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 🙂

my boys

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!!!).

Turns out, it's super hard to get a selfie of all 3 of us, especially when one of them (ahem, Gregory!) is flailing about

Turns out, it’s super hard to get a selfie of all 3 of us, especially when one of them (ahem, Gregory!) is flailing about

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 😦

Anthony would NOT smile, so I joined him.

Anthony would NOT smile, so I joined him.

Gregory 2.5 Month Letter

Gregory and AJ hugging 2013

Lovin on your brother

Gregory with makeup on 2013

Raiding Momma’s makeup bag

Gregory Thomas the Train face

Pure joy and excitement over Thomas!

Gregory sweeping with Dadda

Like Father like Son

Gregory reading to Roger 2013

Reading stories to Roger

Gregory in glasses

Trying on some glasses– future nerd alert!

Cooking up a storm

Cooking up a storm

Enthralled with the tiger

Enthralled with the tiger

cuddling brothers

Morning Thomas the Tank Engine cuddles

Gregory asleep in carseat April 2013

You love to sleep in the car!

Gregory eating in highchair, March 2013

So enthusiastic about food!

Gregory playing with trains

Playing with trains

Dear Gregory,

You are a little over 2.5 years old. There are so many things that we love about you, that it takes Mommy a few days to compile it all!

The biggest thing we want to remember about this stage of life with you is your extremely joyful spirit. We asked your Uncle David what he thought of you, and the first thing he said was, “He makes me want to be a happier person! He’s always so cheerful!”. And it’s true– you are enthusiastic, over-the-top excited, and want to giggle hysterically about everything. You greet the members of your family with sheer and utter joy, and you love to interact and sing/dance with people. You have a special “Happy Dance” that you break into whenever you are especially exuberant about something and just can’t contain yourself.

You talk ALL the time. We love the way you talk to yourself about what you’re doing, saying,”YEAH” in reply to all of your little suggestions. You will reiterate the days’ events for us in a sweet little voice, remembering little details that even we’d forgotten. Our favorite sayings of yours: “Thank-oo Mama!” (high voice), “What issit?” (pointing to all sorts of stuff), “Cookie for cookoopoofs!” (thanks David!).

You also are having trouble pronouncing a few words, making it sound (at times) like you are screaming obscenities, especially the F word. You have caused your Momma more than few embarrassing moments in public!

Your funniest conversations occur when you’re playing with your Thomas trains. You re-enact all of the little TV episodes you’ve seen, chastising engines, making them best friends, telling them to be patient, etc…You play with your trains around 70% of your waking day. We received a train table from a friend, and you LOVE it!

The other thing you love to play is church. You use the kitchen cabinets are your “Royal Doors”, take cups and put a cloth over them to simulate “cuh-moon-un”, sing Alleluiahs all over the house at the top of your lungs, and hold books high in the air as though you’re reading scripture. You use hangers as your “censor” and have a special technique that no one else can master (although you stubbornly try to instruct us!). You have a funny little way of crossing yourself that looks like you beating your chest– super cute!

Two more things you are obsessed with– windshield wipers (Dadda turns them on in the car on random so that we can hear you squeal in delight!), and helping Mamma sweep. You also pretend to cook with your new pots and pans from ikea. You describe all of the funny concoctions you are making, like “Oranges soup!”.

You seem to be obsessed with whatever sport is currently on TV, probably because your dad is always watching a game or two. You watch intently, then mimic their mannerisms exactly. For example, you grab Momma’s softball glove, pretend you’re on a pitching mound, look left then right, pretend to throw to first, then raise a leg and throw it. Your batting stance has also gotten a lot better because you’ve been watching hitters pivot as they swing!

When you are shooting hoops with Dadda outside, you say tons of hilarious things like, “That’s MONEY right there!” when he makes it, or “AIRBALL!” when he doesn’t. You usually are super encouraging, saying things like, “Wow Dadda good shot!”. You love to point out the free throw line and the 3 point line. A few times, the ball has almost hit you and you’ve looked at Dadda and said, “woah! SCARED!”. This is the first time we’d ever heard you mention being scared when we’re not referencing the “roller coaster” from Happy Hollows!

