My Ta-da list

A few weeks ago, I read something about writing a "ta da list". 

Instead of looking back at your day and feeling guilty about what didn't get scratched off your to do list, write a ta-da list of everything you DID accomplish. 

Today was a rather frustrating day and I felt like I was spinning my wheels and not getting anything done, seems like the perfect occasion for a ta-da list!

TA-DA LIST:

- Changed and nursed the baby, emptied the dehumidifier and made the bed without waking up the kids.

- Did all the dishes before breakfast. 

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- Changed two Felix poops

- Kept Abram diaper-free all day with only one accident (including running errands all afternoon!)

- Got the baby to sleep beside me while I finished editing a wedding and responded to emails

- Made Lulu a good school snack 

- Helped the kids clean their room, which I've been avoiding for weeks

- Left for kindergarten with enough time to get birthday cupcakes for Lulu to bring in

- Remembered to get supplies to make Lulu a birthday crown, a tradition I didn't realize was so important until she reminded me today. 

- Helped Abram on the toilet in a tiny bathroom stall while wearing Felix

- Bought Lulu a birthday gift with Abram noticing 

- Got the boys in and out of the van 5 times in the pouring rain

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- Got to school early enough to pick up a few things from the school library

- Helped Abram go pee while juggling Felix and our library items.

- Got everyone and all of our stuff into the bus without tears in the POURING rain. 

- Cleaned out the litter box and took care of the cat

- Got Lulu's birthday presents from the mail carrier without her noticing

- Started dinner while keeping Felix happy on the floor

- Remained calm after discovering Abram hiding under my bed, pooping.

- Cleaned the house, with the kids help (harder than without!)

- Played "Mean Dogs" with Abram, until he actually bit me

- Had dinner ready when Austin got home from work/school

- Comforted Lulu when I wanted to laugh after she fell directly onto her face while doing a dance move I warned her not to do

- Took a shower and convinced Lulu to let me wash her hair (no tears!)

- Got Felix to bed while editing photos 

- Checked the whole bus for leaks during the torrential rain and didn't find any new ones. 

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It's still hard not to look back and think of the missed opportunities and failures of the day, the items I could have checked of my list but didn't, the times I was impatient or frustrated with the kids, but it does help to write it out and see that I did get something done! 

Hard Times

I've been thinking about this post for a while, but it just felt too whiny and silly to write. But I often receive messages from other families who are interested in living like we do, so I want to be honest about the good parts, but also the struggles. 

 When we moved into our tiny home, our goal was to live in here for two years. It’s been 18 months and we can feel our time running out. Our kids are getting older and I know they’d like more space. Felix is easy now, but once he’s a little bit mobile, I get the feeling it won’t be so simple. Whenever I mention to anyone that we’re ready to move on from our little bus house, they seem surprised. The thing is, this was never supposed to be our long-term home. When I named this blog, I called it ‘Tiny Home Dream’, not ‘Tiny Dream Home’, because this isn’t our “dream home”. We do dream of a tiny (or small) home of our own, and we’ve always known that this isn’t it.

We have enjoyed our time living in the bus, and we still do enjoy it most of the time. But after 18 months, we’re growing weary of some aspects of it. I truly believe we could be perfectly happy living in a tiny space for a very long time, if it was designed to be lived in permanently and stationary.

I sometimes cringe when people comment that our life looks so simple and perfect. It is lovely, and we are happy, but this lifestyle isn’t always easy.

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We spent a fair bit of time and money replacing the roof of the bus this summer. Yesterday Austin and I talked about how cozy it will be when it pours down rain and we know we’ll be dry and warm inside. Last night we had a heavy rain and I woke up to find several small leaks. I have no idea where the water is coming from, it’s so frustrating I could cry.

We miss being able to close the door to drown out a tantruming toddler.

I wish I had a closet or dresser instead of a small overhead cupboard for my clothing.

Austin misses having space to easily store his instruments.

I feel bad that the kids don’t have their own spaces.

I wish we had a bathtub.

Our water heater doesn’t work consistently and our showers often consist of 30 second bursts of scalding hot water, followed by ice cold water.

The kids’ room is awkwardly shaped and impossible to keep neat and tidy.

Our kitchen cupboards are disorganized and crammed full because there’s not enough space to put things anywhere else.

The number of windows and poor insulating make it hard to regulate the temperature inside: it’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

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When it rains, we stress about leaks.

We need to have a heavy duty dehumidifier going all winter to avoid condensation and mold.

There’s little to no wall space available for pictures or anything else.

I stress about whether the bus will start up again when we eventually need to move it.

There’s no space for hobbies.

It’s difficult, nearly impossible, to have people over for dinner, a favorite pastime of ours

Our tiny oven doesn’t work well for most baked goods.

We miss being able to easily host overnight guests.

If one of us is in a bad mood, we’re all in a bad mood.

I had to laugh when I found this book back yesterday. (Read this post for context!) 

I had to laugh when I found this book back yesterday. (Read this post for context!) 

Austin looks forward to the day we’ll have a flush toilet again, he’s in charge of emptying the toilet and it’s not his favorite task.

I wish we had space for a homeschool room/area.

There are things I’ve gotten rid of that I wish we could keep, but I hate clutter and sometimes things have to go when there’s just not a good place to store it.

I’d love to have a bedroom with a door.

We rarely have reliable internet. It’s often not a huge deal, but frustrating for me when I do quite a bit of work online.

Our small fridge and freezer make it impossible to buy most things in bulk, or to plan meals too far in advance.

Somedays there’s just no place to hide when I just need a few minutes alone. I’ve spent time sitting in the driveway in the van.

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We look forward to the day we’ll be able to buy our own home.

I stress about house prices and wonder if we’ll ever be able to afford it.

There are days I find myself browsing Craigslist to see what’s available to rent.

I find myself longing for my own forever home.

Comparison and envy have been too present in my life lately.

If I’ve visited your home in the past few months, you can bet I’ve spent time imagining what it would be like to live there.

Fixing problems with the bus is frustrating when we know it’s not our forever home.

While I appreciate the ingenuity and creativity we’ve been forced to use to solve many issues that have come up, I often wish the solutions were more simple.

After discovering the leaks this morning, I hopped on Craigslist to look at rental houses. Housing prices are so high here and the market is so competitive, there’s no way we can afford to rent. We aren’t ready to buy, so it feels like we are stuck here.

