Family Command Center

First and foremost, a disclaimer: I am not claiming to run a perfect household. On the contrary, these things are tools so that I can one day HOPE to have clean clothes and dishes on a normal basis 😉

Over the past couple of months, I’ve worked hard to perfect our family command center in the hallway and on the side of the fridge. I had a lot of strict criteria for this space– extremely functional, uncluttered AND pretty.

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Absolutely essential, first and foremost, is our large wall calendar from Amazon. Our phones are synced with our schedules as well, but a visual calendar makes sure that nothing falls through the cracks. Electronic calendars only work if you use them– visual ones are right there in your face every day.

Next in line in importance is the weekly meal calendar. I used this free printout from Jenny Collier, and had my dad blow it up into a big 11×14 copy at his work. Jesse then laminated it for me so that I could use dry erase markers on it. Having a meal calendar may seem like overkill, but it makes our household run so much more smoothly, since Jesse is often the one who starts dinner on the weekdays since I am teaching piano. Before we started doing this, we were constantly finding ourselves staring at a pantry full of food, wondering what we should eat, deciding to go out to eat instead. “Fail to plan, plan to fail”, I’ve heard it said. It also forces me to make grocery shopping a one time a week deal.

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Gregory also has his own little chore chart (free from Dandee-Designs). I give him little stars whenever he completes any of these things: making his bed, putting on his clothes by himself, putting away his dishes, brushing his teeth, and putting away his toys.  There aren’t many stars on it right now because he keeps ripping them off later 🙂 Oh well, boys will be boys!

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Then there’s my dollar store frame trifecta.  I have my weekly workout calendar (free from design finch) to keep me motivated, my daily cleaning schedule and my weekly cleaning schedule (free from Blooming Homestead).

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The daily/evening chore chart is one that I created myself, just because I couldn’t find anything I liked on Pinterest (gasp!). You can click here for the free printable: Daily Chores.

Daily Chores

Why do I have two different cleaning checklists? Honestly, because the weekly one has extra chores on it that I don’t always know if I can get to during my morning routine. Basically, they’re my “wish” list, but I don’t need to feel devastated if they don’t happen. The daily chores are the ones that NEED to happen if our house is going to run.

Last but not least, I have a Valentine that Jesse gave me last year, hung right at eye level. Every time the going gets rough, or it seems like I can’t get everything done, I’m reminded that I’m enough, either way 🙂

command center 1

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 🙂

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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

Gregory’s Playground

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Inside the house, the boys have quite a lot of room to play.

Our downstairs bedroom is entirely devoted to toys and crafts (better pics coming, someday).  Our living room is pretty large and usually set up with trains or animals. The conversation/fire pit currently houses the train table extravaganza. And then they have their bedroom upstairs, which is free for the taking since we don’t use a baby gate (Anthony *only* had one or two major tumbles while he was figuring it all out…we like to live on the edge– er, hurtling ourselves down the edge, whichever way you look at it…).

But outside….our sideyard was still awaiting something fun for the boys. I’ve been TRYING to get Jesse to agree to buy a “big kid” playground made of wood for the boys to grow into, but he has firmly put his foot down about that one for now. The thing is, he makes a good argument, in many ways. So many people spend hundreds on a playground that their kids refuse to use, simply because whatever you don’t have is what you want. In other words, the playground at the park will always be more exciting.

And then, you take into account my boys. Gregory is adventurous, but only when he knows what the outcome will be, down to the most minute detail. I get it, because he inherited this from me. Move across the country? Sure, I’ll be brave, but only if you let me research the idea within an inch of its life.

And there’s AJ….AJ, who, at 16.5 months, still refuses to walk. Or stand on his own. His language abilities are off the charts for his age (he speaks in full sentences!), but he’s not the adventurous, fall-on-your-face type.