You LOVE to sing. Your cutest renditions right now are “Old MacDonald” (you love to name all the animals!), Patty Cake, and Happy Birthday (you carry a “cake” around the house and pretend to blow out candles, complete with the “underwater” Cone version). You also like it when we sing to you, and you have a specific order of bedtime songs that you make us follow everytime– “You Are My Sunshine”, “O Theotokos”, “Close Your Eyes”, “O Gladsome Light”, and the tuck-in song, “The Eyes of All”. Whenever music is on, you automatically start swaying your hips to the beat and break into some HILARIOUS dance moves!

You’ve also become a great big brother. You constantly bring toys for Baby Wee, and even when you have a moment of selfishness and take something away from him, you immediately try to replace it with something else. You’ve established a “screech-call” together that keeps you both giggling hysterically as you yell it back and forth in the mornings. Last night, we heard Anthony in the other room crying. When we ran into investigate, you told us that you’d taken the ball away from Wee because it was “too small” and he wasn’t supposed to have it. You seemed concerned, like you really wanted to care for your brother’s safety!

Before bed, you love to wrestle wildly with Dadda, then give big open mouth smooches to everyone (Dadda has to remind you to close your lips! ew!), then ride piggy back upstairs to bed. You also still use a “die-die” (pacifier), but we’re working on that 🙂

You are super affectionate. You sign “I Love You!” to people all the time now, and it’s just the cutest thing ever.

When you don’t like something, you’re very clear about it. For example, when you don’t want to wear a particular pair of shoes, you cry over and over again that they’re “too big! too big” even though the opposite it usually true. It’s just your way of saying you don’t like them. You STILL don’t like swings, and you only occasionally like slides. Now that we’ve started counting to three before giving you a spanking or time-out, you’re very obedient 90% of the time. Everyone’s noticed how much more cooperative you are. Sometimes, as we’re counting, you sit there staring at us, and when we get to three, you end with a shout, “NO SPANKING!”.

You LOVE animals. You get a huge kick out of the deer that come to roost on our lawn, and watch them at the window for hours. You also love the zoo! We’ve taken you to the Sacramento Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo (last summer), our small Charles Paddock zoo (1-2x/month), and Happy Hollows (more of an amusement park).

This last March, you got a new toddler bed. You took to it right away without any transition period. Since you did start waking up super early as a result, we got you an “OK TO WAKE” owl, which you love to show off to everyone (also, as a result, when we ask you what owls say, you reply, “Hoo-hoo”, then sing a little song, just like your owl!). You have a recurring nightmare that you’ve pooped all over the bed, so I often have to convince you that you’re completely dry in the mornings 🙂

Last but not least, you had your first Easter Egg/Pascha celebration this year! You love eating all the food, and we are still slowly making our way through your Pascha candy (occasionally you get one as a treat). You have a cute rendition of “Christ is Risen”, wherein you combine the last three lines of the song into one 🙂

Some of your best sayings/conversations:

Me: Thomas and Percy are best friends!
Gregory: Yeah.
Me: Who’s your best friend?
Gregory: Me! I’M my best friend!
Me: “Gregory, why can’t you play with Thomas trains.”
Gregory: “I was NAWty.”
Me: “How were you naughty?”
Gregory: “I got time-out.”
Me: “Yes you did. How were you naughty? What did you do to Baby Wee?”
Gregory: “I took him out. On the carpet.”
Real conversation I just overheard from Gregory: “There’s a bat and a ball! Gregory plays baseball! Homerun! Yay for Gregory! There’s the ball again! The ball is soft. Poopy is soft. Eeeewy poopy. Don’t hit poopy.”
Gregory keeps telling the ice cubes in his cup to “take a bath!”. Seriously, could my kid get any cuter?
 I told G that Dadda was picking up a surprise from MissTracy, and now he’s running around frantically looking in every box he can find, saying, “Surprise in there? Surprise in there? It’s a Toby car, I jus know it!”
Me:” Who loves you, Gregory?”
Gregory: “Nana, Awntee Em, Awntee Brookie, Unk-ul Ray Ray…”
Whenever I ask Gregory to do something, he responds with, “Okay, jus-a-minute. Be pash-unt.” So polite in his procrastination. Just like his Momma.
Gregory Singing: “A-B-C-D-S-I-J, Apples and Oranges, Kisses for Roger!”

We love you a ton, Gregory. You are turning into the little boy we’d always dreamed about!