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Please don’t read this and think that we hate living in the bus. That’s far from true and most days we feel very content and at peace with where we are. But the truth remains that this situation is temporary, was always meant to be, and we feel it coming to an end.

Tiny Home/Minimalist Gift Guide

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links)

I recently asked for birthday gift ideas on my Facebook page and was so impressed by many of the ideas, I decided to compile some them here so I can find them again, or so others can get some ideas for their own kids! 

Lulu and Abram both have birthdays later this month (turning 3 and 5) and I've been stuck for ideas. I love the idea of experience gifts, but they like something they can open and play with right away (I get it!). 

Here some ideas I'm considering (and a few things we already have, but that would be great for someone else!)

I love these butterfly wings! They're pretty, simple and don't have wire that can be bent or broken. I like they are easy to store in a drawer or cupboard! 

Play Silks are a great, simple, open ended toy that I had forgotten about before a few people suggested them! They can be used as props, flags, capes, tents, costumes, etc. I think both of my kids will love these! 

Whoever suggested Walkie Talkies? GENIUS! I think we'll all love these! I'm sure my kids will find a thousand different ways to use these in their games, and I hope it'll encourage them to get outside and play! I can imagine them taking these to the park or the beach, or playing with them in the yard, or while one of them is outside, etc. I'm excited for this gift! 

Puzzles are another great gift idea! We love Ravensburger puzzles, Lulu and Abram can complete a 45-60 piece puzzle on their own, it's a great quiet activity for them to work on together. 

Another great idea, an Amish Marble Run is something I'm pretty sure Abram would LOVE. It's super simple and won't make a mess. We've had marble tracks before, but all of the pieces got lost one by one. I love that this won't take up a lot of space and is easy to store. 

We have a couple big empty planters and I'm thinking of getting Lulu the materials to make a fairy garden together! Amazon has a bunch of super cute accessories and kits to make them and I think it would be a fun project for us to do together! 

This Sunprint Kit is so cool, I want to buy it right now! I'm definitely going to get enough paper that I can try it out too!

If we had an open wall, I would definitely get the kids a felt board like this one! They would love it and there's a million different things they could do with it! 

I've shared about these bird feeders before! The kids each got one for Christmas last year and they're still a hit! We've just recently filled them again and have all kinds of birds visiting again, right at our window! 

As much as I love the environment and love to reduce, reuse, recycle...I also love single use or consumable items. A cookie kit like this would be a big hit here and after you use it, it's done! 

Another cute, single use gift could be a craft kit like this. We don't have craft supplies at home (intentionally) and I have no desire to start collecting them until we have more space. However, my kids would love a project like this and when they're done, everything but the project can be tossed! 

We already have a couple hammocks and a swing and they're used constantly! A swing like this would be a great option for any kid! 

I'm hoping to get each of the kids one of these market baskets, I'm thinking they can use them when we go on our nature walks. They love collecting pretty leaves and plants, but get sick of carrying them. These are cute and functional! 

I've never even heard of a Solar Powered Rainbow Maker, and now I want one for every window in our house! Can you imagine how cool that would be? If you read the reviews on Amazon, these things are pretty much loved and adored by everyone who has bought one! 

OTHER IDEAS:

- Thingamatink

- Clothing

- Board games

- Audiobooks

- DVD/Movie night kit (we don't have a TV or DVD player, but would be fun for a family that does!)

- Grocery store gift card to pick out treats (My kids will LOVE this!)

- Seed Catalogue (Anna Poupa suggested letting each kid browse the beautiful (free!) catalogue, then they can pick out some seeds, then plan a garden to plant them in the spring!)

- Pottery date to paint something they can use at home

 

Seriously, SO many good ideas! Be sure to go browse the thread on my Facebook page and add your own suggestions!

5 on Friday: Five favorites

This week was long and definitely had some ups and downs. Here are my five favorite things about this week: 

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1. This past Sunday was especially restful and sweet for my little family. Felix was baptized, which was wonderful! Of course, the baptism of each of our children has been a special day for us, but this day was especially fun because Lulu and Abram were somewhat aware of what was going on. They were as excited as we were to see their little brother get baptized. After church, we enjoyed lunch at my parents' house and Lulu requested that we sing together afterwards. She's realized that she can read well enough now to follow along in the old hymn books and sang her little heart out (slightly behind and little off key) with the rest of us. 

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2. On Tuesday, a friend of mine and her two boys joined us on a nature walk. We bundled up for the chilly morning weather and walked 2 miles with our five little ones, before heading back to the beach for a picnic, where the kids stripped of their clothes and played in the water in the warm afternoon sun. It was such a peaceful day and it was so nice to have time to visit while the kids stayed busy on the beach! As an added bonus, I almost hit a bear on the drive home! 

3. I had a chance to chat with Lulu's kindergarten teacher this week and it was so encouraging! Since we decided to start her a year early (she's not 5 yet), I've been really wondering how she's doing in class. Her teacher was confident that Lulu is more than ready for kindergarten this year!

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4. After several rough days, Austin asked me how he could help lighten my load. I couldn't think of anything, since he's gone most of the day. We woke up in the morning to find notes he left for each of us, loving, encouraging words for me and a fun note and small list of chores for each of the kids. Not only did they love finding a letter written just for each of them, they were more than happy to complete the tasks he gave them. It was such a clever way for Austin to help out and really set the day off right. I'm so grateful for my husband and the way he loves me. 

5. I had an engagement session this week and we were able to do some rescheduling and make it work on one of the gorgeous days we've had! It felt so good to get out and shoot again! It was one of my favorite recent sessions and I left feeling so confident and inspired! 

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Lulu's Crown Braid Tutorial

I've been asked countless times about how I do Lulu's hair! The truth is, it's pretty simple so I never really think about it. The best thing about this hairstyle is that if I do it tight enough, it'll look nice (enough) for 2-3 days. It takes less than 10 minutes and keeps the hair out of her face, so she's usually happy to comply!

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By day 2 (or 3 or 4....) it' a little looser and fuzzier, but just as functional!

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Here's how I do it: 

1. Brush hair. This is the hardest and most traumatic step of the entire process. If you can make it past this without tears, you're golden. 

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For real though, make sure you brush it really well, otherwise it gets tangled halfway through and once you start the braid, you can't stop! 