And don’t even TRY to get either of them on a swing. I’ve tried multiple times over the years, because what kid doesn’t love swings? But they get this strange look on their face, as though they are turning as red as a tomato and about to puke all over. And the whimpering…Swings are synonymous with torture devices in their book.

Now that I think through it, sadly, they both inherited that from me too. I get SO motion sick, that even swings are off limits for me 😦

So, given all that, is it worth the hundreds of dollars to buy a playground right now?

Probably not.

But that doesn’t mean we gave up on an outdoor play space for G. We inherited EVERYTHING, even the sand (I’m not a huge fan of “plastic” play things, but free is AWESOME in my book!), and Gregory hasn’t stopped playing with them since! *Seriously*. I can send him outside, watch from the dining and kitchen windows, and he will play for 1-2 hours straight. He collects all sorts of treasures from the yard, including acorns, feathers, and various rocks, and stores them in his “house”. He climbs like a monkey all over that thing. The slide is the perfect speed for him. NO SWINGS either.

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Really, this is just the thing for us at this point in time. Playgrounds are supposed to be fun and full of adventure, giving the kids the means to explore the outdoors on their own (I’m such a fan of “self-lead” learning, simply because they have fun and I get stuff done! Win-win!).

I foresee many more happy memories for the boys in the coming months 🙂

Boho Chic Teen Bedroom

I must say, interior design runs in the family. This is a fact I never knew until my sister was born. Two sisters, the bookends of the family, with two messy brothers born in the 12 years between us.

This 15 year old girl has made her room into a sanctuary.

Get ready for this now.

IMAG0157_Anne

IMAG0156_Anne IMAG0164 IMAG0175 IMAG0178 IMAG0179

 

Cool, right? Who knew how to decorate like this when THEY were 15?

$72 Concrete Patio Tutorial for the Beginner

Patio Tutorial header BIG

Jesse and I have been gathering our momentum when it comes to DIY projects around here. I think that this is partly because our confidence has been growing the more we finish things with a certain degree of success!

One of the projects we embarked upon early this summer was a patio for our awkward courtyard that is sandwiched between the garage and the french doors of our downstairs bedroom.

Here’s what it looked like when we bought the house:

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Ew City, right?

Ew City, right?

 

This little spot felt so awkward and gross to us. I mean. there was a ratty old carpet and everything by the door.  We felt that the french doors should open onto something more welcoming!

We considered using pavers for a while, until we realized that for our 9×10 plot, we were talking about something close to $300-400, when all was said and done. We wanted something more immediate, rather than waiting forever to save up.

Then, I read a few interesting reviews for a $25 product on Amazon called the Pathmate. We didn’t know anyone who used it, but we got excited and decided to give it a try.

Patio Tutorial 2

After just under $75, here’s what we ended up with!

Patio Project 8

 

Patio Project 6

 

Patio Project 7

 

I didn’t take step by step pictures, but here’s what we did:

Materials:

Pathmate– $23

Concrete– 15 bags x $3

1 bag of bark– $4

Sand– Free from my inlaws’ creek bed! Any sand will do, as far as I know.

Total: $72!

1. Clear out and level the ground. Don’t skimp on this step! If the ground isn’t level, the mold won’t sit well, and the concrete won’t dry level. We used a 2×2 board on the ground to determine whether or not the ground was level.

2. Find a large wheel barrow to mix the cement in. DO NOT waste money on the cement mixer that they sell! As long as you have a hubby with huge guns, he can mix all that concrete, even if you decide to do this project on two of the hottest days of the year (whoops…).

3. Mix up a batch of concrete, using hose water and a shovel. We found that things worked best when we had a soupier mixture than the directions called for.

Patio Tutorial 3

4. Place the Pathmate mold in your first spot, and have one person spoon the cement mixture in with the large shovel, while the other person smoothes things out with a small trowel. We found that this method was less messy than pouring it in with the wheelbarrow.

5. Wait 3-5 minutes, shimmy the mold gently off, and move it “next door”! It should fit together like a puzzle piece. You can also add concrete stain at this point, although we didn’t.

6. Repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat……make sure you have lots of water to drink……(seriously, why did we choose to do this project in JULY????).

7. When you have the patio shape you want, wait at least a day for the concrete to “cure” (see, Dad! I could’ve been a civil engineer like you!).

8. Add sand in the cracks to smooth it all out and hold it together. You definitely don’t want lots of bugs making their homes in the hundreds of 2 inch deep crevices! Yikes! We used sand from Jesse’s childhood home, so it was free.

Patio Tutorial 4

9. After pouring it on liberally, use an outdoor broom to sweep it all off, making sure that the sand settles where you want it to in the cracks. Then spray it down with the power nozzle on a hose.

Patio tutorial 1

10. Dress it up! We used bark for the edges. I would have LOVED to plant flowers, a little trellis, etc., but we have 10-15 deer visit our yard on a daily basis, and nothing survives the onslaught.

Patio Project 8

That’s it! While I still love the look of travertine tiles, this was a MUCH MUCH cheaper option, and I’m so glad we gave it a try! Next up, we’d love to build a small box enclosure for our ugly air conditioning unit!

Another Laundry Room Update: Almost Done!

Guys, this laundry room is getting done! This week is our second to last week before School Orientations starts, so we are working hard to tie up all the loose ends on our summer projects.

The biggest priority for us is to have a functioning, organized and classy lookin’ laundry room! We’re so close!

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And to think, this same view used to look like this!!!

Before

Before

Not everything’s done, however….one of the shelves fell down not too long ago (our washing machine is like a space ship, I tell ya, and the high efficiency spin cycle just about ripped the wall anchors out!). Jesse is patching the holes and working on putting it back up as we speak.

Here's the closer side of the room from the same exact spot

There will be a second shelf below this as soon as the putty dries.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Again, it’s amazing to see how different it used to look!

Progress

Progress

Here’s the left side of the room!

My laundry folding station!!!!

My laundry folding station!!!!

We have the option of putting the last 2 baskets on the bottom, but I'm wondering if it would be better for shoes?

We have the option of putting the last 2 baskets on the bottom, but I’m wondering if it would be better for shoes?

The biggest thing we have left to do is level the flooring and place down tile. We MIGHT tackle that next week, but you never know!

Chalk Paint Hutch

Remember that old hutch I bought off of Craigslist?

After we added chicken wire to the doors (instead of glass)

After we added chicken wire to the doors (instead of glass)

It has now been transformed using chalk paint! I removed all of the hardware, then slapped on some DIY chalk paint that I made using this tutorial from the Clumsy Crafter. I decided to make my own instead of buying it online because it’s quite expensive! I already had the gray I wanted to use, and the Plaster of Paris was only $6 at Home Depot!

Hutch after milk paint Hutch after milk paint closeup

 

More pictures once the laundry room is complete!

Wheelin and Dealin

My mom, sister and I love to spend Saturday mornings garage sale-ing. We got so much this time, it hardly all fit into my Mom’s SUV!

Nothing says vintage bucket like....what???

Nothing says vintage bucket like….what???

Luckily, I knew that I already had the same color metallic spray paint. Ah, much better already!

Luckily, I knew that I already had the same color metallic spray paint. Ah, much better already!

I got this big green bucket for the mudroom to hold the boys' outdoor toys. I already had a few things with the same color green! It's coming together!

I got this big green bucket for the mudroom to hold the boys’ outdoor toys. I already had a few things with the same color green! It’s coming together!

Look at this cute little jar I found!

Look at this cute little jar I found!

With a little glossy white spray paint, it now looks right at home!

With a little glossy white spray paint, it now looks right at home!

 

These tumblers are also the same green, and were only a quarter!

These tumblers are also the same green, and were only a quarter!

A fun hook to hold my purse

A fun hook to hold my purse

This chair may not look like much, but I have PLANS. Plus, it was only $5! We already made it sturdier with some wood glue in the joints. Next up, paint!