Love, Momma

Gregory 26 Months

I just found this letter, written but not published! And now, here we are 4 months later! Where has the time gone?

Reading this has reminded me of why I do these letters– in just a few short months, I’d almost forgotten about a lot of these things! It brings me such joy to remember them, because he’s already outgrown so much.

Dearest Gregory,

Goodness me, you’ve grown so much in the past couple of months! It’s as though you took the whole baby-to-toddler thing seriously!
Gregory sweet face 11:12

You are super serious about any task you set your mind to. We joke that you have a mild case of OCD, because when you’re involved with something, whether it be coloring or shooting hoops in the living room, you are NOT to be dissuaded until you feel like you’ve done it JUST right.

Within just a few weeks, you went from 1-3 word phrases, to full on sentences and paragraphs. Instead of, “down!” you say, “Momma, peez get down now?” or, “No, I dunno wan a kiss kiss!” You remember what foods you like and request them specifically. Your favorites right now are “Yow-goot!”, “Sawbull ies” (strawberries), and “Back-a-deez!” (Mac and Cheese– you say this one so fast and full of excitement that it’s hard for others to understand).

You also made the huge jump towards knowing all of your letters and colors! We point to objects all over the house and say, “What color is this?” You repeat, “Whaa col-s’-dis?”, then you pause, thinking, and then you usually get it right! The difference between blue and green is still pretty hard, but you consistently get “back”, “pink”, “red”, “lellow” and “owange” right! Your aunts and uncles have been confusing you by throwing things like, “Teal” and “magenta” in there too.

You love to sing songs, and you have the sweetest little boy voice. Your favorites right now are, of course, Christmas songs. You stand at attention in front of the tree and sing, “Oh Kee-mas tree, oh Kee-mas tree, Luh-luh yuh banches!”. You sing “Happy Birthday” to random people, and every night you command mommy to “Sing SONG! SING Gegg-oly song! Sun-shine song!” (Mommy sings “You are My Sunshine” and uses your name in it). You also sing, “Spawn-bob, Squaw-pants!” over and over, since this is the only TV show you watch (we’ve tried others, you just don’t like anything else!).

Gregory piano playing 11:12

You love to play pretend with musical instruments. Nana bought you a recorder, and you actually figured out how to blow it AND play it, all by yourself! You sit down at the piano and get super serious about playing the keys, often singing along at the top of your voice. One of your fingers got a nasty blister on it from strumming Dadda’s guitar a little too roughly!

Your bedtime routine is super cute and touching. You go around to everyone in the house, saying, “Night night! Kiss lips!” (we had to make a distinction between tongue-kisses and lips-kisses, because things were getting pretty messy!). You often add a, “Luv Yoooo!” in at the end.
Gregory Bath 12-12

When you get hurt, you instantly want someone to come and, “Kiss an’ make bettuh”. Mommy will kiss the “boo-boo”, and then you say, “Again?” over and over, until Mommy has given you at least a dozen kisses. You also return the favor when someone else gets an owie!

Gregory fingers in A's mouth 12:12

You intensely dislike Anthony’s crying. In your weaker moments, you yell, “NO CRYING! WEE! NO CRYING!” with almost a growl. When we remind you to be gentle and say things nicely, you get sing-songy and softly say, “No crying, Wee! S’ okay! No crying, Buh-buh-bear!” You get super possessive when he touches your things, but you often hunt for the “bes-toy” and bring him something nice to suck on play with.

Lately, you are also very good at remembering things that we say and bringing them up later. If Mommy tells you we are going home to eat dinner, and forget to mention it for over an hour (it takes mommy and daddy a long time to mobilize and get home sometimes!), you will say, “Num-num? Din-uh?” the moment we pull in the driveway. This memory of yours is especially sharp when it comes to Basketball games and Mac n Cheese!

You are not potty-trained yet, but you do sit on your potty then pretend to pat yourself with a baby wipe. You often point to your diaper and say, “Poo-poo!” giving us a bit of a head start with changing you. We’re sure that when you set your mind to being potty trained, we’ll know. All in good time, right? 🙂

We love to play imaginative games with you, asking ridiculous questions (like, “do giraffes live in trees?). You tilt your head to one side, think about it, then say, “Nawwww!” in the cutest little voice. Lately, you’ve begun making up your own and saying, “Naww!” before we even have a chance to answer.