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After her hair is brushed and tangle-free, I have Lulu tip her head all the way forward, almost resting on her knees. When I was slower at braiding, she'd complain this hurt her neck, but now that I can get this part done quick, it's no big deal. 

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Part the hair (as if you're doing two braids) and start with three small strands, only taking from the starting side of the part. 

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As you continue braiding, only grab strands from the one side of the part. As you get higher around the head, your victim can slowly raise their head from that torturous position. I usually have Lulu sit on a stool in the middle of the room so I can move myself around her as needed. I've also been known to use my knees to adjust the stool if need be. 

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Be sure that the hair remains pushed forward over the face, otherwise it'll get caught up in the braid at the wrong time and you'll have to redo it (much to the dismay of your 4 year old)

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At this point, I move myself all the way around her, or have her turn on the stool,  so that I'm still braiding towards myself (does that make sense?). 

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Do your best to keep the braid tight and close to the head, it's really hard to get it tight again if you let it get too loose!

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Once you get around the top of the head, it's pretty straight forward! Just braid to the end, pulling the remaining hair into the braid as you go. 

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When you get to the end, just keep braiding. Lulu's hair is the perfect length for this hairstyle, so I'm not sure how it would work with longer hair! 

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After I get to the end of the braid, I use a tiny little hair tie and don't pull the end of the braid all the way though, this makes it easier to secure with a bobby pin at the very end. 

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Take the tail and poke it through the braid as far as it will reach. Then I just use a single bobby pin and pin it in place. 

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That's it! It really is simple and the perfect way to keep hair out of her face when she's busy playing! Lulu gets compliments on her hair every time we go anywhere, and people always ask how I have time to do such an intricate braid. It always cracks me up because 1. it takes less than 10 minutes and it can stay in for several days 2. it's literally the only way I know how to do her hair. 

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There you go! Let me know how it goes if you try it! 

Five on Friday: 5 things that are stressing me out

(Random pictures from this week, not relevant to this post, but they have to go somewhere!)

1. Austin grabbed something from the basement (the underbelly storage compartment of the bus) and saw a RAT down there. I can't really think of anything worse. I'm paranoid it's going to find it's way into the bus and I will probably burn the bus down and move into a hotel room if that happens (hm.... bathtub, tv, reliable wifi, room service...besides the price tag, that doesn't sound too bad....). Anyway, my Amazon cart currently looks like I'm starting up my own extermination business. 

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2. Lulu has been talking about her birthday party non-stop the past few weeks. The birthday party I hadn't really been planning on having. If she had her choice, it would be a "Peacock and Camel, Spooky Costume Surprise Party". If I had my choice it would be a "Go to McDonald's with Our Cousins" themed party. Not sure how this is going to play out. I keep responding to her party ideas with "Well, we'll see", which obviously means "No" in mom language, right? I think she hasn't learned that yet. 

3. I'm shooting a wedding tomorrow. While I'm excited for the actual wedding (I love weddings!) I'm a little stressed about leaving the baby for that long, hopefully he takes a bottle...It's also supposed to be pouring rain all day tomorrow, which makes the plan for outdoor pictures slightly problematic.

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4. Felix is getting baptized (or 'bathtized' according to Lulu) on Sunday and I realized today he has very few things that fit him to wear. A onesie that says "Pants Optional" or a sleeper covered in baby elephants don't really seem appropriate for a baptism, right? I mean, he doesn't need anything fancy, but his signature outfit of fat naked thighs and a white onesie might not cut it. 

5. I'm already struggling to keep up with laundry now that we can't line dry it! Our washer/dryer washes but no longer dries, so without the ability to line dry, we're pretty much stuck. I'm really hoping to avoid spending hours and dollars at the laundromat, but it's not looking possible with two messy kids and a poopy, pukey baby. I check the laundry mountain every morning, but the laundry fairy still hasn't stopped by.

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Anyone want to solve my problems? 

Board Games for Kids

My husband and I love playing board games! I love anything from Sorry! to Settlers on the nerd scale and Austin's somewhere around Settlers to games that take up to 6 hours (aka: super nerdy). We often play board games together after the kids go to bed, especially quick two player games (Boggle or Lost Cities are two favorites!). We're both excited for the days when our kids can play more complex games, but for now we're doing our best to introduce them to a variety of games! 

I always look for games at the thrift store when I go, they're almost always under $5 and I've found a few really great games (and quite a few duds!) that way. I don't mind donating them back a couple weeks later if they don't work out for us. 

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I've noticed that so many kids' games are essentially Memory or Go Fish in some form, so I do my best to stay away from those. I really want to build a small collection of games that we all enjoy playing! I love that games give us a chance to focus on each other, chat while we play and it's fun to see the kids (mostly Lulu!) really pick up on the concepts! 

Here are a few of our favorites:

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- Gobblet Jr. 

I picked this one up recently and I'm really impressed with it! The concept is simple: Tic Tac Toe. BUT each player has two sets of pegs: big, medium and small. Big can gobble up medium or small and medium can gobble small. On your turn you can place a new peg, gobble up your opponent's peg or move a peg on the board. It's a really good intro to strategy (which peg should you use first? What happens if you move a peg? How can you block your opponent?). We've talked through it a lot with Lulu and she's surprisingly good! It's also a pretty quick play, which helps ease the sting if you lose a round!

 

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- Up The River

This is a clever, simple game that both Lulu and Abram enjoy. You place tiles on the table (the river) and move your boat from tile to tile as you roll the die. The strategy comes into play when you have to decide which of your three boats to move! The tiles move on as play goes around the table and several of the tiles involve special actions. There's also a fun "ill wind" component that the kids LOVE (bumping Dad back 3 spaces? Yes please!). 

Wig Out

Wig Out is pretty much as simple as it gets. We've been playing this game with Lulu for over a year and she's almost past it. It's a simple matching game that requires no skill (making it a good game for a 2-3 year old!). The illustrations are fun and it's a good game to start with. 

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Camp

Camp is a game that we all enjoy, it's a nature trivia game with different questions for each age group. Austin and I are both trivia fans and the kids are able to answer many of the questions in their age range, so they enjoy it too! It's a nice heavy duty game with a secret decoder that the kids are obsessed with!

