Raising Wilshire's Grandparents

Blogoir about caregiving for Asian American immigrant parents

A primer to buying baby and toddler clothes on a budget (Santa Monica edition)

I’m going to let you in on a secret: Most of my kid’s clothes are secondhand. Some are hand-me-downs. The rest are from yard sales and clothing swaps in Santa Monica. Time is of the essence when doing stuff like this (clothing procurement). Let me save you time with these pointers.

Buying Secondhand

From the Mt. Olive sale in 2016.

Mt. Olive Lutheran Preschool fall rummage sale

Every fall, the preschool at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church hosts an epic rummage sale in their auditorium.  The doors open at 8am. Come armed with an IKEA bag or two so you can carry your finds. This is how I managed to stock up on enough clothes to get through the year. The Mt. Olive sale is the best place to score toys, clothes, shoes, kitchen knick knacks, and more.

Note, there is a separate multi-family yard sale in the spring (typically late April) at Mt. Olive. I have not been able to attend either.

Mt. Olive Lutheran Preschool is served by Big Blue Bus Route 8.

Santa Monica’s City Wide Yard Sale

Creative from the 2017 citywide yard sale

Every September, the City of Santa Monica’s Resource Recovery and Recycling  division (known internally at the City as R3)  organizes a city-wide yard sale. The City helps households people publicize sales through their website, email marketing lists, and ads in the local newspaper. They also make an interactive map available that allows you to hone in on locations selling things you might be interested in, such as kid stuff.

Hanging out at a yard sale on an early Saturday morning.

What’s so great about this is the incredible number of participants in our 8.8 square miles. You’re likely to find at least half a dozen sales to visit within walking distance.

The 2018 sale will be on September 15th. You’ve been given advanced notice!

Transportation: If you cannot get to the sale on foot, then it’s not really worth going to.

Who doesn’t like free?

This hot pink jacket belonged to another Santa Monica toddler before I found it at a clothing swap last fall.

Periodically, the Santa Monica Mom’s Club will host a clothing swap at a park in Santa Monica. You bring toys, baby doodads, and clothing your children have outgrown in a bag. They lay out tarps where you can sort your clothes by size. You then fill your bag with clothes in the next size up. That’s how I managed to find some play clothes for Will, plus this really terrific hot pink fleece jacket.

If you are a stay-at-home or part-time employed mom, you can join the chapter’s Facebook group. For the rest of us, follow me on Twitter!

Buying New

I try to find as much clothing as possible for my son secondhand because of cost and environmental considerations. I’m also a fan of buying my son clothes in person because more often than not, I’ve made mistakes with sizing when buying online – and it’s way more of a hassle, for me, to return something than to go where I can buy the clothing in person.

Gymboree in Santa Monica Place

The local shopping mall in Santa Monica is populated mostly by high-end stores, but there are two destinations for children. One is the Disney Store (I refuse to go inside). The other is Gymboree. Gymboree filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and closed hundreds of stores, but the one in Santa Monica Place still marches on.

My Yelp review is more on-point:
Read Sirinya M.‘s review of Gymboree on Yelp

Gymboree is served by Big Blue Bus routes 1, 2, 3, R3, 5, 7, R7, 9, R10, and 18.

TJ Maxx and Marshalls

Both carry items like toys, toddler’s kitchenware (think: Nuby and Phillips Avent bottles; Munchkin sippy cups; pacifiers; kid-sized plates and dishes, bibs), and lots of books. The prices are always a few dollars off what you would pay on Amazon. As is the case with all off-price retail, the fun in shopping at these places is the element of surprise in bargain hunting. But don’t be surprised if you go there looking for something very specific, and it’s not there.

TJ Maxx on Arizona Ave. at 4th Street: Served by all Big Blue Bus routes coming into downtown Santa Monica; Metro 704 and 720; Metro Expo Line.

Marshalls on Olympic Blvd. at Sawtelle Ave.: Big Blue Bus Routes 5 (Olympic Blvd.) and 17 (Sawtelle Ave.)

The Gap


Not cheap – but also, totally worth the money for items that will get heavy use, like coats and play clothes. There is one within walking distance of my house, on Wilshire Blvd. and 20th Street.

The Gap on Wilshire at 20th St is served by Big Blue Bus Routes 2, 41, and 42.