One last thing– you LOVE to watch videos of yourself! If you hear a video coming from Momma’s phone or laptop (usually when she’s uploading), you sprint on over and beg to watch it, over and over. You giggle hysterically when you see yourself, and oftentimes you preemptively say the exact things that you do on the video!

Gregory, we couldn’t imagine life without you. You are one special little boy, and we want to keep you forever.

Love, Momma

misc. and all that…

I'm sure we all feel like this, at one time or another

I’m sure we all feel like this, at one time or another

Here’s to the start of a new week. Last week kind of sucked. I threw my back out on Sunday night and had to attend two rounds of electro-therapy at my chiropractor in order to get it back in order. On top of everything, Gregory and I both got sick. Runny noses, fevers, coughing, sneezing, massive headaches from congestion? You name it, we got it.

We thought for sure that Baby Wee was going to get it, ushering in his very first illness ever (I’m pretty much in shock about his lack of illness, seeing as he lives in a house with teenagers, teachers and a nurse, ALL who bring home a variety of germs! Plus he crawls around sucking on EVERYTHING). But he didn’t! Not even a fever, just a clear runny nose for a day.

He did have a couple of really rough sleeping nights, where both Jesse and I were at our wits end. One morning, it took me a few hours before I fully “forgave” Wee for the night he gave us…I am pretty sure that his chunky lil’ body was fighting off the bug we all had. Btw, I am so thankful to have a husband who will get up with the baby at night, just so that I don’t have to 100% shoulder (literally, this kid is large!) the responsibility! His help enabled my sprained back to heal itself quickly.

Adopting a foster child is hard guys…hard hard. HARD. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who had two babies au naturale. And it’s not even hard in the ways I thought it was going to be, most of the time. I thought that all the “acting out” due to attachment issues would be the hard part, but, turns out, all of our training prepared us for that. We have a plan for the various scenarios, and it’s comforting (plus, all the knives, razors and drugs are locked up…).

What I didn’t realize would be so hard was the emotional pain. Not mine, hers. Watching someone have to go through that journey, finally coming to grips with the fact that they will never be with their biological mother and father…it’s heartbreaking. This experience has given me a whole new outlook on depression, pain, and sympathy towards others who are going through something that’s unconscionable for my experience. It’s a very exposed– a very RAW feeling– to suddenly realize that you don’t know what the other person is going through, you actually NEVER will, but you’re still supposed to be their main rock and support. Parents are “supposed” to have all the answers, and it feels like being on a stage where you don’t know your lines.

Gregory is such a little chatterbox right now! He knows all of his shapes, letters and colors, and loves to point them out. He even drew a triangle last week! He knows about 6 songs: “O Theotokos”, “The Eyes of All”, “Gladsome Light”, “Close Your Eyes” (James Taylor), “You are my Sunshine”, and, of course, “Happy Birthday”. His little versions of all these are adorable and priceless….when we can get him to perform, that is!

Anthony crawls around the house like a bandit, grabbing everything in sight and chewing it to death (teething?). He still barely eats any solids– around 1 serving a day. I try to go for 2 servings, but he’s just not that interested. He still nurses 6-8x/day though…sometimes I can get him to go for a 4 hour stretch, but he’s screaming and turning purple with rage by then, so we try not to let things come to that. Good grief, the kid is almost 10 months old. We have to get on this solids thing!

Anthony is also very very attached to me, which is adorable and also slightly annoying. He cries and follows me around the house and the kitchen when he wants something. Sometimes, if I’m in the kitchen, trying to make food, he literally goes in circles chasing after me. There are times where it drives me mad and I NEED my space, so I hide to eat my cereal, or I get another family member to distract him while I make an escape to another room! He always seems to know, though….

We should have a house update coming soon. Until the appraisal goes through, I am going to remain suspicious. We have purchased and delivered a new fridge to the place, so I guess we’re feeling semi-confident, but we’ve been hurt too many times to get too excited just yet.