Connect 4

Classic, simple. I'll admit, Lulu isn't very good at this game, but she tries and we often end up playing both sides together, discussing the best moves and recognizing patterns and options. While it's not necessarily my first pick, she really enjoys it and I know someday soon she won't need my help! 

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Spin Me a Rainbow

This is our kids' current favorite game, and mine too because I don't have to play it with them. It's painfully simple: spin the wheel and see which color you can add to your rainbow. Be the first to fill your rainbow card and you win! They enjoy it and it's a pretty game, perfect! 

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We don't have a lot of space for games (obviously!) but it's fun to have a small collection of favorites and a few rotating options as well. Do you play board games with your kids? I'd love to know what your favorites are so I can look out for them! 

Dancing

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We went to the beach last night to release some energy and enjoy the sunset. After we all wandered around together for a while, the kids wanted to go play at the playground. Abram is much more bold than Lulu and he had no problem pushing his way through the crowded ladders and slides. Lulu, however, ended up getting pushed on the slide and that was it for her. She asked to walk down to the beach instead. I sat on the bench close by and watched her. 

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There's a busy sidewalk next to the beach and there were lots of people walking, running and biking past. There was also live music playing at the amphitheater further down the path. I could see her start quietly pointing her toes and shaking her hands.

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She can be so outgoing and bold, but I've started to see her becoming a little more reserved and self-conscious. I'm not surprised by it, but it does make me sad to realize she's getting older.

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Soon she couldn't contain it and she started dancing, twirling and leaping across the sand. It made me so happy. I sat back and took pictures while she moved to the music. 

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At one point an older couple stopped and watched her, big smiles on their faces. She stopped dancing when she realized, but then went right back into it after returning their smiles

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Later she told me she'd like to come to the beach every day and let it be her stage, even if people do watch her. 

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I hope she grows in her confidence, doesn't let an audience change who she is and that I'll always have a front row seat. 

Tiny Living with a Newborn

Felix is over a month old now, so I thought I'd go ahead and give a little insight as to what tiny living with a tiny human has been like. 

The biggest surprise so far (to me, at least) has been how easy it has been. I don't know if this is because of our small space or because Felix is an easy baby, but I'll take it! I feel like we were well prepared for him and that's helped too! There are very few things we've had to purchase since his birth and very few things that haven't been used! 

I think the biggest thing has been making sure that everything has a place. Our tiny space is relatively easy to keep tidy IF everything has a space. As soon as we have too much stuff or a few things that don't have a designated place, it feels very cluttered. I know people say things like "the mess can wait" or "babies don't keep!" but I have found that I can't really enjoy my baby in the midst of a messy space. Especially in the first few weeks postpartum, I feel much, much calmer and happier in a tidy space. This is not to say that our home is always perfectly neat and tidy, but we do our best to keep it manageable! 

Making space for a new baby wasn't easy and we had to do some rearranging and reworking of our home to make it work. I feel like we've done a pretty good job keeping our baby "gear" to a minimum!

A few of our favorite baby items so far: 

- DockAtot

Felix spends most of the night in the Dockatot. I love that we can have him so close to our bed without him actually in bed with us. I love co-sleeping, but sleep better when he's not right beside me. I also love that we can take the Dockatot with us when we go places, it's so nice to have a safe place to put him no matter where we are! I'm sure it'll come in handy in a few months when I'll be looking for a good place for him to lay and play as well! 

- Ollie Swaddle

I admit, when I first received the Ollie Swaddle, I was skeptical. It looked like a big square of fabric with some velcro on it....Let me tell you, I'm a changed woman since Felix has been born! We use this swaddle every single night and often during the day as well. I don't know what the magic component is; the moisture wicking fabric, simple velcro closure, comfortable fit; I have no idea but something about it works some kind of magic on our baby and he sleeps a thousand times better in it. I've been trying to get my hands on a second one with no luck! Instead I've resorted to washing it by hand almost every morning (because babies poop, puke and pee a LOT) and hanging it to dry so it's ready when we need it again! 

- Mamaroo swing

This swing has been great too! It doesn't take up a lot of space and doesn't swing far out to take up more room. Austin built a little shelf that it sits on top of (it has edges all around that the swing fits firmly into to be sure it can't tip or fall!) and all of Felix's diapers, wipes, blankets and clothes fit inside. The swing has all kinds of different settings (Felix likes the "car ride" one the most!) and it's nice to be able to set the intensity as well. Since it's not battery operated, I don't have to feel bad about running it for hours while Felix sleeps!

- Vintage buggy

I was trying to come up with a good sleep solution for outside since we spend so much time in the yard when my mom offered to let us borrow this vintage buggy. She bought it at a garage sale for me to sleep in when I was a baby! It's perfect for us, I can roll it around the yard depending where we are, it rocks gently and offers a shaded, safe spot for Felix to sleep while we're outside! 

- Baby clothes

We didn't buy a lot of clothing before Felix was born partially because we didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl and partially because we just don't have space! Honestly, Felix doesn't wear clothes that often. I bought a pack of white onesies and we have a handful of cute favorites (like these adorable pants from Little Hatch Patch!). He's growing so fast, he skipped NB completely and spent a couple weeks in 0-3, we're now transitioning to 3-6 month size, again, I'm glad we didn't go crazy and buy tons of stuff before knowing what we'd really use and appreciate! 

- Diapers

We didn't stock up on diapers before Felix was born and I'm glad! Some friends of ours gifted us a couple boxes of diapers and that's all we had. At 4 weeks, Felix is ready for size 2 diapers already, so I'm glad we didn't get tons of size 1 or NB! Boxes of diapers take up a lot of space (especially with two in diapers!) and we'll just buy them as we go along. 

-Nursing gear

Because I plan on exclusively nursing, I wasn't terribly worried about getting a pump. However, I do have a few weddings and sessions coming up so I do need to stockpile some milk for Felix for those days. Instead of a big electric pump, I bought a small, single manual pump. This works perfectly for me and is much simpler than a bigger set up! I got a wonderful nursing camisole from Kindred Bravely and it's become my favorite! I was able to wear it near the end of my pregnancy (it's nice and long!) and it's a staple in my wardrobe now. I also got some reusable breast pads that are soft and absorbent. 

