The Scariest Thing of All Is…..

AJ sad face

AJ, my youngest child has a sensitive side a mile wide.

If someone yells in the room, he cries. If the vacuum turns on, he cries. If someone tries to let go and make him walk on his own (he’s 17 months old), he cries. If someone tries to play a game that he doesn’t like, he cries. If Gregory looks at him the wrong way, he cries. He’s scared of being within 40 feet of ocean waves, he’s scared of swings, he’s scared of dogs. He’s scared of shoes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my son just as he is. His sensitivity makes for a very unique little personality. He wants to engage with anyone and everyone and thrives on being held and talked to. He’s the cuddliest of the cuddly.

I point this out to demonstrate that it’s been a lot of work for me to get to know his personality. I’ve been determined that I WILL NOT parent him the same way I do my firstborn. Just because they are both boys does not mean that they are going to do things together.

I’m about to embark on a taboo subject— TV WATCHING. Gasp. Yes, I let my kids watch about 30 minutes of TV a day. We never used to– I think Gregory didn’t watch a single show until he was 2. He didn’t show any interest, so I didn’t try.

Side Note: Why do moms get all up in each other’s business about the TV? Because they’re worried that someone else’s kids will be dumb because they watched too much? Actually, if you think about it, if “so and so’s” kids are dumb, yours will have less competition in 16 years and a better chance of getting into college. The lesson is, we should encourage TV watching with everyone else’s kids except our own. Hand out mind numbing DVDs to all the kids. It’s the only way to get into Princeton.

Gregory very much enjoys a few shows right now, Thomas the Train and Winnie the Pooh, especially. I’ve noticed that his language skills have tripled, thanks to these shows. He has all sorts of polite pithy phrases, like, “Oh deary deary dear dear!”, “Bravo!”, and, “Oh, thank you mother, how very kind of you!”

So, naturally, AJ watches them too. He usually gets up after about 10 minutes, bored, but sometimes he sits next to his brother, trying to cuddle with a sibling who couldn’t care less that he’s there.

But I’ve noticed something very odd. You know how some kids get scared when the bad guy cackles? I’d anticipated this, so we skip all the pooh episodes with “heffalumps and woozles”, because I always found them scary as a much older child. But even Thomas the Tank Engine has a villain– Diesel 10, the jealous engine with a claw.

AJ, my super sensitive child, is never scared at these parts. He never seems sad– it actually makes him bored. Sometimes, he even laughs.

So, what gives? Super sensitive child, unaffected by anything on the TV? For a while, I thought he might be super smart and, at the ripe old age of 1.5, had already figured out that the TV was just a box with pictures.

In the past few weeks, I’ve figured out what scares him. And it scares him like nothing else.




Whenever there’s a rock, rolling down a hill or getting pushed down a hill, he whimpers and cries and until I hold him. There’s actually one part of the Tigger Movie where the animals are all caught up with a boulder as it tumbles down into a pond. Gregory laughs hysterically, as it’s supposed to be funny.

AJ? He sobs and sobs, shaking with fear until I come pick him up. The moment the 2 minute segment is over, he’s perfectly okay, as though it never happened.

I thought it was just that part, but now I’ve started to notice that he whimpers and cries whenever there’s a rock! Someone throws a rock in a pond? Crying. A train sees rocks across a railway? Crying.

If this keeps up, it’s going to make for an interesting childhood. I can just imagine dropping him off at school: “Here’s his lunch, oh, and by the way, make sure he doesn’t see any rocks.”

Do they have a rating system for rocks in movies? It could be Rated SO for “sand only”, and Rated RE-13 for “rocks everywhere– wait until age 13”.

Whatever we’re supposed to do until he grows out of it, I’ll continue to love and comfort this little guy whenever he sees a rock. I mean, how could you NOT want to cuddle with this little munchkin?

AJ in booster seat

And for lonely days when I need extra cuddles from my baby, I’ll keep a copy of “Bob the Builder” on hand. Just in case.

Cloth Diapering for 2 Babies under $86

Thanks, everyone, for listening to my rant about my crappy August. I went to bed feeling rather ashamed for complaining, especially considering everything going on internationally, but one can’t always live globally– sometimes it comes down to the smaller troubles in life and learning how to move on. Perspective is good, but not everything.

