often Liv would wear a trench coat in LA
This coat was cute but too pricey.
Apparently taxidermy is very popular.
I heard this is a pretty good farmers market. It reminds me of Larchmont Village farmers market
Peonies heaven
Fantastic cherise
Boo!
This store was incredible. The darling bebe clothes made me want to have 20 more kids!
Doesn’t this look like an editorial from a magazine?
Owning a vintage photo booth is my fantasy
I wish I could have taken more photos, but there were a bunch of folks waiting
It very hard to resist these adorable clogs but I can’t spend 150 on shoes she’ll outgrow in six months
the color palettes for kids were amazing
Liv can fit this, right?
Liv was totally digging the vibe
Antz had to drag me out of there. Fabulous store!
By far the raddest store in Paris
I am Andre the giant compared to this Fiat
So here’s what happened, I got this weird stage fright and walked around the store without buying anything. I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t decide what would be perfect for our house that would also fit in our luggage *I was seriously wanting that yellow Smeg* So I’ll have to try again next week.
I ran into a fashion faux pas at the marche. Call Guinness World records because I officially have the largest ass in Paris now that Kim has left the country.
I know this is all a dream and I’ll wake up in LA tomorrow but for now, I’ll continue riding this wave of euphoria that I am experiencing. Paris is magical!

Grocery Shopping in the 10th arrondissement

Being a stay-at-home Mom means my job is buying the food, going to Target and keeping the house clean. It’s silly to think I’m some 1950s housewife slaving over a stove three times a day in an apron and heels but I do enjoy shopping and Antz doesn’t so it works for us. Back in Los Angeles, I would do my grocery shopping on Fridays which would take maybe an hour and I usually go to two stores. Vons *for cereal, bottled water, bread and condiments* and Fresh & Easy *for our meats, fish, produce, fruit and dairy* I buy enough for two weeks and load up my car. We rarely have to get anything during that time. It is like night and day here in Paris. So far we go shopping everyday. There are four different shops involved, étalage de fruits *fruit stall* patisserie *bread shop* le marché *the market* and le boucherie, *meat shop* all within 5 minutes walk. 

It rained most of yesterday so we headed out in the late afternoon when the sun came out to pick up our dinner.

So glad I packed her rain gear. Now you see why I had so much luggage?

I love visiting the fruit stand around the corner. There is a lovely Egyptian gentlemen who works there and he always gives Liv a free treat. His fruit looks fake but it’s so enticing. Back home, I would rush in an out and hardly ever have any contact with the staff so I would often stick to my list. Here, I have a conversation with the people *my terrible French seems to be working* and they remember us. I can ask questions about fruit and vegetables I’ve never tried before. They cut slices for me to sample and I never leave without half a kilo of cherise.

These look like we edited them but this is exactly how we took the picture, honestly the best fraise I have ever tasted

Another of my favorite shops is the meat shop. I find it funny that there are four shops directly across the street from each other with the exact same products and prices. We go to the one on our side of the street because the guys there are very sweet.

mouton tête anyone?

I have made a new friend at the bread shop. I’ve tried a few others in the area but her bread is the softest. I went hunting for a cake for Olivia’s birthday party and I was skeptical about the one she picked for me. I learned to stop judging things before I taste them because the tart was très savoureux! She tells me my French is improving everyday. 

I have to ask my friend’s name next time I go there
Liv has been requesting these chocolate umbrellas

Antz has been our chef *he figured out how to use the stove top* thus far. It’s hard to indulge in these meals without feeling gluttonous but all the walking and stair climbing has balanced out.

Jambon y frommage
petit dejuener
Those pommes de terre were spectactular

I am so grateful I have been given a second chance to discover the food of France. During our first trip I had a boorish American mentality so I mostly ate fast food and didn’t expand my horizons. This weekend we are going to Le Marché des Enfants Rouges *a popular farmers market* I can’t wait to try an authentic French meal. Oh, but of course the wine is superb!

A Bientot!

Rustic charm vs Shabby chic

I keep starting to write posts and I haven’t published any. It’s not like I haven’t been busy lately, I just haven’t been in to mood to take as many photos because I need to take our Nikon SLR camera in for service. Using my iphone to take photos has left me feeling uninspired. I’m not sure if I should bite the bullet and buy a new camera or get mine fixed and buy this external flash. Well, I’m going to need a solution soon because we are taking a trip to Europe this summer.

We found this amazing secret garden in Pasadena called Arlington Garden

Honestly, I have been knee deep in planning this vacation. The last time I planned a big trip was over ten years ago so I’m rusty. There was no Pinterest, Instagram or blogs to reference back then which make it very hard to narrow down my options. I have been apartment hunting for a place in Paris for weeks now. I
am not exaggerating when I say I have looked at every single apartment
rental in le Marais. I want to find a place with Air bnb since it has the most legit site. The problem is my favorite apartments are not available for the dates I need. This was my original winner but of course, it’s booked. I have never been so picky in my life.