- Solly Baby Wrap

We love baby wearing and have tried many different wraps and carriers. With our first two, we used a Moby wrap a lot in their first several months. However, Felix is a summer baby and our others were born in October. For this reason, I looked for a similar wrap that would be more breathable. The Solly Wrap is perfect! It's easy to use, cozy and comfortable but nice a cool! We don't have an infant carseat for Felix (the kind you can carry) so every time we go somewhere, we wear him. The Solly Wrap has seen TONS of use already in these first four weeks. I think I might need one in every color....

- Meals

One thing I didn't really think about in my baby preparations was food. In our old house, we had an extra freezer and lots of cupboards. I prepared a bunch of freezer meals, stockpiled easy dinner ideas and good nursing snacks. This time around, however, we have a freezer the size of a shoe box, very few cupboards and not a lot of storage space. Because of this, it's been SUCH a blessing to have friends and family drop of dinners for us! Our church family has been so wonderful, dropping off wonderful, tasty dinners just when we need them. So far we've had plenty of leftovers so Austin's been able to take lunch to work every day as well! The training wheels come off soon when our constant stream of deliciousness will come to an end! 

- Indoor/Outdoor Spaces

Another thing I'm very glad we thought about before Felix was born was where we'd be spending a lot of our time. I knew I'd be in/on our bed a lot, so we got some extra pillows, lowered the bed to make it more comfortable and invested in a good fan to keep it cool. I also plan on spending a lot of time in the yard with Felix and the kids, so we planned on getting a really nice lawnchair. Would you believe, I found one in a free pile just a couple weeks before Felix was born? Can't beat that! I also purchased an amazingly comfortable (and gorgeous!) hammock (from HangAHammock) after discovering our old one was broken. It's gotten tons of use so far and I'm sure we'll be using it for months and years to come!

We're so grateful for a wonderful, healthy newborn and amazing friends and family members who have supported us this month! I came down with Influenza not long after Felix was born and it slowly turned into Pneumonia which landed us in the ER when I passed out. It's been a slow recovery but I feel like I'm past the worst of it now. Even with all of that yuckiness, I still feel like this postpartum/newborn period has been surprisingly enjoyable and peaceful! I'm hoping and praying the feeling continues as we get used to life with our new little guy!

 

 

 

 

One Month of Felix

Felix is one month old today and I can't believe how fast it went by! I was scrolling through the pictures on my phone today and realized I never do anything with the random pictures I collect there. As a photographer, I have a hard time posting low-quality iPhone shots, but I also don't want to lose them! I figured I'd dump them all here so I can find them back someday! 

In chronological order: Felix's first month of life, as recorded by a crappy iphone-ographer. 

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Felix Robert

My due date was June 15, not that I was expecting labor to happen before that. Lucille and Abram were both born at 41 weeks, 1 day, when I was eventually induced. I was really, really hoping labor would start on it’s own this time, but wasn’t super hopeful. My midwives and I had chatted and made a plan to break my water on Friday, the 23rd if I hadn’t had the baby yet.

Two weeks before Felix was born 

Two weeks before Felix was born 

I had been having contractions every evening (and often during the day) for at least a week. Not only was it exhausting physically, it’s frustrating to always have that “maybe this is it!” feeling. On Wednesday the 21st, I woke up at 2am with painful contractions. They were coming every 10-20 minutes and only lasting 20-30 seconds. I tried to go back to sleep, but they kept waking me up. I got up at 4am, and expected them to stop once I was up and moving. They never did, but they never got closer than 15 minutes apart.

Just before heading to the birth center

Just before heading to the birth center

 I paged my midwife at 9am and gave her a heads up, even though I knew this wasn’t it. Later in the morning, I called Erin and let her know, since she was hoping to be at the birth. She packed up her little girls and came over to keep me company since Austin was working all day. It was a really frustrating day because I had a few errands I wanted to run and some things I wanted to do around the house but it was pretty much impossible with the inconsistent contractions still coming every 15ish minutes. Erin and the girls came and the kids all played outside while Erin and I got some cleaning done in the bus.

Early labor

Early labor

 Erin took Addy to an appointment at noon, and I encouraged her to leave the other girls here since I was feeling fine, besides the random contractions. The kids all played outside and I kept puttering around the house. After Erin got back, we had lunch together and then she headed out at around 3pm. I felt okay, but didn’t want to be home alone. Because Abram’s labor had progressed quite quickly once things got started, I felt paranoid about being home alone if labor did start. I called Austin at work and he was able to head home a little early.

 My midwife checked in on us again at around 5pm and suggested that we come to the birth center to get checked and see if I had made any progress from the day of random contractions. Hannah stopped by and picked up the kids and we headed out. It was such a weird feeling to leave the bus, we had no idea if we’d be coming home that night or if we would be coming back with a baby or not!

 When we got there, I had made very little progress from the day of work. At my previous appointment, I was 3cm dilated and I was about the same when she checked. I tried not to be disappointed, since I wasn’t even in labor and knew it would take more than that to get things going. We talked about our options and decided to break my water that night, since I really didn’t want to go through the night without sleep and be exhausted for labor when it did start.

 She broke my water at 7pm and Erin came shortly after with some dinner and snacks for everyone. We all visited and joked while waiting to see if labor would start. If it didn’t, I knew I’d have to head for the hospital. Thankfully, by 8pm, I knew this was it. Contractions came every 10-15 minutes and were very intense.

 I got in the tub and labored in a few different positions for a while. After about an hour, I couldn’t get comfortable in the tub and I asked the midwife to check me. She did and I was discouraged to hear I was only 5cm dilated. Abram’s whole labor was only 4 hours and in my head, I had been counting on the same. Everyone assured me that even though this labor might take longer, I was doing good work. I felt defeated. The midwife encouraged me to labor on the bed for a while, and although I hated the idea, I listened anyway.

 I laid on my side for a while and was actually able to sleep between contractions for a little bit. After 45 minutes or so, I sat up and reclined against the pillows. I remember thinking that I could always go to the hospital and get an epidural. Then I realized I’d have to wait in the waiting room and that sounded awful. I wondered if they’d call 911 for me so I wouldn’t have to. I remember thinking it had been over 3 hours already and I was only 5cm, I really didn’t think I could do it for that much longer. I was so tired after weeks of broken sleep and a full day of intermittent contractions.

 “Why does it hurt so bad!?” I yelled and the midwife replied “It’s your baby finding its way out, getting ready to be born!”. “Stupid baby, there’s only one way out!”

