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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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
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? 😉
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!
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
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?
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.
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 🙂
One of my favorite things in the world is to cuddle with my boys first thing in the morning, especially if they wake up at the same time (7:45am today, thank God! Gregory has been getting up in the 6am hour lately which is driving us nuts!!!).
I cannot say enough about how much joy these two bring me. Anthony, in particular, is SO cuddly since he stopped nursing a few weeks ago. He makes the sweetest little sighs when you hold him. He gives the biggest kisses, saying, “Tss! tss!”
Gregory, in particular, is turning into SUCH a little boy lately. He’s definitely showing signs of leaving the toddler stage and entering the preschool stage full-on. He talks to his belly when he’s full (“we gobbled up the food!”), gathers tons of acorns like a hoarder, buries things in the yard, dumps sand on his head at any opportunity, and loves to explore. Jesse is really loving this new stage with him, and I do too, most of the time (the independence, at times, makes me sad, but that’s why I have my barnacle Baby Anthony!).
I love my boys and I love spending time with them. I dread the day when they leave to start families of their own 😦
Listen up– wanna know the BESTEST and most romantic campground on Hwy 1? Definitely Limekiln State Park.
To back up, we actually didn’t even get a reservation! When we checked online, the park was booked. Our Plan B was to try two different “first come, first serve” campgrounds about 20 minutes away.
But….with Jesse’s first day of teaching orientation, getting packed and getting the kids out the door to the grandparents, we left later than we wanted (remember what I said about Jesse only being late when it’s the family’s fault?). By the time we drove the 90 minutes and arrived at the two different campgrounds, every site was taken.
But we weren’t about to let something this small get in the way of our awesome anniversary trip! We decided that Plan C was to drive back the way we came and find a room in Cambria or San Simeon.
Before we turned around, however, we decided to go park at Limekiln and take a quick hike up to see the falls.
We pulled up at the rangers window at Limekiln, and she asked if we had reservations. No….<sheepish look>. Then she asked if we wanted the Overflow Site.
What the WHAT? we both asked?
The Overflow Site, she explained. We’d have to park about 30 yards away, but we could park the car on it just to unload our stuff.
Oh, she added. It’s an oceanfront site. Hope that’s okay.
GET OUT! I screamed. No, I actually did. What was most awkward was the fact that she was 60+ years old, and didn’t understand. She just looked taken aback.
So, the long and short of it was…..
WE GOT THIS BEACH FRONT SITE FOR $35!!!
Let’s see that again, shall we?
We immediately set up our stuff and went to enjoy a sunset on the beach together 🙂
Jesse’s gonna kill me, but I LOVE this picture. What can I say, he’s totally buff.
We then went out to dinner. Our lovely park ranger who gave us the site also told us about Santa Lucia Restaurant 2 miles north.
I’ve been driving back and forth from Big Sur for over 20 years, but somehow I don’t ever remember seeing this little place! It was so quaint, and so cute, with a PERFECT JAWDROPPING ocean view.
Our food was so yummy.
It was dark by the time we arrived back at our campsite, but Jesse quickly got a fire started and we broke open a bottle of wine. By the fireside. Imagine a totally romantic evening, and then triple it. It was an absolutely perfect evening, 65 degrees with a tiny breeze (not “beach” windy at all, probably because Limekiln is in its own little cove).
Once we had finished our wine, we walked hand in hand on the beach under the stars. We found a perfect place on the sand and watched shooting stars, reminiscing about the last 10 years of our life together.
The next morning, we drank our coffee by the crashing waves. It was almost too much awesome to handle!
After a tiny breakfast (we decided that a restaurant brunch was the way to go), we quickly packed up our site and went hiking! Limekiln has two awesome trails– the Falls, and the Kilns.
Then, there were the kilns where they used to purify the rocks over 100 years ago.
Once we were done hiking, we drove 30 minutes back down the mountain to Ragged Point, the famous spot where Jesse proposed 8 years ago. We had an amazing brunch/lunch, while sitting in the gorgeous Restaurant Garden.
Before getting back in the car, we decided to visit the actual spot where Jesse proposed.
It was an absolutely fabulous trip that we were able to do for under $150, even with 2 fancy meals and staying overnight! I highly recommend it, and this will go down as my favorite anniversary yet!
7 Years Ago, Jesse and I were married! More significantly, Jesse and I have also been together for a whole decade! 10 years! I’ve been dating him for more than a third of my life!
In honor of 7 years, here are 7 reasons I love and appreciate Jesse!