AJ in cloth

I’ve been wanting to write about our recent experience with cloth diapering for a while, but I wanted to wait a few months to work out the kinks in our system. For reference, we cloth diapered exclusively with G for his first 9 months, using only prefolds and Thirsties covers. It worked great with our top loader washing machine and good ole’ Texas water. When we got to CA, however, for some reason the stink built up beyond repair. I wasn’t able to make them work with our front loaders, and we all got sick of how bad they always smelled. I tried three different stripping methods, but came to the conclusion that I might be beating my head against a brick wall for not much gain.

We were also living with my parents at the time, saving all of our money for our down payment on a house. My mom politely BEGGED me not to keep cloth diapering during this time, so we signed up for Amazon’s automatic diaper shipments. And then I had a newborn to go with my 1 year old, and life got crazy.

Of course, after about a year of using disposables, it was hard to think of giving up that convenience and going back to cloth, but I got tired of spending the $60/month on diapers. So, sometime at the beginning of summer, we embarked upon a new phase.

My first criteria was that we not spend much more than $80 on the whole project, seeing as the boys don’t have much longer in diapers (fingers crossed)– AJ will probably only be in them another year or so, and Gregory, a matter of weeks (although I also said that 2 months ago!). I was able to include them in the monthly budget under our disposable diaper fund, with the hopes of being able to cross that item out in the future.

And….we did it! Cloth diapering for two boys for under $86! We have 9 Bum Genius Diapers that I got through Craigslist for $60. I got them so cheap because I was willing to replace the elastic on 6 of them. It was a daunting thought, but in the end it was so super easy and worth the $1/diaper elastic kit from To replace them, I used this tutorial. It took about 2 hours total.

cloth diapers 2

To round out our stash, since I was doing diapers every 1.5 days, I just purchased a few econobum prefolds and 2 Flip diaper covers (they were “seconds” at cottonbabies, so they were only $7 each!). If I find that I’m still doing too much laundry for my liking, I’d buy a few more econobum prefolds in a heartbeat– they are much cheaper than the Bummis I used to have for G, and they are much nicer! We don’t need any pins or snappies this point– just a trifold stuffed in the cover.

cloth diapers 1

Here’s how we wash the diapers on an every other day basis:

1 rinse, cold water, with 1 cup of white vinegar for stink

1 hot wash, diaper detergent

1 hot wash, 2 scoops of baking soda (sometimes I use Borax instead)

1 cold wash/rinse, 1 cup of vinegar

Air dry covers on the line, 45 minutes of drying for the inserts

cloth diapers 3

When I stripped the used cloth diapers, I used this method (I found it somewhere online, but don’t remember where):

1 wash with detergent (unless they’re already clean)

2 hot washes using 2 tsp. of Dawn liquid soap (the blue, original formula)

1 hot wash with bleach

3 hot washes, no soap

That’s it!

Montessori-Inspired Playroom

Anybody that knows me also knows that I’ve been obsessed with all things Montessori since long before we had kids. Our first year living in Dallas, I worked at over 6 different Montessori schools, teaching over 80 piano students (yes, 80 individual students a week!). I got to see the good, bad and ugly.

As a result, I’m very cautious when I recommend Montessori schools, because while they can be a huge asset to a child’s learning (provided all the teachers are “certified” Montessori), they can also be a huge detriment, especially if they foster an indifference for respect. Most of the times though, sub-par Montessori schools are just a waste of money. They have the name and maybe a few of the “toys” from some catalogue, but few, if any, of the teachers are trained in the actual philosophy, making it just some daycare/preschool with an exorbitant price tag.

But I’m straying from the topic at hand. When I taught at these Montessori schools, I noticed that the Montessori kids universally outperformed their peers at normal preschools, especially when it came to dexterity, self-reliance and math. Ever since, I’ve self-studied the Montessori philosophy to figure out some of their secrets.

To be clear, I’m not officially trained. In fact, I don’t buy the philosophy whole-sale. One of my greatest pet-peeves in parenthood is when some philosophy comes along and preaches 100% adherence (attachment parenting is another one!). Every child is unique, and instead of sticking to one and falling flat on my face (sigh), I’ve tried to integrate them with my own instinct as a mother.

