I love how much my mom loves my son #parenting #kids #grandparents #family

You know what I love most about this?

The love you can feel from this photograph of my mom embracing my son.

She and I have always had a very close, loving, protective, respectful, FUN relationship – she’s my best friend – so, it means the absolute world to me that she loves my kids as much as she does and that they have their own sweet, affectionate, FUN relationships.

Gram never runs out of hugs and kisses, high-fives, tickles nor “way to go”s and “I’m so proud of you”s. She always makes time to play one last hand of Uno and to read one last book before it’s time to turn out the lights for the evening. She’s so positive and upbeat and her shoulders are strong enough to carry burden you need help carrying. She loves unconditionally and will always give you more than she has for herself. My kids are so lucky to have her as a constant presence in their lives!

I also love how B – I – G my little diggy looks here.

He’s so LONG, barely fitting in her arms.

He’ll be out of those diapers and that “little boy” look will disappear before we know it.

Nolan is NOT starting #preschool this month… #kids #parenting #motherhood

If you haven’t been following along in our Preschool journey for our youngest son, Nolan – age 3 years and 9 months, you can read all about the tours here:

Tour 1
Tour 2
Tour 3

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do you remember THIS POST where we chose a Preschool and Nolan was supposed to start this month?

We ended up not enrolling him in that school after all because exactly one week after we received the enrollment packet (30 pages worth!!!), we got the call from the Montessori school. Our #1 pick! They had space after confirming all their returning students and want Nolan to attend.

Wow. Talk about an overwhelming decision!

It’s like having two job offers at once.

It weighed heavily on us for the better part of a week before we decided to go with our gut, our very first choice, the Montessori school.

It’s cheaper, has much better hours, he will attend 5 mornings a week (instead of only 3 or 4), it’s a much larger, nicer, newer facility, offers an extended day program (9-2:30!), AND has an accredited Kindergarten program should he not be ready to attend public school the year he is of-age. Oh! And he doesn’t need to be potty-trained at all, in any way, shape or form, to attend this school so the journey to potty-train can truly be about his mental and physical development and not his age. Yay!

We mailed in our deposit this week with our signed contract and Nolan will begin in the fall, on the same schedule as our public elementary school.

We are honestly relieved to have just made the decision and to be done with discussing it. It’s all-consuming!

Random #kids pics – peace signs and ankle-crossers #parenting #motherhood

My husband made a comment a few months ago about how much he loves that I have kept up with this blog all these years. Nine years to be exact.

Nine years of pregnancy, new jobs, moving, birthdays, anniversaries, death, potty-training and Preschool, moving again, pets, another pregnancy, moving a third time, holidays, our travel adventures, and all those random moments you have with your kids when you are a parent. This blog is just a giant documentation of US so we can look back on these memories when we can no longer recall them on our own.

Emily, sitting in her very old PBK Anywhere Chair with our cat, Allie:

My nearly-nine-year-old beauty. She loves that cat.

And peace signs. They pop up everywhere these days!

Nolan, banana-in-hand, mid-vehicle play (as always!):

He’s been working hard on his “cheese!” so that he’s ready whenever I pop up with my camera. Cutie. He needs a haircut. I swear we just got him one last month. Oy!

These photos were taken today, after we picked Emily up from Spring Break Art Camp.

Lounging in the playroom with nowhere to go and no one telling anyone what to do with their free time is what they love most these days.

#Easter2015 is all about lazying in PJs, hunting eggs, baking biscuits and enjoying the rain?!? #parenting #motherhood #kids #familyfun #sanfrancisco

Easter is all about lazying in our PJs through lunch-preparation, hunting eggs and tearing through the kids’ easter baskets, baking biscuits from scratch and, this year, enjoying the rain! It’s pouring out and we are loving every second of it!

In case you are looking for a few gift ideas for your kids’ next Easter, here’s what the Easter bunny brought the kids this year:

Emily, age 8:
Make your own bird house kit
Jellycat stuffed bunny (our favorite stuffed animal brand!)
Scratch ‘n Sketch Furry Friends activity book
El Deafo and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang novels
White “teacher’s chalk” and a new eraser (ours get destroyed outside every summer)
Tervis tumbler cup for her morning smoothies
A heart backpack charm
Macaroon-shaped erasers plus six glitter eggs filled with Japanese animal-shaped erasers
A Reese’s bunny
An Easter balloon
A golden egg that had a $5 bill in it (at this age we are entering financial independence so money and gift cards are always a huge hit!)