My top ten criteria is:

1. Location (Le Marais)
2. Haussmann building
3. Plenty of light and quiet (no lower floor units)
4. One bedroom/one bathroom
5. Clean furniture that doesn’t feel like dated *Parisians really like plaid bedding and red couches*
6. Washer/Dryer
7. City views
8. Chevron hardwood floors
9. Close to a metro station
10. All this within our budget!
* Dishwasher (a bonus)

 

I have narrowed it down to these top two contenders.

Rustic & Charming in the 3º arrondissement

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World’s narrowest kitchen
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Wheee, these stairs!
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Hooving up and down six flights of these stairs everyday will be the death of me
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Let’s break it down. This apartment is within our budget, perfect location in
the heart of le Marais, has authentic Parisian charm *look at that beautiful building and courtyard* it has all the amenities we need. It doesn’t have my chevron hardwood floors but I do like the stone pavers. I google-mapped the street to find it is centrally located and even has cute graffiti.

The downside is, it’s a six story walk up with no elevator. That will get
old really fast but not a deal-breaker. The kitchen…is tiny! I don’t
think I can even open the oven door but who knows how much we will be
baking in the apartment. I am not a fan of the second floor bedroom. We
are very tall people and it appears there will be a whole lot of leaning
and possible head bumps in that slanted loft ceiling. I do like that
the bathroom is on the second floor since I have the bladder of a ninety
year old at night. I like the rustic feel but it may be more dated than I’m imagining it to be. I don’t know how comfortable we would be lounging.

Our other option is…

Shabby chic & cute in the 4º arrondissement

 
The kitchen is small but efficient

This
apartment is super cute. I like the quirky toys and the floors. It feels French shabby chic. My favorite is the dollhouse in the bedroom, I know Liv will love playing with that guy. The views are rad and there is an elevator in the building. I like the street it’s located on much better than the other place. The apartment also comes with a cat!

This apartment does have it’s downside, there is no fixed shower head in the bathroom, which Antz isn’t so happy about. It’s also a smoking apartment so I worry it will smell like smoke which grosses me out. Also as of three days ago, the host has yet to respond to my email inquiring about renting the place so I’m not sure if it’s available for the dates I want.

Liv is mega excited to eat French bread and ride the carousel

I cannot seem to make up my mind. The apartments are very close in location, size and price. I know I am being picky *Antz keeps reminding me, we aren’t going to be in the
apartment that often
* but I want to feel at home. I could just get a hotel room for the trip but I want total immersion. We are planning to go to London and Amsterdam too so I’ll post about that soon.

Bonsoir!!

French school interview is Friday!

This Friday is Olivia’s French school interview. Olivia will be interviewed separately so I won’t know how she does *I’m not worried about her at all*. I know being nervous is silly yet I have terrible butterflies in my stomach. I have been waiting for almost two years to get this interview. I feel so much pressure since this is our top choice school for her and once she gets in, she’ll be there all the way until she graduates in 2028!

Only fourteen more years to go!

Everyone keeps telling us we are gonna get in with no problem but it’s really nerve-racking. I thought it would be a good idea to share our thoughts behind choosing this school for Liv. It is very expensive but also reasonable in comparison to other private school tuition in Los Angeles.

French Immersion Program

This isn’t your regular “Repeat after me.” French lessons. The curriculum follows the same system taught in France yet it also embraces some American methods. There are no French lessons yet the teachers speak French all day. Liv will pick up the language by immersion. Most pupils who start with no French language are fluent by 1st grade, I love it! The teachers do not assign tons of homework. Their philosophy is when you go home, it’s time to spend with your family and rest, they do most of their work in class. The fun part is, when they do get homework assignments, they are done via video chat. It could be reciting a poem, or singing in French and Mom & Dad are welcome to join in! I also think being bilingual will only bring benefits to her future. This school offers a International diploma program so when she graduates, she will be eligible to go to any university in Europe* ahem, La Sorbonne!*. There are fun things to do as well such as art, music, dance, science, yoga, cooking, horseback riding, and performing arts. I am really excited to enroll Liv in fencing class when she’s old enough. I totally hope she is an nerd like me and participates in many activities. She will be the female version of Max Fischer!

This school is my Rushmore.

Every student has an iPad tablet at school which is perfect since Liv uses ours most of the time. By the way, here are my favorite apps for toddlers.

The Human Body – Super cool interactive app! We scored it for free but I would have paid for it. I love the functionality and the art is beautiful. The first time Liv used it, she told me, “This is my lungs.” and took a deep breathe. Five stars!

French for Kids – I have tried several language apps and this one has an easy to use format and she retains the words and pronunciation best *I use Duolingo French app*

Endless Reader – This is a must have app for kids at the verge of reading. It’s so well done and I’m really impressed with the graphics for a free app. She is able to sound out the letters, spell words and read full sentences. Best free app! I would follow up with the Endless Alphabet app too.

*I have to share this deal with you since it expires in a few days. Groupon is having a half price special on a Baby Lit book set. We have Alice in Wonderland and Dracula already and love them! Liv can read the words, she identifies the colors and Dracula is a counting book. The art *by Alison Oliver* is so rad! My favorite board books for preschoolers.