As a result, our homeschooling/playing room is not 100% Montessori. It’s not 100% academic (um, my oldest kid is only 34 months??). It’s DEFINITELY not 100% clean 😉 Let’s be real here.

Without further ado, here it is!

Playroom 8

Playroom 11

Playroom 10

Playroom 12 Playroom 13

Here you can see the changing table (hopefully just for my 16 month old soon!) and Gregory’s handwashing station by the door. He LOVES this thing, and it’s one of my favorite take-homes from the Montessori classroom. It not only teaches kids personal hygiene, but it also teaches them control.

Playroom 4

For the actual handwashing, there is a small portion of water in the pitcher. Gregory is able to pour it into the bowl, rub his hands on the soap, rub the sponge on his hands (his FAVORITE part!), then rinse his hands in the water. After drying his hands on the towel, he gently dumps the water in to the big container below the table.

Playroom 3

I have a lot of faith in Gregory’s abilities to be precise and conscientious of details, and even I was surprised at how quickly he got the hang of doing things gently enough not to make a mess! Whenever we go anywhere now, he is asking to “wash his hands”, because he is suddenly very aware of how they feel after eating.

The chalkboard table in the middle is one of my favorite things. We got it for $5 off of Craigslist, and I painted it using some leftover khaki chalkboard paint and a Serena and Lily paint sample someone gave me a long time ago.

Having a child-sized table and chairs is super important to any homeschooling or Montessori room. Gregory knows where all his little activities in the room are and loves to bring them here.

Playroom 1

Playroom 5

Another thing I love about the Montessori philosophy, especially for preschoolers, is how much they focus on using three fingers to accomplish various tasks. They emphasize these “games” for months/years before ever teaching kids how to hold a pencil. I can personally attest that this aspect of the Montessori philosophy results in a huge disparity between the dexterity of Montessori kids and mainstream preschool kids. My piano students from Montessori schools have a much easier time with everything about the piano. This isn’t to say that mainstream preschool kids don’t catch up– they definitely do, in most cases. But the extra confidence at such an early age seems valuable, especially if it avoids frustration for the child.

We have just started “games” involving transferring objects using tongs and a spoon. Gregory found these acorns by himself in the backyard, giving the game an added dimension!

Playroom 2

Before we added the handwashing station, we had the table against the wall under our vintage alphabet cards. My guess is that most Montessori classrooms would find these too high or too “busy”. However, the Montessori goal is, ultimately, to create a peaceful environment without clutter that overwhelms the child. I am very sensitive to clutter, and I don’t find these to be distracting. We are also dealing with a space issue in our small room, so I had to stack them higher.

Also, I’m selfish, and I REALLY wanted an alphabet wall. Nuff said 🙂

2013-08-31 01.12.45

Last, but not least, here is our children prayer corner. You can definitely see the mix of philosophies here– we don’t have ALL the icons at child height, simply because we want the boys to respect the fact that some things are special and shouldn’t be touched all the time. But Gregory does have two unbreakable icons at his height, given to him by his wonderful godmother 🙂

Also, speaking of mixing philosophies– how many Montessori rooms have YOU seen with an Orthodox icon corner? 😉

Playroom 7

Playroom 6

If you’d like to see any of my other playroom or preschool ideas, you can follow my Preschool Pinterest board!

That’s all for now!

Source List:

Handwashing Station: Soap, tray, bowls and pitcher– our awesome 99 cent store. The table was a find from 5 years ago in TX, probably Homegoods.

Alphabet Wall: A free printable from Handmade Home.

Banners: A free printable from Shanty 2 Chic.

Bookshelves: Walmart, Baskets from Ikea, Wooden Chalkboard labels from Etsy

Teepee: Poles from Home Depot, full sized bedsheet from Walmart

Rug: World Market

Table and Chairs: Craigslist for $5, painted in Serena and Lily’s “Sprout” paint

Easel and paints: Melissa and Doug

Changing Table: Changing Pad cover– Pottery Barn, Diapers– Econobum and BumGenius, I Love You printable– free from I Heart Naptime

Anthony’s Birthday Party!

Last Saturday, we had a family birthday party for Anthony. We told everybody to bring trucks/cars as presents, since they are his favorite right now! He also got a tree swing (can’t wait to put it up!), a xylophone, a drum, and a few outfits!