1. His sense of humor.
This aspect of his personality is not always something I’ve appreciated, quite honestly. I used to get annoyed with it. But now, it isn’t even something I’ve just “learned to live with”– it’s something I couldn’t live without.
2. His dedication.
I think that I can count on ONE hand the times when Jesse’s been late. To ANYTHING. Work, appointments, promises….basically, if you’ve ever seen him be late, it’s because he has the boys or me to tow around. If he says he’ll be at the restaurant at 6:30, he’ll get there at 6:25. He sticks with things, even when they’re flawed (in fact, flaws usually makes him love stuff more).
3. His intensity.
I once heard someone say about Jesse that he’s the kind of guy does the right thing, even when no one’s watching. I also know that he’s the kind of guy who gives 110% to every situation, even when no one’s watching. I’ve heard him agonize over teaching details that no one will ever see to appreciate. He can barely bring himself to wear jeans on Casual Fridays at school, simply because he doesn’t think he’s giving the job his best.
4. His parenting.
Jesse is SUCH a good dad, you guys. I know that most moms say this, but I still cannot resist praising him. This guy does more diapers than I do. He was there to “catch” both babies at their births. He wakes up first with them 90% of the time on our days off (even Saturdays, his only day to sleep in!). He rough houses with them, he sings them lullabies at night. There’s no parenting job he considers himself too manly for, and in my opinion, that makes him pretty manly 🙂
5. His service.
Along the same lines as the last one, there is no housekeeping job Jesse considers mine. He just pitches in where he can, when he can. He irons his own clothes, he sometimes throws in a load of laundry or cloth diapers. He vacuums and dusts. He cleans out the fridge. I’d keep going, but you’d get jealous.
6. His love for good TV and music.
His taste in TV and music has definitely improved mine! We have quite a few TV shows that we enjoy together and can’t get enough of. He almost always has music playing in the house, and he never gets in the car without first turning on something good.
7. He doesn’t treat me as his equal.
Woah, I know, that could come across as totally offensive. It’s not though– it’s actually wonderful. He treats me BETTER than if I were his equal. He values and respects the ways in which I am more talented than he is, and he actually listens to me and follows my lead on a lot of things as though I was the one in charge of things (I’m really NOT in charge, he is, but he is willing to change his entire opinion if it’s something I think is better or right). He cherishes me enough to NOT always let me have my way, usually when it means I would end up hurting myself or others.
If I were his equal, he wouldn’t stick through half of the arguments I put him through. But he cares more about us than his own selfish desires, and always wants to work on and fix things in our relationship, even when it hurts.
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.
Cool, right? Who knew how to decorate like this when THEY were 15?
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!
This past weekend, we travelled down to see TONS of friends in the LA/Orange County area. We have a huge community of friends down there, left over from both college and our early Orthodox days at St. Barnabas.
Our first stop was a July 4th celebration at Mitch and Trenna’s (our godparents) wonderful house in Yorba Linda. They had invited the entire godfamily AND their kids and grandkids. It was a sight to behold– over 20 kids, running crazy, along with around 40 adults. We haven’t been down to see any of them since I was preggo with Anthony, so we had a lot of catching up to do! It was heavenly.
Because Trenna has 5 grandkids, she has a wonderful yard for playing. G got busy right away (after being in the car for 5 hours straight, it must’ve felt awesome to run around and jump in water!). There were kiddie pools, a slip n slide, yummy snacks, a playhouse, and an activity water table!
We lost sight of G for a short while (which was okay, because the whole yard was fenced), and when we noticed him again, he had jumped into a kiddie pool, clothes and shoes and all! He was in seventh heaven.
Gregory and Annalyse were partners in crime the entire day. They actually had a planned attack to corner the cat at one point! They shared and played so well that Gregory has been asking to play with her ever since.
We spent Friday night at the Shelbys in their 2nd bedroom. Saturday morning, we made a breakfast scramble of all the leftover grilled veggies and steak. Then, we headed out to their apartment complex’s pool!
Late Saturday afternoon, we packed the kids in the car and headed to Corona to spend the night at Jesse’s brother’s girlfriend’s house. It was in a newer development in Corona, so it was HUGE and practically brand new. AND we had it all to ourselves since the family had other plans that night.
Also, there was a gorgeous pool with a hilltop view of the valley. Jesse and David swam with the boys while I headed down for some alone time at the giant mall (ANTHROPOLOGIE!!!). But I did manage to take some pictures when I got back.