Team Umizoomi Math: Zoom into Numbers – Liv is really good at this game. She never lets me help her. She is going through a “I can do it by my own” stage. Good game!

Toca Games (Doctor/Robot Lab/Tailor/Hair Salon) – These are cute easy to play games. My favorite part is she doesn’t have to ask me to unlock additional features and she is really good at creating robots.

Olivia is really into dressing up and playing Princess, so she is always asking us to download those kind of apps. The problem is, they are free upfront but in order to add features, you have to pay individually and the apps have annoying ads. I’d much rather pay upfront once for a quality game that I know she’ll enjoy. Plus, I find the music on those games to be annoying.

Clumsy Ninja I admit, this is an adorable app we all play. It’s really cute but Liv seems to enjoy throwing her ninja around. I feel sorry for her little dude.

Doc McStuffins Time for your checkup! – Liv is really into Doc and I like that she can identify medical terminology. She tries so hard to say “stethoscope” but she’s still working on S-words.

Fish out of the Water – I downloaded this game for me but Liv loves playing it. I like games where you really can’t lose but it’s still challenging enough for them to not get discouraged. She hasn’t mastered how to play angry birds yet but this game is perfect for little ones who want to play a game similar to Mommy. Plus the fish are really cute.

The Presidents of the United States – This is one of Mom’s favorite learning app. I have always wanted to memorize all the presidents. I’m close but those three dudes after William Henry Harrison always trip me up. It their own fault for not doing anything notable! The artwork is impeccable and Olivia has five Presidents memorized so far! *My five favorites of course!* We also have a President mat I’ve been using with her since she was born.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Rooftop Run – Honestly, Liv is better at this game than I am. She really loves the ninja turtles so this is a fun game for her. It’s really addicting.

*She used to love the Hello Friends! Yo Gabba Gabba app but now she says she’s a big girl so she doesn’t play it anymore. It is really cute and you can watch Yo Gabba Gabba videos.

Diversity

I adore Olivia’s preschool but it isn’t very diverse. Liv, of course, doesn’t notice at all but she has said to us, “I’m brown!” and we tell her about her mixed heritage. Her new school is a melting pot, so she will be exposed to all different nationalities. That is one thing I never experienced in my school years. It’s so obvious the kids at this school are so much more tolerant of others and friendly since they come from different parts of the world. They are taught to be citizens of the world and I want Olivia to grow up with a global perspective. When you walk into the preschool classroom there are photos of the children all over the room. They identify their county origin and are very proud of where they are from. I am certain that gives them a stronger sense of who they are which promotes confidence early on. We met kids from Haiti, and also same-sex couples when we went to the school carnival last year. I love that Liv can grow up in an environment where being different is embraced and the norm. Beginning in secondary lycée *10th grade for us Americans* every student is required to complete volunteer service before they can graduate. I love the idea of community service. Imagine if public schools started that?

Uniforms

When I first heard of a French school, I assumed, sweet Nuns taught the children French and they wore adorable uniforms *similar to Madeline*

 

Turns out, it’s so much more than that. The school doesn’t really have an uniform policy *I wore a Catholic school uniform for eight years and loved it* so I was a little disappointed but since it’s free dress, we can adopt our own version of a uniform. I’d like her to wear navy jumpers, white shirts with Peter Pan collars, a cardigan and these shoes. She can also have a free dress day once a week like I did, but I’ll see how it goes. The dress code of the school is pretty strict which I love. When I changed from Catholic school to public school in 7th grade, my jaw dropped when I saw girls wearing midriff tops and hoochie shorts. How you dressed at my school was pretty competitive and I was always trying to keep up with the more popular kids but I was really a surfer, sporty girl at heart. I pretty much wore tie-dye shorts, t-shirts and Vans everyday. I went through a period of doubting myself and pretended to be someone I wasn’t during my teens that I pray Olivia never has to experience. I am really conscientious about Liv developing in a positive environment. Lucky for me I never did drugs or anything like that but back in the nineties, girls in my class were having babies like crazy.

The Staff & Campus

One of the main reasons my Mom took me out of Catholic School and put me in public was the lack of facilities. As nice as a non-secular education was for me, it was a pain in the ass to wear our gym clothes under our uniforms and the boys would have to leave the room while the girls got dressed since we didn’t have an actual locker room. We also didn’t have a field so we played all our sports in the parking lot. My Mom would grumble when I would come home with scraped knees from playing volleyball on the asphalt and I now understand why it was more appealing to send me to a school that had better facilities. This school is beautiful! It’s historically preserved and has 6 acres of land. There is an organic garden and a huge field of grass for sports and they even offer Tae Kwon Do.

In summation,

What makes our decision to send her to this school is best summed up in this video made by the eighth grade class. I have lived in LA all my life and it’s very rare I come across young people like these. I want that cultural diversity, the accepting heart and confidence in my daughter. I can’t wait!!