It was a beautiful day for a party!

It was a beautiful day for a party!

Anthony's 1st Birthday 27

Some of the beautiful women in our family

Anthony's 1st Birthday 28

Remember that awesome tortilla soup I keep talking about? We had that, along with cheesey garlic bread and salad.

Anthony's 1st Birthday 35

Anthony’s dump truck cake (funny enough, Gregory received this particular dump truck for HIS first birthday!)


Anthony's 1st Birthday 2

The eager birthday boy, waiting for his cake!

Anthony's 1st Birthday 5

Clapping in anticipation

Anthony's 1st Birthday 18

He showed that cake who was boss!


Anthony's 1st Birthday 8

Momma and Dadda with the birthday boy!

Anthony's 1st Birthday 39

Everyone that came (minus Gordon, who was taking the picture)

Anthony’s 1 year old!

Exactly 1 year ago, I was in pre-labor with my sweet baby Weester. He is such an incredible joy to us. I never thought that I could love any child as much as I love Gregory, but I was so wrong. This little bundle of joy has been the perfect addition to our family. He is my cuddle bug, and I hope he always loves giving his Momma tons of attention 🙂

We love you, baby Wee!

anthony-james birth

Anthony 1 year old


A year ago today, I looked like this!

39 weeks!

39 weeks!


Yesterday, I went hog wild on my sewing machine. Seriously, it was like a little sweat shop over here.

First, I sewed the curtains for the boys room. Curtains are super easy to make, but they take FOREVER– just picture hemming all 4 sides of a giant 9 foot napkin. Times two.

Gregory and Anthony's curtains

Notice how the light shows on the sides? It’s actually a double curtain rod, with blackout curtains behind it (they were ugly plain…hence the decorative front curtain!). I’ve found that Gregory sleeps a million times better during his naps if it’s completely dark in his room

A closeup of the print

A closeup of the print

Next, I tackled my third and final chair cover to match the ones I’d already done.

Lastly, I made Gregory’s duvet cover and pillows.

Gregory's duvet and pillows

Side by side with the curtains. I love how the prints aren’t too matchy matchy!

Gregory's duvet closeup

I’m pretty proud of the duvet cover, complete with double hems AND ties!

I’ve also purchased an organic toddler sized pillow for G, so once it arrives I will be making a few pillowcases.

Pretty much the only other thing that I still need to do for their room is to buy a bunch of new gray chevron-print crib sheets! With two kids on mattresses now, we need twice as many for those little diaper leak accidents my boys seem so prone to.

I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not they need to be organic sheets, but since they’re no longer babies (what? sniff sniff), I’m okay with settling for normal fabric, especially because we’re on a tight budget 🙂

One room almost done! Many more to go!

Chevron sheet

Good Blog Post

I’ve always found my friend Sarah’s blog enjoyable, but I thought that her post today was especially good. Read about how she labored at home for 3 days with her baby, then finally made the decision to transfer to the hospital.

Isn't her baby just the CUTEST THING EVER??? Sorry, Sarah, hope you don't mind me stealing pictures of your adorable girl. She even has my sister's nickname-- Nell!

Isn’t her baby just the CUTEST THING EVER??? Sorry, Sarah, hope you don’t mind me stealing pictures of your adorable girl. She even has my sister’s nickname– Nell!

What I found so refreshing about this blog post was her absolute honesty. It was helpful for me, as well, to realize the immense amount of guilt and shame associated with “failing” at an all natural birth. I’ve always struggled with empathy in every area of my life– I try, but I’m just really bad at it, turns out.

Sarah’s post helped me to understand the other side of things so that I can avoid hurting feelings. Out of all my friends who’ve had babies, 90% of them (including me) had a ROUGH labor with their first baby. Around half of those ended up in the hospital with an epidural, despite the fact that they took tons of measures to avoid it. By the grace of God, I made it through my 22+ hour labor without transferring or needing drugs (although G did come out BACK OF HIS NECK first! Yikes!). But it’s safe to say that I could use some help with empathy in this area.