Nolan, age almost-4:
Go! Go! Go! STOP!, George in the Dark, Steam Train Dream Train books
CAT dump truck for the sand box (his favorite!)
Matchbox set of nine cars
Set of nine squishy bath toys (he’s still obsessed with these)
Jellycat stuffed dog (he received a bunny last year)
A golden egg with M&M’s inside
A Reese’s bunny and
An Easter balloon

Emily was up first, as always and showed incredible restraint and patience as she left her Easter basket untouched and had yet to begin collecting eggs from around the house.

She really enjoyed sitting in the living room, just her and I, going through her basket one item at a time.

Here, she’s showing me how she can hold the egg up to the light and see what’s inside it. This is how she plans to attack gathering eggs around the house to ensure she gets all the jellybeans. ha! Very clever, I’ve got to hand it to her.

About an hour later, Nolan woke up. I ran up to get him (see, PJs!) and he couldn’t wait to start gathering eggs down the stairs from  his room. We had been talking about the Easter bunny coming and he knew that meant he would find “eggs with candies inside”, as he put it.

When he made it to the living room, he let out an “oooooooooohhhhh!” at the sight of his Easter basket and immediately grabbed the dump truck.

Then he found the set of Matchbox cars, his absolutely favorite thing in the world!

His next discovery was the golden egg in his basket. He and Emily had seen that this year’s set of empty Easter eggs came with TWO golden eggs and they were fixated on just how special they were going to be. Every year, we set out a basket of empty plastic eggs for the Easter bunny to fill and hide. Does anyone else do this?!? No, just me? Okay then.

He was thrilled that his golden egg had M&M’s in it and prompt devoured them.

The egg hunting continued all throughout the house with Emily quickly filling her basket. She’s fast!

Candy was consumed before breakfast.

Then, silly pictures were taken.

Then, I cooked our annual, traditional, Easter lunch which is a glazed ham, potatoes Au Gratin, roasted green beans, gravy, and home-made biscuits. Yesterday, I baked a sour cream chocolate bundt cake and today, Emily and I will make sugar cookies and David’s going to help her make home-made ice cream.
Today is all about staying indoors and just being together.
Happy Easter!

Backyard fun: we have baby California Towhees again this year! #parenting #familyfun #kids

Talk about an exciting day: Nolan and I discovered we have another nest in our lemon tree today!

Do you see that?!?

****THREE EGGS***

We are fairly certain it’s the same species of bird that laid eggs in this tree last year – thanks to Emily’s National Geographic Kids Birds of North America Book we know they are California Towhees!

They have a really high-pitched chirp that gets louder as you get close to their nest. They also get physically closer to you, dive-bombing you in an effort to drive you away. It’s quite comical. 🙂

I had to climb up on the kids’ swings to snap a few pics as the next is about six feet up in the tree. Nolan was helping direct me.

Mom and dad stay very close, sort of popping up out of nowhere when we go into the backyard.

They really hate it when Allie gets outside. Luckily for them, she just lounges in the grass the whole time.

They also don’t seem threatened by Nolan when he plays right underneath the tree – maybe it’s just me…

We can’t wait to see them hatch and use our backyard as their training ground when learning to fly. Last year was such a treat! Stay tuned 🙂

Weekends are all about relaxing… well, that and homework, errands, and laundry :/ #parening #kids #familyfun

Until Nolan is in Preschool and I have some weekday, day time to run errands and get other stuff “done”, everything has to wait until the weekend.

And I hate that.

But taking an almost-four year old who’s extremely active and very easily bored anywhere other than a place where he can play is an absolute nightmare.

{sigh}

So, I spend the majority of our weekend running all those errands and doing household chores:

  • Grocery store – Costco and Trader Joe’s
  • Returns for things we’ve purchased online
  • Bank – personal and for the PTA and Girl Scouts
  • Target/Home depot/Pagano’s hardware – for home supplies, repairs, and pet food
  • Laundry, filling up paper towels and toilet paper, changing bed sheets, reorganizing shoes and backpacks
Lately, we’ve been working on incorporating more family time (rather than just me splitting off to run all the errands all day long).

The kids both have soccer back-to-back on Saturday mornings and we almost always try to go out to eat afterwards. Going out to restaurants makes Emily’s Top 10 list. Probably because we never do it. There’s rarely any time on weekends and David isn’t home for dinner during the week. Sundays we have a big breakfast together and go to the park or ride bikes at the school or go to the pool, when it’s warm.
We hit up a favorite burger joint this weekend before going to our local book store (Emily had a $25 gift card for raising the most money in her grade during the Read-a-thon at her school) and our local toy store. I snuck in some secret purchases for Easter baskets including books and erasers! What is it with elementary school kids and erasers?!?
Lots of silly, HAPPY faces were captured.

Super #familyfun with our Gram at @baykidsmuseum #kids #parenting

We purchased a membership to The Bay Area Discovery Museum recently because I found myself buying their Groupon every chance I got.