This chair may not look like much, but I have PLANS. Plus, it was only $5! We already made it sturdier with some wood glue in the joints. Next up, paint!

Water shoes and crocs for G, just in time for Big Sur!

Water shoes and crocs for G, just in time for Big Sur!

Best deal of the day-- a set of vintage Thomas the Tank Engine books!

Best deal of the day– a set of vintage Thomas the Tank Engine books!

I got this great condition trampoline for G for $5. And this is what he chose to do on it for the first half hour :)

I got this great condition trampoline for G for $5. And this is what he chose to do on it for the first half hour 🙂

Luckily, he soon figured it out!

Luckily, he soon figured it out!

Cute pose

Cute pose

Some "color your own" placemats for a quarter

Some “color your own” placemats for a quarter

 

A brand new womens' Puma track suit! $2!!!

A brand new womens’ Puma track suit! $2!!!

A Nike windbreaker for $1!

A Nike windbreaker for $1!

Some cool gladiator sandals

Some cool gladiator sandals

 

An Oneill Sherpa Jacket, $1!

An Oneill Sherpa Jacket, $1! Can’t wait to wear it around the campfire at Big Sur 🙂

Even AJ got a book!

Even AJ got a book!

 

 

 

 

 

More Laundry Room Progress!

Our new hutch for storage, along with our bench to the right (which will soon have beadboard and a shelf up behind it) and our desk to the left (waiting for the right chairs to come along!).

Our new hutch for storage, along with our bench to the right (which will soon have beadboard and a shelf up behind it) and our desk to the left (waiting for the right chairs to come along!).

The hutch during the day. Gregory has been using the doors to play church all morning!

The hutch in daylight. Gregory has been using the doors to play church all morning! Within the next week, I’ll paint it gray, with glass knobs and distressing on the edges!

My inspiration picture for the hutch

My inspiration picture for the hutch

 

The desk area. I turned off the farmhouse light so it's clearer

The desk area. I turned off the farmhouse light so it’s clearer

 

A closeup of the antique cabinet I bought a few days ago. Only $30!

A closeup of the antique cabinet I bought a few days ago. Only $30! And yes, I’ve switched the numbers to their proper places 🙂

Jesse and his dad hung my shelves up! Now, I need to get the right galvanized metal tubs and baskets for storage!

Jesse and his dad hung my shelves up! Now, I need to get the right galvanized metal tubs and baskets for storage!

Our contractor finished the door frame today (despite the fact that his wife had a baby less than 48 hours ago!).

Our contractor finished the door frame today (despite the fact that his wife had a baby less than 48 hours ago!).

Now, we have this super long corridor/wind tunnel from our piano in the living room to the hutch! I am guessing that we are talking around 200 ft long!

Laundry Room:Long Hallway

 

 

Laundry Room Progress

 

The “wall” is finally finished! We even painted it!

Laundry Room Progress 1

The only downside to this stage of the game is that because we re-used the door, we currently have a gaping hole now instead of a door frame. Hopefully that will get fixed soon because for right now, it’s ugly, and dangerous for crawling baby knees.

Laundry Room Progress 4

See what I mean?

Here’s the view from the kitchen into the laundry room.

Laundry Room Progress 3

 

To the left as you go out the door, we are going to build a laundry basket/folding/ironing station, right where the small white desk and chalkboard currently reside.

Laundry Room Progress 6

Our construction plans for a countertop above the washer and dryer are quite masterful, really.

Laundry Room Progress 5

And here’s a cleaner shot of the desk and expedit bench. I’m also digging our farmhouse light (matches the one we have in the kitchen).

Laundry Room Progress 2

We still have SO much to do in here, including tile flooring, beadboard wainscoting, hooks, shelves, baskets, filing systems, window trim…..so much to do. However, the space is functional and air conditioned, so I’m not complaining!
It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, this space looked like this!
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