Also, she was RIGHT ON with how her struggles with breastfeeding changed her outlook towards mothers who use formula. My first two weeks breastfeeding were literal hell-on-earth, full of tons of cussing and “WHY GOD, WHY??”. Then, when he was 10 months old, I had to use two months worth of formula on him because I got pregnant again. I’m so grateful that my experience with Anthony has been the complete opposite, but I’m also glad that it wasn’t my FIRST experience, or else I wouldn’t be able to understand the other side of it. If feeding Anthony had been my first experience with breastfeeding, I’d have probably put my foot in my mouth about a dozen times, then fallen flat on my face when I struggled the next time around.

Anthony’s 9 Month Checkup

This morning was Anthony’s 9 month checkup. He was a whopping 20.5 pounds, which is hilarious considering Gregory was only 18 pounds at 12 months! Just goes to show how different these two really are! Anthony is also very tall for his age– 30 inches! For comparison, Gregory was 36 inches at his 2 YEAR appointment, and they said he was above average.

So…yay! Tall boys! Bring on the basketball scholarships!

I haven’t talked much about what/why we’ve been feeding Anthony the way that we have. Basically, after my first experience with Gregory, I made breastfeeding a huge priority this time around. I took refresher classes, read tons of literature about the possibility of tandem nursing, and got prepared with all new pump parts and only the best bottles. I got ready to save tons of milk in the freezer, just so I could have a huge backup supply.

I think that I can contribute 99% of our success this time around to a few key things: 1. ON DEMAND feeding, 2. Less hectic work schedule, allowing me to be around him most of the day (I’ve read that just the smell of your baby can help your milk production!), 3. No pacifiers, 4. No solids until 7 months, and 5. No bottles. The last one was kind of an accident, because we had no need for bottle feeding and we didn’t introduce it more than twice. As a result, he rejected them all together. I had to throw away the 5 or 6 feedings I had frozen because they were so old!

But it’s amazing how easy breastfeeding is compared to anything else! No bottles to wash, no pumping sessions, no formula to buy. Just 5-8 minutes of nursing, 5 times a day. That’s less than an hour!

Also, I think it is greatly helping his immune system. Other than Jesse, all SIX people in this house got sick with an RSV infection last week. Gregory’s was pretty bad– high fever for a week, puking every time he coughed (every.time. so.much.mucous!). My dad stayed home from work for 3 days. I had to stay home for 2 days. My mom, Janelle and Caitlin felt sick and congested, but struggled through their everyday routines. I was really worried about Anthony, since it can be really dangerous for babies (my sister was hospitalized with it at 9 months old!).

Instead of ANY of that, Anthony got by with a 1 day runny nose! I find that amazing, to be quite honest, and I had pretty high expectations to begin with.

I’m also grateful that whatever hypo-thyroid issue I had seems to have resolved itself. After the first 20 pounds (those are always the quick ones right after birth!), I lost weight gradually and naturally, without any drop in milk supply. I fit back into my size 2/4 stuff within 6 months, which was definitely a nice plus. Also, no period for 9+ months (19+ months, if you include pregnancy!)= definite advantage!!! Yes, I’m excited about that last part, because mine are pretty much more painful than anything I’ve ever experienced (other than childbirth).

The ONLY downside, and I really mean ONLY, is the night time. Anthony’s still waking up twice a night to eat. He has a hard time “agreeing” to go back in his crib at the 4am feeding, plus he’s usually over-saturated his diaper and wet his sleeper at this time (lots of nursing= LOTS of pee).

Our saving grace is that we’ve introduced a bit of “self-soothing” (aka, crying it out) at his naps and first sleeping session of the night. He’s been able to put himself to sleep within 5 minutes, so at least there’s that!

Overall, I’m so incredibly grateful that things have worked out this well thus far. I feel as though I went through such a difficult time with Gregory (9 months of fulltime nursing, 2 more months with supplementing due to pregnancy) that I didn’t believe nursing could be a wonderful and easy thing.

Now, I’ve seen the flip side and know why it is people make such a big deal about it. I know that everyone’s situation is different, but having seen both sides of the equation, I would pick 100% nursing every time.

a dance…about babysitting!

I just HAD to post this dance from tonight’s SYTYCD episode! Napoleon and Tabitha (our favorite choreographers) are about to have a baby, so they created a dance routine that perfectly captures the craziness that is trying to get a baby to go to sleep. It’s absolutely brilliant. If you wanna laugh your face off (and, if you’re a parent, cry a little inside), you should watch this!