We just LOVE it there!

It’s a gorgeous, quick 40-minute drive up and around the North Bay into Marin Country and very well laid out for all ages. Nolan almost always heads straight to the playground and Emily to the foam building pit. We meet up later on to visit each exhibit room as the afternoon goes on, ending with another trip to the playground before going home around 4:00pm.

Some exhibits never-change: the train tables, the outdoor foam building pit, the playground – these are the things my kids look forward to trip after trip. It’s familiar to them, yet different from the normal things we do week after week.

Some things change every single time we visit: the art projects, the hands-on rooms, the great hall. These are the things that keep us coming back month after month.

We took Gram for the first time ever this last weekend while she was out visiting us.

Other than being a little bit cold (you are ON the Pacific Ocean there!), she loved it!

An adult night out: Me, my Kate Spade earrings and the diamonds I won! #jewelry #imsofancy #motherhood

Saturday night was our school’s annual Gala and Silent Auction.

We started with the obligatory photos:

We were surrounded by people we know and love, while dressed to “the nine’s” (see my gorgeous Kate Spade earrings, a gift from my sister and two best friends!), and enjoying delectable french fare and champagne. This year’s theme was Moulin Rouge.

It’s a massive production of catering, decor, prizes, and entertainment. It’s put on by parents at our school, about 40 volunteers total. It’s like planning a wedding reception for 300 people.

To say we had a blast wouldn’t begin to adequately describe how much fun we had!

We danced for hours.

We “whooped” and hollered as those around us bid, outbid and eventually won the art made by their child and he/her classmates (including us, we won Emily’s art this year!) – there was a real energy in the room as nearly $80,000 was raised for our PTA.

The best part of the night for me?

In a 30 ticket raffle, of which I purchased five tickets at $30 each, I won diamond stud earrings valued at nearly $1,200.00.

I’ll always treasure them and can’t wait to hand them down to Emily one day when she’s grown.

Emily: first @bladium soccer class for 8/9yr old #kids #parenting #familyfun

Emily had her first non-competitive soccer skills class at The Bladium on Saturday morning (she goes the hour before Nolan so David takes her and I come later) and to say she loved it would be a gross understatement.

I wasn’t there so I had to take David and Gram’s word for it but apparently, she had a smile plastered to her face. Sheer joy!

According to David, all their backyard practice shone through on the field: she dribbled the ball well, kept up with all the kids, and she aided in her team scoring two goals! Pretty darn great for a kid that’s never played before.

She wore her uniform for the rest of the day and even went shopping with David to get some turf shoes, socks and shin guards. Gram had to force her to remove it all at bed time. ha! She’s so excited for her next class and has even talked about wanting to do their skills institute and join a league. She’s come so far…

#random My #kids as they are right now: ages 8yrs and 3yrs #parenting #SAHM #motherhood

Out of all the awesome things to do in our back yard, THIS is what my kids do day after day: play in the dirt.

That dirt use to be my organic garden. But then, I caught the neighborhood cats using it as a letterbox so… yeah, no.

We keep it clean of weeds and turned the soil over and left it for the kids to drag their beach tools and construction vehicles into. They love it.

Here’s my Nolan. Nearly four years old and a complete HAM!

He came over to me as I was looking through the pictures on my camera and when I asked him to say “cheese”, this is what I got. 🙂

He looks like my husband. A lot.

And he needs a haircut.

{Pics & Video} Both #kids are now enrolled in #bladiumsports Lil Kickers #soccer program and they LOVE it!

Both kids have always played just about every sport imaginable in our backyard with David and I: basketball, football, frisbee (is that a sport?), baseball, golf, tennis, and soccer.

They love the physical activity but, Emily most especially, hate to compete.

So, David suggested I sign them up at The Bladium for the non-competitive Lil Kickers soccer program this Spring season. It’s about $200 per kid, which includes a year-long membership to the Bladium for each of them, their uniform, and 12 weeks of class.

Nolan’s first class was this last Saturday.

After a few minutes of redirection from the coach, he was engaged and ready to participate. It was beyond cute watching him kick the ball, run around the field, find a spot to sit on, and practice his soccer stops.

He really loved all the running around!

Emily starts next week and is really looking forward to it. We will split up so David takes Emily at 10:30am and I bring Nolan at 11:30am.

Neither of the kids will take off their uniforms.

Emily, enjoying a hot chocolate and some online games while Nolan watches – a typical Saturday morning for us!

It’s been three days.  🙂

What does my eight year old wear to school?

Volume 1 can be found HERE.

Scarves are a very favorite wardrobe staple for Emily right now. How cute is this sweater dress (Gymboree) paired with leggings, high top sneakers (Mini Boden) and this purple scarf (Kohl’s)?