 During the next contraction, I suddenly felt like I had to push. I HATE pushing and knew I wasn’t there yet, so I really tried to ignore the urge. Watching my body do it anyway was such a weird feeling. I get pretty crazy during pushing and I remember yelling “I can’t, I won’t!” over and over. Not super encouraging affirmations to myself… I felt a little panicked because I couldn’t imagine I’d be 10cm already, but my body knew what it was doing. During the next few contractions, I couldn’t help it anymore and I started pushing. Less than 10 minutes later, our baby was born. My water was broken at 7pm, labor really picked up at 8pm and Felix was born at 11pm! 

 The moment he was out, I felt better. It’s such a crazy feeling. Physically, emotionally, everything. I just felt better. The midwife put him on my chest and I was immediately impressed by his giant chubby face! All along, we thought he’d be smaller than my first two babies, but as soon as I saw him I knew we were wrong. He didn’t cry right away, so they started rubbing him all over and encouraging crying. At that same moment, I felt the bleeding start. I’ve hemorrhaged very badly after every birth and this one was no different. Thankfully, my midwives were very proactive and prepared and had gotten an IV started before breaking my water. They had a bag of fluid and pitocin ready and started it right away. While I still lost a pretty incredible amount of blood (over 10 times what they normally see at a birth), they were able to control it very quickly.

 Austin and I were both enamored with our new baby and didn’t even think to check if it was a boy or a girl for several minutes. When we found out we had a second son, we were both thrilled! Neither of us had any strong preference or feelings as to what we were having this time, but it felt so perfect right away.

 The midwives cleaned up and we all visited and chatted for a while. Austin and I discussed a few name options and we decided on Felix Robert. Felix is a name that I’ve liked for a long time, first hearing it when I used to watch ‘Road to Avonlea’ after church with my mom and sister. It fit with our other names and our qualifications that it be a simple, easy to pronounce name that’s not too popular, but not unusual or weird. Robert is a family name from Austin’s side, and is actually his given first name.

After weighing and measuring him, we found that he weighed exactly the same as Lulu did at birth - 9lbs 14oz. He was 21.5” long and his head was 15.25”.

 We were able to go home several hours after he was born. Driving home at 2am was such a strange feeling. The streets were empty and dark and we hadn’t told anyone that the baby had been born. It was such a cozy, special feeling. Cuddling into our own bed felt so good. Felix slept on my chest all night, and I sat awake and marveled at him.

God is good and we are so grateful that he has given us this sweet boy!

 

 

Still Waiting

Well, my due date came and went and I'm still pregnant. I'm not surprised (Lulu and Abram were both born at 41 weeks + 1 day) but it's still frustrating. I'm uncomfortable, exhausted and emotional. As with both of my other babies, I have contractions off and on every evening, they aren't super painful, but definitely uncomfortable and lead to "maybe this is it!" thoughts every time. 

Austin has his last day of the quarter today, this week has been filled with finals, tests, quizzes and projects for him, along with 40+ hours of work. I'm glad he's been able to keep up with everything and has done very well in his classes, but I'm so looking forward to him being home a little more this summer. I've been doing my best to keep up with everything around here, but at 40+ weeks, there's only so much I can do. 

I opened my email this morning to find an email from my friend Melissa with pictures from a maternity session she did for us last week. It was such a lovely pick me up and I'm so happy I asked her to document this time for us! 

I love looking at these pictures of our family of four, but I can't WAIT to find out who we will be adding soon! 

Thanks again to MK Daughters Photography for capturing us so perfectly! 

Find Melissa on social media: 

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Lorena Canals

The kids' room is a constant problem for me. It's a very small space, so it gets messy very quickly. Cleaning it multiple times a day gets annoying and frustrating. Usually, Austin cleans it with the kids before bed and it's a huge mess all day long. I've come to terms with this, and I appreciate that they have their own space that can be messy and not leak out into the rest of the bus. 

But the one thing I can't handle is the dirt and grime that gets in their space! When we moved in, we purchased a cheap area rug to cover their floor. It is constant disgustingly filthy and I can't seem to get it clean. Vacuuming it did nothing. I've crawled over the whole thing on my hands and knees, scrubbing it with a tiny brush. I've tried different kinds of cleaners and sprays and nothing seems to work. It picks up every piece of dust, hair, mud and dirt that the kids drag in.

And again, because their space is so small, it's walked on and played on a lot. In a fit of hormonal nesting and frustration, I pulled it out and threw it out the door the other day. They've have a bare floor since then, which is slightly easier for me to deal with. 

But when Lorena Canals offered to send us one of their beautiful area rugs, you can bet I was all over that! I spent way too long deciding on which rug to order (there are SO many beautiful ones!) and ended up with this one.

It's super cute, the perfect size for their space and (ready for this?) MACHINE WASHABLE!! That's right, I can just throw it in our washing machine (even our tiny one can handle it!). It stays cleaner and looks nicer than their old cheapie one and I love how soft and cozy it is! 

I was impressed that the rug didn't have any chemical or plasticy smell when we opened it and spread it out, our last one took several days to stop smelling. I love that it's made of natural materials, the kids were rolling all over it and loving the softness as soon as we had it laid out! 

I don't feel nearly as panicked when I see the kids wander into their room with their dirty feet and mud streaked bodies, even if their rug gets dirty, I'll just toss it in the washing machine! Seriously, I'm in love!

Check out Lorena Canals here: www.lorenacanals.us

 

 

Backyard Birds

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links!)

I've always loved birds. I love watching them, learning about them and knowing the different varieties. Lucky for me, my kids feel the same. Since we've moved into our tiny home, we've spent a lot more time outdoors than we used to, but in a different way. We used to spend more time hiking, going to the beach and enjoying our local parks. While we still do these things, we spend more time in our yard than anywhere else. 

We started watching the various birds that come to our yard and as time has gone on, we've amassed a collection of bird feeders that we love to maintain and watch. Because our windows are so high from the ground, we're at the perfect height to watch the birds!

We have several hummingbird feeders, a couple tube feeders, and a few other random feeders. Our kids LOVE these window feeders and we've had all kinds of birds perch on them to eat. Even when we're sitting inches away at the table, many of the birds don't mind and still come to visit.

