Guest Blogger Jenny: Forget The Carpool. We Need A Bus.

Anyone who’s ever had any sort of school commute understands the intrinsic value of a carpool. It’s the well-oiled support machine that keeps your schedule running and keeps you from revving up and down L.A.’s heinous freeways all week long (I’ve written about the love I have for my carpool before). But sometimes, circumstances beyond your control render the carpool useless. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cal Trans!


Seriously, Cal Trans is about to ruin my life, and the life of every other school commuting parent heading toward the Westside (which is almost all of them). The scheduled widening of the 405 freeway, along with the closure of the Mulholland Bridge, is about to make the east/west commute into one nasty and serious commitment.  Bring water and food, because if you decide to brave that commute come this August, you just might need it.


There’s a bunch of schools up on that stretch of Mulholland Drive, just over that soon to be defunct bridge and the 405. Schools with kids aplenty, like Milken, Curtis, Berkeley Hall, Mirman (Anna’s school), and Westland.  The commute was already pretty bad if you came north up the 405, since the Mulholland off ramp has been closed for a while, creating way more traffic on your only other option, Sepulveda.


But now, well, it’s going to be virtually impossible to get there. With the bridge closed, traffic will be forced onto some sort of serpentine route through a hapless Valley neighborhood (I tried this route once, just for kicks, and got lost. It does not bode well). Imagine all those cars snaking through some back route to Mulholland, complete with stop signs and Children Playing signs. Those peaceful neighborhood residents will hate us, and we will curse our sorry vehicular existences.


So you can imagine my delight when Mirman proposed a bus route convenient to Eastsiders like us.  Possibly shared with Curtis, it would pick our kids up close by and roll through the Westside. Our children will do homework, talk, possibly snooze, and do whatever else bus riding children do until arrival at their respective schools. This means no commute. This means no more sitting on the 101, sweating the time. This means dismantling the coffee IV drip system currently installed in the car. The bus is the answer.


If we can get enough parents (and thus, kids) on board.


And that’s a big if. Buses, you see, are pretty pricey. You might fork out another couple grand, on top of the tuition, for a twice daily bus route. That’s a lot of money. On the other hand, time is money, and without the bus, time will be lost, never to return. Plus, the gas prices are so insane these days, you could end up spending that much in commuting fuel costs anyway. And let’s not forget that “green” issue, since all those extra cars on the freeway add up to way more emissions than a single bus (I’ve often pondered this while staring at the idling SUVs waiting in the carpool line).


So I’ve done my due diligence on the subject, and went even further: I wrote a very persuasive email missive to every relevant parent on our school carpool list. It was a rational plea for bus usage, and I used every bit of my direct response advertising copywriting skill to make the bus as irresistible a transportation option as has ever rolled the L.A. streets.  I charmingly argued and cajoled. All the parents need to do, I wrote, is fill out the online form that merely indicates interest in the bus. It’s not a firm commitment, just an interest. Please. For all that is holy.


The due date for this online form was June 10. I still have no idea if our area made the cut for the route. I hope so, because otherwise, it’s going to be one long school year indeed.



Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

Willows 4th Grade Community Service: Bringing Comfort To Shelter Animals

Our rescued pitbull, Goggles

As part of the Willows School’s 4th grade’s study unit on animals, the community service project partnered students with an organization called Operation Blankets of Love, which collects gently used and new blankets, towels and other pet related supplies for animals waiting in shelters.

As soon as my daughter heard the representative from Operation Blankets of Love speak to her class, accompanied by her dog, she couldn’t wait to start collecting items for shelter animals.

We have a shelter rescue, a pitbull named Goggles. We adopted Goggles when she was about 6 months old and now she’s 12. In our house, she’s a VIP (very important pitbull). 

My kids and I collected a few towels from home and set out to Petco to find some items on sale for the project. We got a soft cat pillow for $7.99 and a few other items to help keep shelter dogs comfy.

Of course, as soon as we got home, Goggles began shredding the cat pillow. We grabbed it before she could ruin it.

The 4th graders made posters for the school and an announcement at all-school meeting to ask the entire school to help them meet their goal of 300 blankets and items for the donation.

Community service projects don’t need to be complicated or overdone. They just need to make a difference. In this case, more than 300 comfort items were collected for shelter animals. Job well done!

Guest Blogger Jenny: The Frantic End of the Year at Mirman School

While I seem to recall the end of the year at public school ending with a muffled whimper of truncated days and parties with bad cupcakes, the end of the year at Mirman is quite different.


Although the final fundraising push is pretty much finished after the Mirman School Fair, there are still used uniforms to sell, retirement parties (complete with fundraising for the retirement parties), plus various and sundry celebrations. There was an Upper School production of The Sound of Music, complete with very elaborate costumes (I stopped dead in my tracks last week when I spotted a nun in full wimple wandering through the campus).


Mirman even offers something on the “last day” of school called Field Day. Field Day, as far as I can determine, is a bit like “Color Wars” at sleep away camp.  Kids are assigned a color to wear (so it’s not a uniform day, but not precisely a free dress day, either), and the colors compete in various events. Just a last minute jolt of good competitive fun before the school breaks for a couple of months.  Anna, who’s always up for a contest, is already planning her “blue” outfit.