Oh how I love Ugg boots on children! This is another sweater dress from Gymboree paired with footed tights (Hanna Andersson) and her new pink Bailey Bow Uggs (Nordstrom).

The Ugg boots make another super cute appearance here, paired with leggings (Gap Kids) and Polar Bear boot smugglers (Gymboree for $1.99!). She was the most popular girl in her class this day! They are like leg warmers for kids!

Footed tights with black, patent-leather Mary Janes (Hanna Andersson) are super cute under dresses, though she’s not a fan of how they sag. Is anyone, really? :/

Corduroy jeggings (Mini Boden) paired with a sweater (Gymboree), white faux fur vest (Old Navy) and rain boots (Mini Boden) makes for super fun, DRY day at school.

Emily cares very little for the every-day fashion decisions (which pants with which top); however she insists on accessories so, I still get to choose her clothes and I’m oh, so grateful as I know this will soon change.

PS – why is her mouth open in so many photos?!?!? Does anyone else kid pose this way? Lord.

Nolan: First bike ride without training wheels 3yrs 9mos #kids #familyfun #parenting

In support of a neighbors’ fundraiser for a school trip, I purchased a little boy’s bike that didn’t have training wheels.

I figured Nolan would be ready for it eventually and we could buy some generic training wheels off Amazon.

I had no idea this would happen while I was at the grocery store today:

David said he insisted on “doing it by myself” so he let him go.

It’s amazing how much easier and younger Nolan is doing all the things Emily learned to do. It’s a second-child thing, I’m certain. He sees her on her scooter every day so he got one and mastered it before age 2. I guess riding a bike was the logical next step!

He hasn’t learned to break yet (he can pedal backwards to slow down and stop) and needs to work on looking up so he can see where he’s going.

Babysteps. 🙂

#Orthodontics When your 8yr old needs braces! #kids #parenting

At Emily’s mid-year dental exam, her Dentist suggested we have a consultation with their in-house Orthodontist as Emily is dealing with several orthodontic issues. Apparently, age 7-8 years is the time to begin treatment as the bones in their mouth and jaw have not yet fused together (much like how the bones in their skulls are soft and separate as infants) and treatment is gentler, normally doesn’t involve tooth extraction, and can be less painful on the patient.

So, in November 2014, we saw Dr. K and discovered that Emily has a cross-bite, her lower jaw is out of alignment with the center of her face, an overbite, a narrow upper pallet, and her upper middle two front teeth protrude.

We checked with our insurance and, lucky for us, it covers half of her total treatment this first phase. The total? $3,800.

Gulp.

Seriously.

That’s a lot of money.

We are responsible for half of it AND can use our Flexible Spending Account to absorb it throughout the next 18 months. I’m very grateful for this at Christmas time is a terrible time to have to write a $1,400 check. 🙂

In late November, Emily went in for her full work-up assessment which included X-Rays, molds, and  then her first fitting for her new removable appliances (retainers). She loved every minute of it!

Can you see the pure joy on her face here?

She was especially excited that she got to choose the color of her retainers (yes, she has two of them, an upper and a lower): neon glow-in-the-dark pink with gold glitter throughout. The upper has a crank-system that I use a key to turn once a week that will slowly widen her upper pallet.

The rear “ramps” in the upper and design of the lower helps to lock her jaw into proper alignment as her face is resting (meaning not talking or chewing), which will help pull her lower jaw forward and center.

She picked out a case that she will keep them in when she’s not wearing them, which is only during breakfast and dinner. She has to wear them during the day while at school and overnight.

She doesn’t mind one bit.

All the kids in her class are jealous (what?!?) and wish they had “braces”, too. Since Emily got hers, two more kids in her class have gone in for orthodontic wear but chose to do braces and permanent appliances. We chose the removable to give her mouth a break from time to time as I had braces for years and remember how uncomfortable they can be. It’s also much easier to keep her teeth clean when you can remove them and brush all over. 
Dr. K will give Emily a break between this phase and the next one, in about 18 months, so that her 12-year molars can fall out on their own. They really hate to pull kids’ teeth and we love that! After those molars fall out, she will either move on to another set of retainers or braces and we won’t know how long she has to wear them until that time but a good guesstimate is another 12-18 months.
We visit Dr. K every six weeks for adjustments and to see how she’s progressing and so far, she’s done really well with them. She’s rarely in any pain, cleans them twice daily herself, and has yet to remove them and/or leave them anywhere.
Stay tuned!