Honorable Mentions

Costco. They carry Carter’s and Little Me, brands that are both well-regarded by Baby Bargains. I picked up a set of pajamas for Wilshire last weekend for about $10.

Carter’s. Their clothes are well-made and withstand the wear-and-tear of an active toddler. The closest Carter’s to Santa Monica is on Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City. There is also a Carter’s now open inside Crenshaw Plaza, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Crenshaw Expo station.



Wilshire’s Big Kid Bed from IKEA

Wilshire has achieved another milestone: He now sleeps in a toddler bed.

Up until the middle of last week, Will slept in a portable mini crib. This past weekend, we wound up picking out an IKEA extendable toddler bed for him.

There are a number of options we also considered and/or tried:

  • Putting Will’s crib mattress on the floor. We did this for a few days. At some point, Will wound up sleeping on his arm and he woke up with a very swollen hand. I thought he’d broken out in hives.
  • Buying a used convertible crib from Craigslist and using it as a toddler bed. No one responded to my inquiries.
  • Buying a traditional twin bed. 

Juan was intrigued by IKEA’s extendable toddler beds.

An extendable toddler bed from IKEA has three lengths: 4 feet (toddler), 5 feet, and 6.5 feet (conventional twin). The idea is that the bed will grow with the child. 

To use this type of bed frame, you have to purchase IKEA’s mattress and sheets. As of this writing, IKEA sells 5 different types of extendable mattresses ranging in price between $49.99 and $149.99. We selected the Nattsmyg, which is a foam mattress that cost $119. It was comfortable, and we expect that our son will be able to sleep on this for the next eight years.

Saving Some Money

We found three areas of savings:

  1. We succeeded in buying a used IKEA extendable frame from Craigslist for $50. Saved $100+ there.
  2. My husband had considered getting an IKEA futon (the Lycksele, $199) or sofa (Klippan, introduced by IKEA in the early 1980s and still decent looking)  Instead, he found this sofa for just $30 at the Goodwill across the street from us in Santa Monica. Savings: $1753. Finally I had wanted a bookcase for Will’s book. There was one from IKEA, the Kallax, for sale also at Goodwill. While it was only $10 less than full-retail, it was fully-assembled and across the street.

Here’s the end result.

New toddler bed!

Total Outlay: About $260.
Mattress (new): $119
IKEA Leksvik Extendable Bed Frame: $50 (used)
Loveseat (used): $29.99
IKEA Kallax 2 x 2 (used): $24.99
IKEA Bedding: $30 (two sets)

Special thanks to my mother, who showed up at IKEA when requested and was crucial in managing Will while we shopped.

Until next time,

Why I’m Staying in Santa Monica

Repost from Santa Monica Next (published in January 2014)

In 2009, I moved to Santa Monica for the same reasons a lot of people my age do: jobs; the beach; the weather; the walkability.

It’s now 2014, and my husband and I still live here, for the aforementioned reasons and more. We have the resources to leave, but we are committed to staying. We’re optimistic about the future of Santa Monica. We’ve made lifelong friends here, with whom we can share the happenings of our lives and of this city. It’s something I’ve looked for, quite possibly, all my life.

We’re also committed to staying because I think Santa Monica is going to be a great place for us to raise a family. You know how some people say they want to do better by their kids? Providing any future kids of mine with the best education I can is so important to me. And so is providing my (future) kids with mobility independence. I think that both are feasible by living in Santa Monica. Because of the city’s walkability, bike infrastructure and transit grid, I’m optimistic that any kids of mine will be able to get from school to third places like the Boys & Girls Club or the YMCA or back home on their own. Before anyone says that I’m already intending to be a reckless parent, my husband and I came of age in the suburbs. He was given keys to a car when he turned 16. I walked the Last Mile home because it was faster than waiting for a bus on 60 minute headways. I felt really badly about being so dependent on my parents for my transportation needs as a teenager.

Talk about civic pride: I am very proud to call myself a Santa Monican, and perhaps a tree hugger too. For Halloween, I dressed as Morty, the city’s beloved Moreton Bay Fig Tree.