School-wise, we’re reading some really fun books right now. In my 8th grade class, we’re reading Red Badge of Courage, which is one of my favorites to teach Junior High. We also have a “Castle War” coming up once we have all of my moving boxes at our disposal. Dr. Kleist taught me well, I’m afraid…In my Honors class, we’re reading Crime and Punishment at a break neck speed. The kids almost mutinied when they got their first two reading assignments– about 80 pages of reading a NIGHT! Muhahaha….now, I think they are finally numb to the pain and anguish 😉

I have more piano students than I can reasonably teach in a week, so I will be off-shooting my business and getting a “partner” of sorts! Stay tuned for that 🙂

What else…my dad and I did our 2012 taxes last night, hoping to get some $ back so we could buy Jesse a nice car…turns out, we OWE $28. No fair. I guess the government doesn’t see us as poor any longer, har-har. My dad pointed out that we did make quite a bit more this year, so I guess I shouldn’t be too mad…but it was nice getting several thousand back last year. I also kind of hate Turbotax. Watching that number at the top go UP and then DOOWWWWWN and then back up again definitely raised my blood pressure.

Not much more to report, other than I’m in the middle of a painting project. More on that later!

The "before"-- this bad boy just a major update.  MAJOR UPDATE! (yes, that I was a "how I met your mother" shout out...

The “before”– this bad boy just got a major update. (salute): MAJOR UPDATE! (yes, that was a “How I Met Your Mother” shout out…)

Christmas Activities!

Although we’ve been pretty occupied with finishing the school semester and finding a house/packing/moving, we were able to spend our weekend doing some fun Christmasey things, thanks to our awesome families!

On Saturday, after my mom and I ran a highly successful garage sale (the sale only made a combined total of around $150, but oh well!), we headed out to the Cone’s country house for some holiday fun.

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Auntie Em made some special vegan gingerbread cookies to decorate!

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Showing off the fruits of his labors 🙂

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For a toddler, THIS is what it’s all about…

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Gregory loved this little train/music player. He pushed it over and over again, saying, ” ‘GAIN!” and “bye train!”

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Showing Dadda

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Delighted!

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Nana and Gregory making some pine-CONE ornaments!

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Finished and so proud!

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Decorating Nana and Poppa’s tree

After dinner at the Cone’s, we headed over to Vine Street, a Paso Robles’ tradition dating back long before I was a kid! I have great memories of participating in this event when I was super little, so it was neat to take my own kids! The whole thing is a lot bigger than I remember it though– 25,000+ participate every year!

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AJ was NOT COOL with how cold it was!

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G kept warm with an Ernie beanie 🙂

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All of the neat Victorian houses are decorated oh-so-pretty!

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G’s favorite part was getting to pet the sheep. He was pretty zonked out during the live Nativity scene, or that probably would have been his favorite!

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And, of course, everyone’s favorite Vine Street event– Ebenezer Scrooge’s house! This guy has been doing his Ebenezer-thing for 20+ years now. 6 or 7 years ago, he sold the house to move to Oregon, but with one stipulation in the contract– that they let him come back every year to perform! Now THAT’S dedication!

Nightmare

Although this happened a few days ago, I wanted to write it down so that someday, when Gregory is a teenager, I can remember.

Tuesday night, Gregory woke up at 4am screaming his head off. Because I was nursing Anthony at the time (welcome to my life), I asked Jesse to get up and comfort him. “He must’ve had a nightmare,” I said, because I could tell from his screaming that he wasn’t just uncomfortable, he was terrified.

I heard Jesse pick him up and hold him. A few minutes later, I heard Jesse try to walk him back into his room. Every time he stepped foot in the door, Gregory flipped out again, scared to death.

So Jesse brought Gregory back to our bed. It was the first time in months that Gregory had slept between us, and even though I almost always have Anthony asleep beside me, I was really happy to have Gregory there with us. I really miss those days when he would stay still long enough to snuggle.

He was shaking head to toe. I tried to calm him down with a few hugs and kisses, but the only thing that worked was putting my hand in his.

I’ll never forget how tight he grabbed my hand, still shaking from his nightmare. Eventually, his breathing slowed down and he was calm enough to sleep.

And that’s how we fell asleep. Gregory snuggled between us, holding my hand for dear life.

He may be an independent toddler, often saying, “No hug!” when I ask.

But he still knows that Mommy will always be there to comfort him when life gets scary. I hope that he never forgets that.

And I hope I never forget that he needs it.

Gregory’s 2nd Party!

It’s really hard for me to believe that a year ago, we were celebrating G’s first birthday! I was 14 weeks pregnant with Anthony, and just beginning to come to grips with what things were going to be like TWO children.