We picked a #preschool and Nolan starts next month! #kids #parenting #motherhood #school

If you haven’t been following along in our Preschool journey for our youngest son, Nolan – age 3 years and 9 months, you can read all about the tours here:

Tour 1
Tour 2
Tour 3

Well, we did it, we picked a Preschool for Nolan!

Actually, it sort of picked us!

When we were waitlisted at the Montessori school that was our top choice, we reached out to the schools we toured last year (read tour 1 and tour 2 above). Our #1 choice emailed us back right away, letting us know that they “would be delighted to have Nolan” and that their “small” school was “a perfect fit for him”. And we agreed! They take many approaches to learning and play but only accept 12 children each school year between the two teachers.

We had a few days to think on it, mainly discussing the following:

* Can we afford it with no notice? 
It’s nearly $1,000/month for Nolan to attend 4 half-days each week (7:30am-12:00pm), $785 for him to attend 3 half-days each week. I guess that’s not really the question as we have the financial means to pay for Preschool, but more that feeling of being overwhelmed and unprepared to make such a huge financial change. Like when I needed a new car all of a sudden while I was a broke college student. Ugh. That was hard. Anyway, it took us some time to look at the budget and all our travel and goals for this year to determine that we could afford it and that we should just let it sink in, sleep on it, for a few days to come to terms with it.

* Should we enroll him for 3 days of 4 days? 
This, most likely, is his only year of Preschool before Kindergarten so, would enrolling him to something closer to a Kindy schedule be best? Would going on every other day be hard to get him into a good routine if we chose only 3 days per week? We can enroll him in however many days we want now and there may be an opportunity come this fall when their next group of enrolled students is to start (Nolan would automatically have a spot) if one of them changes their schedules and/or moves or changes Preschools but there’s no guarantee. I think we’ve decided it’s better to just have him go 4 days now and not take that chance.

* Is this happening too soon? Should we wait and HOPE we get into the school we are waitlisted for? Would we regret passing on this spot?
We weren’t planning on enrolling him in Preschool until THIS coming fall but this school has a year-round program and enrolls September thru August and we missed this year’s enrollment when we passed on this spot last year. The only reason he is getting this spot now is because a child moved and Nolan has priority because they felt he was such a good fit (they do child/parent interviews, which we did last year). David and I agreed we would be devastated if he didn’t get into the Montessori school AND we had passed on this spot so, we quickly agreed that taking this spot, even if just for now through August, is best. Should a spot at the Montessori school open up AND his current school not be the absolute best fit, we could always switch but we don’t honestly see that happening as we LOVED this school so much last year and Nolan really enjoyed spending half a day with them.

* Is Nolan even ready for this so suddenly, we haven’t even really talked about Preschool much? 
We found the answer to this question rather quickly as we told him about it, reminded him of when we visited, drove by and showed the school to him to refresh his memory, read some books about Preschool and compared it to Emily going to school. His reaction was an overwhelmingly excited let’s-go-now “yes”! And he continues to say “I’m going to Preschool, I can wear Pull-ups (we are still working on potty-training and it’s school policy they wear them until they’ve gone a month without accidents), I have my backpack, I love to play with friends” over and over again for the last couple of days. When we get ready to go somewhere he asks me if we are going to Preschool. I think he’s ready. The question of whether or not I’m ready has yet to be answered…

So, we are now waiting on an enrollment packet and to pay our deposit that will hold his spot until he starts, April 1, 2015.

He loves wearing his new backpack around the house and can’t wait to start riding his scooter to school every morning!

Are in currently in the process of choosing a Preschool?

Have your children already gone through Preschool or did you forego Preschool?

What kinds of things helped you choose a Preschool?

Got our hands on the brand new @britax Frontier yesterday! Thanks, @tottank #kids #parenting

Did I tell you my husband took off an entire month from work in February?

Did I also tell you how much FUN my 3.5yr had riding around in his daddy’s car for that time? He insisted we take his Recaro car seat from my car and put it in his dad’s ShelbyGT500 for the month! They went everywhere together – read about it here!

And did I tell you how devastated my son was when my husband returned to work Monday and he had to go back to riding in my car?

Yeah.

So, we decided we needed to get another car seat so he could ride with his dad anytime he wanted to and went straight to Tot Tank, Alameda, CA to get it. The new Britax Frontier has been sold out everywhere, including online. Go check out the seat online and you’ll know why. I called Tot Tank and got on their waitlist immediately. Three days later, I got a call that they had three seats for me to choose from (color of the fabric was the only distinguishing factor) so Nolan and I drove over this morning to purchase one of them.

Have you been to Tot Tank yet?

If you need anything for your child, from furniture and bottles to strollers and lunch box containers, this place has all the best products and is extremely knowledgable about everything in their store! It’s owned by a local family who makes it their mission to inform you, help you, guide you and follow-up with you for life!