Nonetheless, I think I will always feel some unease about living and committing to staying here. My husband calls it Westside Guilt. My experience living here, in Santa Monica, is in such stark contrast to where and how I grew up, further east in the Wilshire Center section of LA and later in the Valley, where my parents bought a house when I turned 14.

The greater Los Angeles metropolitan area is one of the most diverse, poorest, and segregated in the country. The neighborhood I grew up in was poor and predominantly minority immigrants; our retail was all neighborhood-serving and it was looted and/or burned during the 1992 Riots. I got to ride my bike on the street but as long as I came in before dark because of gang activity.

There is considerable wealth and privilege today here in Santa Monica and on the Westside in general.

In contrast, my parents now live in an inner-ring suburban neighborhood adjacent to a light industrial zone with vast income inequalities. They made sacrifices that I would have tried to stop had I known better (which is kind of nuts given that I was a kid at the time). I’m convinced that the doubling (Dad) or quadrupling (Mom) of their commutes has taken years off their lives.

I’m also a person of color living in a city that is mostly white, and there’s a certain discomfort that I’m not sure if I’ll ever shake off. I worry (sometimes a lot) that my choices – to live here, in an apartment, in a community that is so much more homogeneous ethnically and socioeconomically than where I grew up, and certainly not with my parents (I’m the oldest girl) – could be misconstrued as a rejection of my parents and their choices.

At Palisades Park the day after Christmas in 2013.

But as I see it, I have choices now. I live in the region in which I was raised. So I could go back to Wilshire Center, or to the Valley. But it’s unlikely we will do so if we still have jobs on the Westside. We’re willing to live compactly in order to stay here. And we’re happy here. The train is coming, which I think that will actually go a long way to addressing a lot of the isolation and disconnect I felt from my professional circle in downtown. We are talking a lot about how we want to shape the future of our city through the updates of our zoning ordinance, the creation of specific plans for our downtown and the Memorial Park Expo Station, the completion of studies and plans to improve Safe Routes to School and the development a pedestrian action plan.

And I see Santa Monica coming into its own as a multimodal city; every day, I see something new that’s been implemented as part of the bike action plan. We are building more housing, which I believe is critical, and I see civic leaders reaching across generational lines to welcome newcomers and millennials. It’s so reassuring to be part of a community where I have met people who share my optimism about Santa Monica’s future and who also walk, bike, and ride the bus. And no one here bats an eye at the idea of bringing your own bag to the store, not the way that I get stared at differently when I go to my Asian grocery stores.

Right now, I’m committed to staying because I finally feel like I have found somewhere that I think I can belong.

Free Range Kids: A Juan Percent kind of Thing?

Originally published to The Juan Percent in April 2015. I found this again recently, and found it still resonated with me. 

Earlier this month, Danielle Meitiv’s two elementary school aged kids were yet again picked up by Child Protective Services. This time, they were about 5 minutes from home. And this time around, they were held away from their parents for hours, and denied food and restroom access. The kids are 6 and 10. Apparently, a ‘neighbor’ called the cops, who then called CPS. And then this went viral yet again.

Today, the Washington Post published a response from Montgomery County offering clarity on the legality of allowing children to be unescorted in public. In sum, the police do not need to send children to CPS if they do not suspect neglect, and the kids should be taken home.. That was clear from the opening of the story. But then the rest of the story talks about the ambiguities the 6-page memo introduced yet again. At the very least, it offered no clarity on whether a neighbor’s call to report unescorted kids would immediately trigger an investigation of neglect.

This situation has struck a chord with me. I don’t have kids, but I like kids. I minored in Education, spent 10 years working with and teaching kids at summer camps, and I started my working life as an education policy analyst studying the No Child Left Behind Act.

I’ve also made some very deliberate life decisions in order to raise what may be called “Free Range” kids: Juan 6 and I purposefully settled in a city with after-school and summer camp programs that are way more robust than what our parents were able to find for us as kids. We also bought about a quarter mile from our local elementary school, which I’m excited about because it’s the only school that is still majority minority. Assuming our kids are capable of the responsibility of caring for themselves, we expect to let them walk to and from school on their own or out to extra curricular activities, also on their own.