And then, of course, there’s graduation. Anna’s class is required to attend, lengthening her school year by another half day. I figure it’s good for her to see what’s ahead in terms of pomp and circumstance (although I’m always amazed at the fuss made over these lower level “graduations.” I mean, is there an option to not graduate from middle school? Really? It’s not like they’re earning a doctorate or something). Plus, Mirman is a small enough school that Anna knows some of those middle school graduates, so it becomes more personal.


While I won’t miss the drive over the next couple of months (and indeed, am campaigning like crazy to get a bus for our area. I love my carpool, but we’ve all had enough), I will miss being up at that campus. It’s a lovely, peaceful, happy spot. I’ve never been on a campus where the kids seem so serene and engaged. There’s always something interesting going on, always a topic to discuss, and the kids seem to treat each other with such decency.  This first year has been such an overwhelmingly positive experience for our family. Anna has changed in such positive ways, and seems so much more comfortable with herself.


So thanks, Mirman. And we’ll see you in the fall.


Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

Reader Question: Should I Feel Guilty About Leaving A Preschool-6th School After Preschool?

Question: My child attends a Preschool-6th school. I want to tour other elementary schools, with the possibility that we will enroll our child at another school for kindergarten. But, I feel guilty about leaving such a wonderful preschool and I’m concerned about how the school will react when we tell then we may leave. What should we do?

Answer: Great question! You shouldn’t feel guilty at all about looking at other elementary schools. Nor should you feel guilty about leaving the school. Every year, parents leave schools for various reasons. When you selected a preschool, your child was probably 2 or 3 years old. Now that he/she is getting older, you’re learning more about the type of elementary school that will be best for him/her. This is completely understandable. Of course, your school would like families to stay for elementary school, but they know there will be a few families that leave every year.

The most important thing you should do is emphasize that this decision is about the best fit for your child as he/she approaches elementary school. It’s also important for you to avoid criticizing your current school in any way. Even if you dislike the elementary school, don’t voice that opinion. Keep it positive and about your child’s needs. The school will be very unhappy if you bad mouth the school to other parents and they also start applying to other elementary schools. You should keep your opinions to yourself and stay positive. That way, you can preserve the option to stay for elementary school if you decide that’s the best option. At this point, you’re simply exploring all your school options.

Harvard Class of 2023 and 2025?

Harvard’s Super-Secret Owl Club, An Invitation-Only Finals Club
A few months ago, my husband Barry and I hosted a small dinner for Harvard class of 1986. That’s his undergraduate class and the 25th reunion was just around the corner in May.  We’ve been to a few Harvard events over the past few years. They’re nice and very civilized and Conan O’Brien comes and is super-nice. 
Barry and I are both very cynical and slightly sarcastic. We don’t easily embrace establishment activities and we consider ourselves a non-traditional family by virtue of the fact that we’re a mixed race family. Barry wasn’t any different in college and had no interest in finals clubs or those sorts of things. 
So, you can imagine our surprise to find ourselves hosting this event at Akasha Restaurant in Culver City. Neither of us really knew what to expect.
During the dinner, Barry made opening comments and introduced a Harvard professor, the evening’s special guest.  But, it was Barry’s remarks that struck me so profoundly. Of course, he went off script. He tossed the 10 pages of prepared remarks and instead wrote his own hilarious “talking points” about how ancient the class of 1986 is (complete with their college yearbook photos.) He also pointed out who was born in 1986 (Lady Gaga, etc.).
Then, he got serious for a minute. He talked about his good friend from college seated across from us. He talked about the business deal they did together a few years ago that changed his career. He startled me by getting serious, saying that he owes a lot to Harvard because it’s how he met me (he went to Harvard Law School with my late sister, who introduced us). He spoke eloquently about how much his education has given him and encouraged everyone there to think about what Harvard has meant to them and their families as they consider their philanthropic giving.
I was very touched by Barry’s remarks. I don’t feel the same strong allegiance to UC Berkeley, although I got a superb education (that I worked really hard for…I had to study a lot).
On Campus
For the first time, I started wondering if our kids could go to Harvard (they’re 7 and 10).
“Maybe they could live in the same dorm you did…wouldn’t that be cool,” I said.
Just as I started getting carried away, Barry brought me back to reality.
“They’ll need to start building those resumes NOW,” he laughed. 
Does watching the Harvard-Princeton game count as an extracurricular activity?
We just got back from Barry’s 25th reunion. We took the kids and had a wonderful time. Harvard lived up to it’s reputation. It was steeped in tradition, gracious and a just a wee bit pompous. We skipped the reunion music festivities at the Boston Pops Orchestra, to which reunion attendees were driven in a police-escorted motorcade. We were sure the locals loved this. 
Let’s face it, we’ve all thought about where we want our kids to attend college. We think about whether we even want them to apply to the same colleges we graduated from. My son was completely enamored with all things Harvard. Class of 2025?