I had the honor of being helped by the owner, Jay this morning.

Without me even asking, he immediately opened and unwrapped the car seat I was interested in and demonstrated for me right there in the store how to install the seat. They had a full-sized seat from a vehicle in the store! This was really awesome because you can’t always visualize how to do it after hearing about it nor from reading instruction manuals. He let Nolan inspect it and sized him up for it, including how high to pull up the back so the shoulder harness would be at the exact height for him. They rang me up for my purchases and he carried the car seat right out to my car to install it for me. He made a gentle suggestion that I swap my kids seat positions so that Nolan would be curb-side (behind the passenger) for easier loading and unloading, something I had debated a handful of times in this last year as Nolan has become more independent, wanting to climb in and out on his own, which isn’t street safe. I agreed with him and he offered to swap the seats for me. This was not an easy task as we are parked on a busy street with traffic flying but Jay made it look easy and took the time to walk me through each part of the installation.

Did you know LATCH is no longer the safest option when you child + the car seats weight exceeds 65lbs (per Britax’s website for the car seats we own)?!?

I didn’t.

Jay asked me about my older child as he noticed I was using LATCH on my daughter’s seat and explained that to me as he worked. He then showed me how to use my cars seat belt to properly install her Britax Frontier (bought from Tot Tank 5 years ago!) and did it all for me. I’m eternally grateful as she is 54lbs and the seat weighs 20lbs so, she is already over the threshold.

Next up was installing Nolan’s new car seat on the passengers side. It was so neat to see how the new “click tight” installation system works with literally the push of one hand when using your car’s seatbelt (not LATCH), which we decided to use as Nolan is already 34lbs and the seat is 25lbs so he’s nearly at the threshold too. The seat is rock solid with zero work!

Lastly, he anchored the seats over my rear set in the back, double-checked their positioning and tightness and whipped out his company’s checklist for installation to go over each point, ensuring he did it all and correctly.

I thanked him profusely and left feeling comfortable and confident in my purchase and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I know about him and his business. You won’t find knowledge, experience, and service like this at Babies R Us nor online!

Our towns are only as good as their schools and their businesses so please, consider shopping at Tot Tank if you live in Alameda, CA not only to support a local family and their local business but to keep Alameda a place we all want to live!

Thank you, Tot Tank for continuing to support our community – my family has been so blessed by your business the last eight years!

**I was not asked to write this post nor review this product by anyone for any reason. These are my opinions and feelings that I write for free.**

Nolan: Third #preschool tour – The perfect Montessori experience and the dreaded "waitlist" #kids #parenting

Can you believe it?

It’s been over a year since we first started touring Preschools for Nolan.

We just weren’t ready last year and Nolan wasn’t ready. He was still a baby to us, he’s our last baby, and it just felt like the world was turning too fast. Do you know what I mean?

So, we started back up this January to enroll him for the 2015-2016 school year.

We didn’t go back and tour the first two schools we toured and loved last year, which you can read about here: Tour 1, Tour 2 because we knew we loved them and they were a great fit for him. I did send emails to both school’s Directors to refresh myself on their enrollment procedures, application fees, deposits, and start dates.

The school we toured last month was a very well-known and loved Montessori school that we knew coming in to tour had very few spots left as they had so many returning students. It’s run by a Director and three Teachers, two of which had their children come through the school before they became Teachers, only accepts 18 kids that are balanced in gender and age (2yrs9mos – age 6yrs) and spend their days together as a group. Their facilities are sparkling clean, the toys and materials are all new and well-taken care of, the yard is like Disneyland for kids, and the staff is warm, loving, gentle and so very kind. It’s a Montessori school in that they allow the children to lead their “work” and “play” time throughout the day with a very short 8-10minute meeting with the Director every day, simply to say “good-morning” and to introduce the new work and/or toys for that day.

Things we loved most:
1. The first hour of every day is dedicated to the kids playing outside. How brilliant is that? Get those wiggles out, burn off some energy, and it eliminates having the kids longingly stare out the windows, hoping to play, while the Teacher is talking. The staff meets you at the drop-off curb, collects all the kids on the front steps, and then marches them around back to let them go play. What a great way to start the day!

2. No child has to participate in anything regarding play or work. When they come inside, they get to roam the room and choose what they want to do: read, paint, draw, play with cars/trains, build with blocks/magnatiles, cutting/stamping/gluing a project, playing in the real world room of kitchen, stack/sort, etc., etc. They can play alone, so no forced sharing, or they can ask to join another child or group of children. This would be perfect for Nolan as he’s very particular about what he likes and doesn’t like, and it takes him some time to transition between activities.