As their (future) parents, we are committed livable streets and community activists because we want infrastructure in place that allows our kids to be independent. This means safe sidewalks and safe, highly visible crossings. This means buffered bike paths. This means street trees, and walking buses, and more kids walking, and walking in groups. This means changing the road geometry in front of our street in order to cut the 85% percentile speed to under 15 miles an hour (so I can lobby the max limit down to 20.) This means robust, affordable, and engaging after-school programming that my kids can access without my having to take them there myself (because I will be working to support them, and to be a productive member of society).

That said, our kids will be mixed race. We don’t really know what they will look like, but given what J6 and I look like, it’s highly unlikely they will elicit the kind of suspicion that brings worry and fear to the minds and hearts of mothers of black (and brown) sons in the U.S.  We also live in an urban place that is, comparatively speaking, quite sterile. We don’t have the same kind of gang turf battles and active street-level drug dealing in Santa Monica that they do elsewhere.

But absent in this discussion about the Meitivs’ situation and the free range kid movement is what does it mean to be a child of color in a neighborhood more like the one I grew up in (just north of Koreatown), and less like an affluent section of suburban Maryland? If the Meitivs’ kids were black, would the police and neighbors have been as concerned in the same way? Would they have called the cops out of concern for the child? Or out of “concern” for their own safety?

The Journey Begins

Wilshire / Sirinya on Big Blue Bus

Together on the bus

Welcome to my new blog. I’ve decided to call it Raising Wilshire.

My hope is to start first with writing about my experience as a working mother raising a family in an urban setting, and to go from there. I am also  looking forward to writing about topics like child care (why it’s so hard to find and expensive), school choice, and raising a son to be kind, respectful of women, and emphatic.

Read More

Driving Mr. Wilshire (when we should’ve walked or biked instead)


The kids and I really should have walked. Or biked. But we (the moms) didn’t think we could get to our destinations safely – and we were trip-chaining under time constraints. Transportation scholars would tell you our line of decisions are common amongst moms everywhere.

Wilshire had a busy Saturday morning. He got to go together with his neighborfriend to Virginia Avenue Park, where they also host a weekly farmers’ market, and then to the pool for his first swim lesson of the year. All of this was made convenient because my car seat (a Chicco NextFit) is easy to install–so we only had to take one car–and because there was free parking at our two destinations (the park and the pool).

We really should have walked. Or biked. Virginia Avenue Park may have free parking for cars, but they’ll valet your bike!  I was with a friend who is very comfortable riding a bike; she is the yin to my yang. The park was about a mile away. The pool was six blocks east of the park.

The bus was off the table, even though I can ride for free, because the two routes that go between my house, the park, and the pool don’t run on weekends.

I’ve walked to this park before. It necessitates walking along Cloverfield Boulevard, a fast-moving north/south street between my house and the park, and  crossing the on- and off-ramps for the I-10 freeway. I worry about not being seen by motorists entering and exiting the freeway. It’s not an irrational concern. Last year in Santa Monica (2017), 8 pedestrians died last year – and this doesn’t even reflect the close calls I experience, and they are numerous because I still walk with my son every day.

I cannot even begin to fathom riding my bicycle on Cloverfield Boulevard with my child. Not yet. Not right now. Not until that street design changes. And I am hopeful that it will change, but I can’t tell you when.

As I was looking through photos from our playdate, I remembered an essay written by my friend Katie Matchett, a fellow transportation planner and mother of two kids now living in San Diego, about how poor street design forces most women to default to getting in a car. Here’s an excerpt from the essay posted to her blog, Where the Sidewalk Starts:

My choice, like so many of women’s travel choices, was based primarily on safety. I was confident the kids could walk that far, and I knew it would be the healthier and more interesting choice for all of us–but without good walkability, I wasn’t sure that I could keep them all safe.

All across the country women, in particular mothers, make similar choices every day. Poor street design, disparate land use, time constraints, lack of personal safety—all of these conspire to force women off their feet and into cars. We have built a transportation system that discounts women’s travel needs, and women—and our communities—are suffering for it.

Alright, enough of the serious talk. Below are pics of the kids.
They are precious.
Will enjoyed sitting on the horsey

We saw this too.

A few weeks ago, a group of residents in Santa Monica officially launched a petition drive to solicit enough signatures to put a measure to institute term limits for our city council. (There are no term limits presently in Santa Monica. LA limits councilmembers to 12 years.) While I have no position on the issue, I did find it reassuring that I also recognized the woman soliciting signatures. Even if I do not agree with her most of the time, she is part of my community and I am part of hers. 