 

While the Amazon links above are very similar feeders to the ones we have, we've actually gotten most of ours second-hand. They're not expensive to buy new, but saving a few bucks makes it even better. 

Western Tanager 

Western Tanager 

Another key to making birding interesting for ours kids has been having bird books available for them to look at all the time. We've picked up a couple second hand and checked some out of the library that they've enjoyed, but this book has been a favorite! It's easy for them to navigate and plays the sounds of many common birds in our area. They love finding a new bird and listening to the sound. I think the coolest part is that often if we play a certain sound loudly outside, that variety of bird will call back to us! It's been a fun way to learn more about birds and their behaviors. 

I try to have our bird books near our windows and ready to be looked at so we can identify new birds. I used to search the internet to try to identify a new bird, which is easy and quick, but I like that the kids see me using actual books to find new information and it's a fun way to teach them the value of books! 

We have an ongoing list that we add to when we see a new bird, in the past few months we've seen 15 varieties at our feeders. Lulu is always really excited when we see a new bird and as the seasons change, the kind of birds we see has changed too. Both of our kids can point out and identify many kinds of birds and I think it's a neat thing for them to learn about. 

If you have a bird feeder in your yard, you've probably dealt with the same problem we do: squirrels! We've tried hanging the feeders in different areas, placing them further out on branches, using different materials to hang them, etc. Every time our solutions seems to work and then those stinky squirrels find some work-around we hadn't thought of! 

Most recently, we've tried mixing Cayenne pepper and chili powder into the bird food as we fill the feeders. Apparently birds can't taste it, so it doesn't bother them, but squirrels do and won't touch it. We've have the spicy food out for a couple days and so far, we haven't seen any squirrels and the birds don't seem to mind! I'm hoping we might have found a solution that actually works, but I'm not holding my breath!

Recent Favorites

If you've been following along on instagram (www.instagram.com/tinyhomedream) you know that I'm working on a 365 Project, where I post a "big camera" picture everyday. This is my second time through and so it's become a habit for me to shoot and edit daily. However, that sometimes means that I focus so much on getting one photo done that others get overlooked or forgotten. I looked through my photos from the past few weeks and decided to edit a few more of my favorites. Here they are:

Getting Ready for Baby

We have just a month left until my due date! My first two babies were both 8 days late, so realistically, I'll be planning on an extra week. 

We're slowly gathering baby items and supplies. Because of our small space, we're limited on what we'll be getting. We're doing our best to stick to the bare essentials, and not buying too much until the baby is born and we know a little more about what we'll want/need for him/her. 

We do not have space for a bassinet, crib or a free standing baby bed of any kind. A few months ago, a friend of mine recommended the DockATot, a breathable baby bed that makes co-sleeping easy and safe. The thing that I love about it is that it's multi-functional, it can be used as a lounger, co-sleeper or for playtime. The slightly raised edges make it so baby can't roll out and the cozy 100% cotton fabric makes it a cozy place for baby to sleep and nap. I'm really excited to try this out with our baby! We've co-slept with our first two babies and I think this will make it even easier and more comfortable! 

I've been slowly purchased a few clothing items here and there. We don't know what we're having (and our family is split on our guesses!) and it's hard to find cute, gender neutral things! Finn + Emma has just that! Super cute items, and they are all made with organic cotton, non-toxic, eco friendly dyes and they're super cute and soft! Since we're not going to be getting tons of clothing for our baby, I love that the few things we're getting are such high quality garments! There aren't any characters or silly sayings on any of their items, I love the simple designs and creative collections!

One item I got that isn't necessarily a necessity is one of this adorable Binxy Baby cart hammocks! I'm a pretty hardcore babywearing mom, but I will admit that my babies have both been big and sweaty. I'm looking forward to having the option of using the cart hammock instead of wearing my little one during the hot summer months. These cart hammocks fit most standard shopping carts and support up to 50lbs! I think that'll be enough for even my chunky babies ;) 

(Photo from binxybaby.com)

(Photo from binxybaby.com)

We're planning to get a Mamaroo swing from 4Moms so that we do have one dedicated safe baby space in our home. We've done some rearranging in our living room to make a little corner for the swing and I hope it works out! We'll probably wait until the baby is born to buy it, so that it's not taking up room while we wait! 

While we got rid of almost every single baby thing when we moved, I did hold onto a couple baby carriers, which I'm grateful for now! Since this will be a summer baby and my first two are late fall, I am going to be looking for a lightweight wrap to use when the baby is tiny. I'm leaning towards a Solly Baby wrap

Another thing we did to prepare is that we lowered our loft bed to make it easier to get into and out of. Not only will this make it easier and more accessible with a newborn, by giant pregnant body also appreciates it.

I've also started buying a few packs of diapers, breast pads and other smaller baby items. I'm planning to breast feed, but I'll probably pick up a breast pump and a few bottles just to be prepared! It's a balance between buying too much beforehand and having it be unnecessary and in the way, and not getting the things we need and feeling overwhelmed and unprepared after the baby is born. 

We're SO excited for the baby to born, Lulu has been counting down the days for months now and tells anyone and everyone about the new baby! Abram asks everyday if it's time for the baby to come out yet. I'm growing more uncomfortable everyday, no matter how much gear we do or don't have - I'm ready! 

*Binxy Baby, DockATot and Finn + Emma all generously provided me with products in exchange for my honest opinions  *

 

Hank the Rooster

Several months ago, the kids and I had nothing to do on a Monday. We usually go to the library for storytime on Mondays, but there wasn't any that day. instead I decided to take the kids to the local auction barn to see the small animal auction. As I left, Austin joked "Don't buy anything or I'll eat it!". Of course I wasn't going to buy anything! Right?

After the first few animals; a trio of goats, an old pot-bellied pig, a young calf, a sheep that was definitely past it's prime, they started bringing out the chickens, ducks and chickens. I wasn't tempted by the giant turkey or goose. Bidding wars broke out over the laying hens and ducks. But then they brought out a feed sack tied with baling twine, opened it up and pulled out a dirty, wet little rooster. And no one bid. 

The auctioneer slowed and peered around the ring.

"Anybody? $8?"

nothing.

"$6?"

silence. 

I don't know if it's the pregnancy hormones, or straight up stupidity, but my hand went up. 

"SOLD!" the auctioneer cried, probably glad that somebody was willing to take him. 