Now, a year later, I have THREE kids. How weird is that?

This party was definitely a lot more low key than last year. I don’t feel bad about this fact, mainly because last year was our first birthday party for our first kid. It was more about us surviving that first year than it was about his actual birthday. ‘Nuff said!

I did all the grocery shopping the day before and made all the decorations while the cake was baking– so, basically, most of this was done in 30 minutes. It probably shows, but who cares?

As I briefly brainstormed his party theme about a month ago, I kept wanting to go for something cutesy, like Noah’s Ark or Dr. Seuss. I really didn’t want to do something generic like SPORTS, for heavens sake. But you know what? In the end, I just had to realize that this was GREGORY’S party, and his two favorite things in the world are icons and balls. So, rather than have an Orthodox themed party, we went with balls, specifically, basketballs. The orange/black color theme right before Halloween made everything a whole lot easier! Score!

The Guests:

Both of our families, Tess, Jerad and Stephanie + their two kids Marshall and Baby Miller, and 3 of Gregory’s older buddies from church.

The Basketball Menu:

Apple “Turnovers”

Carrots for “Dunking”

Watermelon “Balls”

Orange Cuties made to look like basketballs

Orange Gatorade and Balloons for centerpieces

“Shred the Defense” Shredded Pork (okay, that one was a bit of a stretch!)

A chocolate fudge cake with Reese’s Pieces!

Table of food

Nummm

I love how the Gatorade bottle just has a big “G” on it!

These oranges looked so much like basketballs, that people were tricked out of eating them! Oops.

 

 

The sign I threw together in 20 minutes

I printed off some of my favorite pics of G

Playing with his friends

The Birthday Boy

Some of G’s buds from church

Opening presents: Gregory got lots of books, arts and crafts, clothes, shoes, BALLS, play food, and some legos! I also got him a Melissa and Doug “Band in a Box”, but he won’t get that until his actual birthday 🙂

This pacifier was definitely the gift that kept on giving!

Gregory’s new tricycle!

I had to help him with the pedals. Turns out, you can lower the seat…which explains why he wasn’t able to reach

Tess and Anthony, chillin

Playing piano together. Notice the back of Tess’ sweatshirt. Lovelove.

Don’t Let The $&*#s Bite!

And…the adventures continue!

We had an appointment this morning to tour our “Maybe” House with a friend of ours who just got his contractor’s license. He took measurements in order to make an AutoCad drawing (so we can play around with knocking down walls), and did some inspecting for foundation and roof problems. Our “official” inspection won’t happen until we are closer to having the deed in hand.

He didn’t find anything majorly wrong (no leaks, no cracks), but what we DID find was disturbing…

Let me back up. The saga with the current tenants has been a bit epic. We were due to tour the property last Thursday, and the tenants gave our realtor a super hard time about it, cussing her out, hanging up on her a few times, etc. The ironic part was that once we toured the home, we saw tons of Hume Lake and Christian posters everywhere!

Then today when we showed up, the tenants were still there. Super awkward. They had been given 24 hrs. notice to clear out for an hour or two while we conducted our investigation. They were still in the middle of breakfast!

As they were leaving, one of them (the girl who had cussed out our realtor), explained that there were bedbugs on the property.

FUN.

Our realtor decided not to go in, but our contractor, Jesse, my dad and I all went in on a rotating basis, so that someone could be outside with the kids at all times. When we were done, we put trash bags over our seats for the 5 minute drive home. Upon arrival, we all stripped down in the kitchen and took turns bathing the kids and ourselves.

We have a pest inspection guy coming to do a termite and bedbug examination next Tuesday. Bedbugs can cost thousands to eradicate, so we will get a quote from him and simply ask the seller to lower the purchase price by that amount! We never actually saw any, and the tenants have proved that they want to make the house “undesirable” for purchase, since they’re mad about leaving, but it’s good to take threats like these seriously.

Exciting times for the Cones! Here are two pictures that our realtor took of G during one of my “shifts” with the kiddos.

I win “Mom-of-the-Year” award for today. Not only did we rush out of the house without a proper breakfast this morning, but I let him snack on goldfish crackers, AND he drank some of my coffee…

This was when I tried to take the mug away from him. Terrible Twos? BRING IT ON.