3. No forced transitions between activities including snack time!
I can’t stand play-based Preschools that force kids to move from the art table, to the story room, to the science experiment, and on and on every 15-20minutes. It really disrupts the creative process and how children naturally learn. And snack time isn’t something every child is interested in. At this school, snack it out for you to grab WHEN and IF you want it. You serve yourself, you sit and eat when you are ready, and you help clean up and move on about your day.

4. They save your place in your work
If you decide to take on a lacing, tracing, gluing/stamping/cutting type of project and aren’t done by the end of the day, they put your name tag on it (it’s a laminated strip of paper with you name and photo on it, for those kids who can’t read their own names yet) and it’s right there where you left it the very next day.

5. Everything is in the exact same place day in, day out
One of the best parts about Montessori is the consistency, the routine, the predictability. Nolan thrives knowing his cars are right where he left them the night before or that he can always find the Tag Ready book “Things that Go!” and the pen on the upper right-hand shelf in our playroom. Most children (and adults!) melt down when they can’t find their things, am I right?!? 🙂 At this school, every single item has a home. It is labeled with the word and picture of the item so the kids can put things back exactly where they found them so they can find them again later. The staff helps the kids put things back when they are done with them. It’s beyond brilliant!

6. Pottery-training isn’t connected to Preschool readiness
Nolan isn’t digging his heels in, he doesn’t refuse, he will sit on the potty when prompted; however, the body urge and brain connection just isn’t there yet. It takes some kids a really long time for that to happen so they can be potty-independent. This school believes this and you can send your child in diapers or Pull-ups. It’s just not a big deal. I love that!

I could go on and on.

We really LOVED this school and immediately turned in our application and fees.

Unfortunately, we got the dreaded call that Nolan is on their waitlist. We knew it was a possibility because they just don’t have many spots open and siblings get priority. We chose to stay on the waitlist and hope a spot opens up between now and August, when school starts.

In the meantime, we are communicating with the two other schools we loved to see if they have a spot for him. I think we’d take a spot at one of those schools instead of taking our chances on this waitlist because Nolan is slotted to start Kindergarten Fall 2016 so this would be his only year for Preschool.

What would you do?

The day we spent in Santa Cruz #kids #travel #familyfun #motherhood #norcal

One of my best friends and her daughter invited Emily and I to spend the day in Santa Cruz at The Boardwalk a few months back. It was a gorgeous, 68 degree day where the waves crashed in the background the sun shone on our faces. What an amazing place!

Emily and her friend didn’t even hesitate to get their ride-bands on and head for the boardwalk. Their smiling faces really do say it all! They rode everything they were tall enough for, which was all but 2 rides. The water ride was by far their favorite – they rode it 12 times.

We had to break for churros TWICE. haha They are Emily’s favorite!

It was so nice to just sit and talk with my friend for 10 hours while the girls went off on their own to ride all day. Eight is a very independent age where, thank the good Lord I don’t have to ride with her!

The Boardwalk is HUGE with so much to do for all ages but, in my opinion, about age 8-12 years old is just perfect. There were arcades games and putt-putt golf, neither of which our kids cared to do, plus a ton of restaurants to sit and eat at while overlooking the ocean. It’s not cheap but there are some great “buy one, get one” deals out there.

I can’t wait to go back with David and Nolan in a few years!

Nolan’s first ride in his daddy’s Shelby GT500 #kids #boys #parenting #mustang

Today was what Nolan has deemed “the best day ever!!!” – he got to take a ride in his daddy’s car for the first time ever today!

It’s no secret Nolan loves his daddy: he wants to shave and brush his teeth when his daddy does, he likes to play guitar and the drums with his daddy, he likes when his daddy gives him an airplane ride, and he really likes to help his daddy do anything with tools. Here lately, Nolan has become obsessed with David’s car. David drives a Shelby GT500 that he has completely supped-up and tricked out – it’s so loud I can hear him coming across a bridge three miles away! It’s like the signal to the kids that daddy’s coming home. haha 🙂

Nolan loves that car!

He’s always asking to sit in it while David washes it or changes it’s oil.

Today, David secured Nolan’s car seat into it and took him to run errands this morning.

Did I tell you David has been on vacation the entire month of February thus, he’s been taking the lion’s share of the chores and childcare duties? It’s been glorious. It’s over next week. I am deeply saddened.

But I digress.

Once they got home, David told me all about their adventure up to Pixar to put in a time sheet and purchase some items for our school’s upcoming auction. Apparently, Nolan smiled the entire trip and was repeating “daddy’s car is so cool”, “daddy’s car is so loud”, “daddy’s car is so loud”.

Nolan loved it so much, we can’t bear to remove his car seat and put it back in my car so, we ordered another seat for my car and are leaving his Recaro in David’s car.