Until next time,


Wilshire’s first visit to Union Station




Yesterday, Will visited Los Angeles Union Station for the first time. We arrived at about 9:45 am and were able to see three trains depart in about a 15 minute period, including the once-daily Amtrak Coast Starlight bound for Vancouver, BC.

TAP staff were on hand to help customers buy and load passes and stored value on TAP cards and to answer questions. We enjoyed introducing staff to the first child we knew of named after the Westside Subway Extension. Finally, we were able to buy the commemorative TAP card printed in honor of Metro’s 25th anniversary.

Sirinya holds up Metro's 25th Anniversary commemorative TAP card

With my commemorative TAP card!

Union Station is gorgeous and bustling with activity, a public space that I think is now on par with Grand Central Station in New York City and Union Station in DC. What we have over those two marquee transportation hub are these beautiful, and accessible, outdoor gardens. There are two, one attached to the Metropolitan Water District and the other specifically to Union Station. What I love most about visiting Union Station these days is the aura of discovery. I visit only occasionally so there is always something new whenever I come to visit.

Until next time,


5 Pointers for Camping with a Toddler

Wilshire likes to be outdoors. It should come as no surprise that he likes camping. His parents like camping too.

I didn’t start out as a camper. As a child, my family ‘vacationed’ in Las Vegas up to 6 times a year. Las Vegas is not far from Los Angeles, and has functioned as a getaway destination for Angelenos for nearly a century. My dad is a compulsive gambling addict, so my relationship with Las Vegas is a sad one. I’m relieved that I can carve a different path with my family.

Kid and I go camping
Holding his hiking poles.

Most recently, we took Wilshire camping around his second birthday. We stayed Leo Carrillo State Park, which is just outside of Malibu city limits and about 25 miles away from our house. Leo Carrillo is in this little valley just east of the water. As it is a California State Park, the campground was very nice. Not all the campsites are created ‘equal’. We liked #26 because it was near restrooms and the on-site convenience store – but not near Mulholland Highway, which traverses just north of the campground.

This was our third time camping outdoors with our son, and I think we’re getting the hang of making camping fun and stress-free. The kid sleeps through the night when he’s in our tent. My mother wondered how we managed to make camping work because it was an experience she never had, so I realized there may be value to sharing the top 5 things I do to make camping safe, fun, and enjoyable with my toddler. Hopefully this helps you too.

1. Bring a travel crib. 
We bring a Graco Pack ‘N’ Play with us. Not only does our son sleep in it, it’s a safe place for him to play and chill while we are completing necessary tasks such as pitching our tent and cooking. We have had a lot of luck putting both our son and another child in said pack ‘n’ play. Don’t they look cute here?

2. Bring a high chair. 
We own this snap-on high chair from Chicco. Our son is still not quite big enough to sit at the picnic table comfortably. This snap-on chair allows him to be on par with the rest of us. I no longer worry about him sliding down off the bench and hitting his chin or head.

3. Reserve a campsite in advance. 
Through Reserve California, you can book a campsite up to six months in advance. There is a $7.99 registration fee and a $7.99 cancellation fee. I suggest setting up a reminder to book a site as soon as the 6 month window opens.

4. Set up dedicated camping bins if you have the space for storage.
We now have these nifty bins which contain all of our dedicated camping supplies, plus a table for holding our camping stove. These bins, plus a cooler, are now stored in a location which makes it quick and easy to load our car. It used to take me hours to prepare for our prior trips because everything was scattered across our house. Now we’ve gotten organized, it takes only an hour to pack everything – food, high chair, and diapers included. Less time packing, more time relaxing.

I will have to blog more about our camping set-up another time.

5. Stay more than one night.
In our first two trips, we only spent one night outdoors. It was exhausting and disappointing to spend so much time setting up only to have to dismantle the campsite less than 24 hours later. Last weekend, we spent two nights outdoors and it was glorious.

I have a tickler in my calendar now to book another campsite later this weekend for summer. I love being able to anticipate these sorts of events. Do you like to go camping with your kids? Tell us what kind of things you do to make camping more fun and accessible!

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