A New Career as a Volunteer

By Elena Epstein

Meet our 2016 Amazing Mom, Julie Weinstein

parenting

Photographer Zeke Ruelas captures images of Julie Weinstein and her son Aiden and daughter Abby. PHOTOS BY ELENA EPSTEIN AND CHRISTINA ELSTON

To illustrate the icy cold of the Arctic described in “Eve of the Emperor Penguin” from the “Magic Tree House” series, Julie Weinstein taught her second-grade book-club readers to make their own ice cream. The students learned how a liquid can freeze into a solid – and that book club can be really fun. For a science project on insects, Weinstein brought ladybugs and placed them in the trees outside the classrooms, then sent the students off in search of them.

Exploration and hands-on learning that sparks curiosity is Weinstein’s passion. It’s something she always incorporated into her classroom when she was a teacher, and it continues to drive her work as a school and community volunteer. The list of those volunteer duties is long and Weinstein’s energy is nonstop. We selected her as our Amazing Mom this year because we believe she represents what community giving is all about.

Weinstein, whose two children attend Lanai Road Elementary School in Encino, has taught kindergarten, third grade and preschool. With tremendous support from her husband, Brent, she is now a full-time volunteer who draws on her teaching expertise on a daily basis all while parenting. At Lanai, she leads the second-grade book club, is room mom for both of her children’s classrooms, is an art docent, organizes the school’s annual Literacy Fair and Science Explosion events, hosts several fundraising events and helps run the school’s annual book fair. She is also a Girl Scout co-leader for a troop of 18 second graders and is manager of her daughter’s soccer team. And three times a week, you’ll find her at Granada Hills High School volunteering as a track coach for the Northridge Pacers. Did we mention she also ran the L.A. Marathon in February? She did.

“I ran in high school and college and just loved it,” says Weinstein. “My kids started track in the fall and I’m so excited to share this with them. It’s not just about fitness and competition. When you work at something and get better, you learn so much about yourself, and you build self-esteem.”

In April we took Weinstein to a beautiful new spot in the South Bay for a day of fun and pampering. The Point at Sepulveda and Rosecrans is an outdoor shopping center with restaurants, shops and an expansive grassy area featuring a whimsical play structure that’s perfect for families. We started our day at Vicara Aveda Salon, where Kym Aaronson and Daniella Hamm styled Weinstein’s short blond hair into soft, beachy waves and used a mix of foundation, shadows and blush to create a polished and natural look.

Then, we shopped. Stylist Deanna Zaccari joined us to help Weinstein put together casual and stylish outfits that fit her busy lifestyle. Our first stop was Lucky Brand Store, a mecca of vintage-inspired jeans, tops, shoes, purses and jewelry. Then we popped in at Lou & Gray, which features a casual lounge collection focusing on easygoing everyday styles and unique jewelry.

“A mom’s life is always busy and on the go,” says Zaccari. “Keeping her wardrobe comfortable yet chic can be tricky. But keeping it simple will always give you a polished look, and adding color with your tops will give a little life to your appearance.”

Zaccari advises moms on the go to have three wardrobe staples – a great pair of dark stretch soft denim jeans; a light knit, feminine blouse or a nice colorful T-shirt; and comfortable shoes.

Once Weinstein’s outfits were selected, it was time for her kids, Abby and Aiden, to enjoy a mini-spree at children’s boutique Bella Beach Kids. Kris D’Errico, who owns this quaint shop and the original Bella Beach Kids in Manhattan Beach, helped us find the perfect outfits and filled us in on the family business she started seven years ago. She operates Bella Beach Kids with the help of her step daughter and husband, who will soon become the mayor of Manhattan Beach. We loved hearing how her two stores, featuring a curated selection of quality clothing and accessories, have become such a part of the fabric of the community by hosting fundraising events for schools and charities, employing local high school students and offering personal attention to help parents and grandparents find the perfect outfit or gift.

In breaks between hair, makeup and wardrobe, Weinstein chatted about parenting and her activities and was brimming with ideas as soon as we mentioned school science experiments and art projects. Our conversation covered the magical world of books such as “Wingdingdilly,” making “gak” and using sugar cubes to help students calculate grams of sugar in sports and soft drinks.

“To be able to volunteer in the community and at my kids’ school is truly a privilege,” says Weinstein. “I love every minute of it.”

One of the greatest benefits of her volunteer work, she says, is the “wonderful group of women” she has met. She encourages all parents to find opportunities to give back. “Don’t assume you’re not qualified,” she says. “There is something for everyone. Our schools are great because parents give their time and their expertise to support the school. All of us can make a huge difference.”

Elena Epstein is Director of Content & Strategic Partnerships at L.A. Parent.

“It sounds cliché, but time really does go by so fast. When my kids were first born, I remember thinking we are never going to sleep again. As each stage passes and your kids gain more independence, you realize that you have to cherish each stage. Enjoy the moments. It will not last forever.”

– Julie Weinstein

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