The Grazing Preschooler – is my kid the only one? #motherhood #kids #preschool #boys

Nolan, three years and eight months old, is incredibly articulate.

He knows and can tell you exactly what he wants, likes, and needs and how he feels about it all.

Right now, he doesn’t want to sit down to eat.

So, I’ve become “that” mom who allows her Preschooler to graze over mealtimes, mainly lunch, so I can avoid arguments and power-struggles surrounding food.

I’m okay with it.

He is so creative, especially with his fleet of Matchbox cars, that he gets deep into play and just does not want to be interrupted. I can’t have him eating lunch at 3:00pm so, this is our compromise.

Do you see my husband in the bottom right corner, picking up the Puffs?

Yeah, Nolan was pretending to be a Garbage Man and dumped the entire container all over his tray, like how the garbage trucks pick up our cans and dump their contents into their truck.

Hahahaha! He gets points for creativity from me!

Soooo much #homework bought a #mac mini – it was time for a new computer #kids

Our beloved G4 desktop with cinema screen had it’s hard drive crash about eight years ago, which is when David purchased us a Macbook Pro laptop – my first Mother’s Day after Emily was born in 2007. 
That laptop is still running (barely) but has eaten through three batteries and can no longer upgrade to the newest operating system. Oh! And somethings pilled on the keyboard so I had to use the keyboard from our old G4. You should have seen me trying to use the laptop with an additional keyboard sitting onto of it! Horrendous.
Anyhow, it was time for something new.
Because we had the beautiful cinema screen monitor already, we didn’t want to invest in an iMac so, we went with a tricked-out Mac mini. We purchased a wireless keyboard and mouse as well as a superdrive (CD ROM) and surprised Emily with it. We are calling it “her” computer because she’s the one who uses it 90% of the time.
You would not believe the amount of computer time that is required of her each week: typing practice (I didn’t learn to type until High School and it was on a typewriter!), SpellingCity spelling practice, Raz-Kids online reading (2-4 books each week), and typing up a weekly book report. Not to mention fun stuff like Pokemon and a Frozen version of Candy Crush. 😉

She absolutely LOVES her new computer and constantly bargains anything, everything in order to earn screen time! Even her homework has become much more interesting and exciting when done on a computer. And who doesn’t love to FaceTime with Gram?!?!?
As you can see (can you see?) in the photo above, we set it up on our kitchen table that is between the kitchen and playroom, because it’s where we spend most of our time as a family. This allows me to help her when needed and keeps us all together even when we are doing separate things. We are just now venturing into online safety so we have a password on the computer itself that she doesn’t know and we have recently downloaded WOT via Google to further protect her from purposely or accidentally venturing onto the WWW unsafely.
Do you have a computer at home that your kids use? If so, do you have parental controls? What are they? Please share!

Valentine’s Day traditions and what Emily made for her 3rd grade classmates #school #kids #parenting #thirdgrade

I’m not super-crafty.

I’m not completely inept, I do a fair job… let’s just leave it at I don’t scour Pinterest for the cutest ideas and spend time and money making them come to fruition on a regular basis and I certainly don’t do it for class valentines! I just don’t have that ambition. Takes all kinds to make the world go round, right? 🙂

Valentine’s are up to the kids once they can write, which was about first grade for us.

Every year, I take Emily to Michael’s and let her pick out what she wants to give her classmates. I buy all the supplies she desires and leave her to it. I only help if asked with things like a glue gun, hole punch, and some cutting but I really pull back and let her do all the work.

This year, she decided on pencils with erasers.

Are erasers all the rage with your kids?

Lord.

She wants to go to this Japanese dollar store or our local book store every week to spend her money on little animal and food-shaped erasers! They show them off and even trade them after school!

I digress.

Anyhow, she picked a pack of pencils with erasers and wanted to slip the pencil into a heat so we bought a pack of 5″ foam hearts. She also wanted to decorate each one so we purchased new, colored felt pens (Buy 1, Get 1 Free!) and a huge container of multi-colored, sparkly hearts in a variety of sizes.

She spent three days picking out the perfect eraser for each of her classmates, decorating each foam heart, and writing each of their names on it. I helped punch two holes in each heart and helped clean up all the little white adhesive strips on the backs of those little decorative heart stickers.

Her class party was on Thursday the 12th.

Here she is above in the all-pink outfit she chose for the occasion. So cute!

I really love that the staff at her school requires you either not send Valentine’s at all or you must make one for every student and it’s encouraged that they are all equal/similar. Emily was over-the-moon with all the cards, treats, candy, and toys she got in her bag this year. I love how her joy lasted for about a week as she examined each one and either played with it or ate it.