I felt all eyes turn to me as they waited for me to give them my bidding number. The one I didn't have. 

After promising I'd go register for one right away, they handed me the dirty feed sack and the kids and I quickly escaped the room with our prize. 

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When we got him home, I suddenly worried that maybe someone had brought him to the auction barn because he was mean. This is not the case, as we learned very quickly. He's very docile, follows the kids around the yard (although he runs from them when they chase him) and will find his way into the house within seconds of me leaving the door open. 

He spends the days wandering around the yard, finding bugs and eating spilled bird seed. As soon as the sun begins to set, he heads for his dog crate under the bus. We keep it covered with a blanket overnight and it's Lulu's job to let him out in the morning. He does crow a few times in the early morning, but it helps a lot to have him covered with a dark blanket. 

Austin still isn't sold, but the kids and I are in agreement that he's a great pet for us. Besides the crowing and occasional chicken poop in the house, he's pretty much the most low maintenance, and yes, useless pet, you could ask for! 

Winter in our Tiny Home

It's mid April and I finally feel ready to recap our winter. The short story: We made it! barely. 

The long story: Winter 2015 was very mild. Very little snow and only a few days below freezing. We bought our bus in March of 2016 and felt confident that we could endure a PNW like the one we had just had. Let's just say Winter 2016/17 was a little different. I've heard it was the worst winter we've had in over 20 years, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's true. 

During our very first stretch of freezing weather, our pipes froze. We thought our water heater was completely destroyed, but it ended up coming back to life. We researched ways to insulate the heater (it's mounted outside) and hose and pipes and water filter and pretty quickly realized it was probably impossible and would be much too expensive. Instead, we decided we'd turn off our water and drain the water heater each time the weather got below freezing. We spent weeks without running water. Somedays, we'd be able to turn it on for a few hours during the day but then off again at night. We brought water in in big camping jugs and showered and did laundry elsewhere. 

The first time it got really cold, we were cold. It never got unbearable, but it definitely was not warm inside. We had two space heaters running, one in the kids' room and one in the main living area. We have no other source of heat (we removed the propane heater when we redid the bus). They couldn't quite keep it warm enough for us. We tried to decide if we should skirt the bottom of the bus or try something else first. I stumbled across these nifty little heaters and decided to try a couple of them before anything else. A problem that we run into is using too much power. We have 50 amps available and each regular space heater uses 12.5 amps. You can see that getting another regular space heater wasn't really a possibility. These wall heaters use only 2 amps each and have done a wonderful job of supplementing our big heaters! We noticed a difference a couple days after plugging them in, they helped us keep it nice and toasty in the bus all winter!

We also put plastic over all of our windows and that seemed to make a difference as well. We're just now peeling it off, one window at a time. We used to be able to see the curtains flutter when it was really windy, but that seemed to die down after we got the plastic up. 

We also tacked a big thick blanket up over our doorway to help with some of the poor insulation there. I hated feeling trapped, but it helped keep the warmth in when the kids were in and out al day to play in the snow. 

One morning we woke up to the nasty surprise of an ice storm. I've never seen anything like it. The ice was so thick we could barely open the door. Every time the wind blew, chunks of ice would fall from the branches onto the roof. After the power went out and we had several large branches fall on the roof, we threw in the towel and camped out at my parents' house for a couple nights. 

All in all, we survived. I can't think about next winter yet, I'm not ready to imagine what it will be like to be in these situations but with an added newborn....We're already hoping and praying for a mild winter! 

 

 

Outdoor Play

(this post contains Amazon Affiliate Links)

Just when I thought we wouldn't survive the winter in our tiny home, the sun came out!! We're not out of the woods yet, but we've had several gorgeous days and it's reminded me of the magic of tiny living. The kids spend most of their waking hours outdoors, my tiny home is clean within 20 minutes, while our friends are still running their furnaces, we're staying warm enough with one small space heater on at night. The kids have been sleeping better at night and arguing less since they've been spending more time outside. 

I've mentioned them here before, but feel they need an encore. These rainsuits from Ollie & Stella Outfitters have been SO wonderful this year. The kids have worn them in the rain, wind, snow, at the beach, hiking, in the yard and anywhere we go outside. They're easy for them to put off and on and make it so easy for me to say "yes" to messy outdoor activities! 

I am so grateful that our kids enjoy playing outside. They're often outside playing right after breakfast (or before if they're up early!) and spend hours in the yard. Unless they have a specific need, or if I'm working on something outside, I don't usually join them. Our home is small enough and covered in windows, so that I can quite easily see them wherever they are in our (fenced in) yard. We do our best to encouraged outdoor play, but we're certainly not experts. I thought I'd share a few of their favorite activities:

1. Horses

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know how much play time these horses see. We got two of them (Claudia and Simon) several years ago for $10 on Craigslist. Eventually, Claudia became so worn that she couldn't be ridden anymore. I spent a month looking and finally found a replacement for $15 on Craigslist. Lulu got Judy for her birthday in October and still regularly tells us thank you for her. The kids ride them, have races, spend hours washing them or covering them in mud, they pick grass for them to eat, decorate them with feathers and twigs, build barns and stables for them, etc. I never thought they'd get so much use! Ours are outside year round and have held up really well! 

2. Water

Our kids will spend hours playing with a bucket of water. Washing things, making mud, 'painting rocks', etc. When they get sick of it, I'll add another element: a paint brush, spray bottle, measuring cups, or funnel and buy myself another chunk of time. Yes, they get wet and messy, but it's worth it! 

3. Tools

A few tools that our kids like to use outdoors: tweezers, kids' sized shovel, small hammer, eye dropper, buckets, paint brush or roller and magnifying glass. I try not to give my kids much direction when they play with them, they come up with much better ideas on their own. They both spent a long time painting the horses with a tiny paintbrush the other day, or they'll carefully use the tweezers to pick up tiny rocks and seeds. 

4. Sticks

It's like giving a kid a gift and they only want to play with the box. We could have all kinds of outdoor toys and I'm pretty sure our kids would prefer sticks. They're swords, trees, horses, canes, trophies, snakes, etc. Lulu likes to plant 'stick gardens' and maintain them for a few days before harvesting her bounty. This is a great activity because it takes her a long time to choose the perfect sticks, find the best place to plant them, water each one and meticulously care for them over the next few days. It's not an idea that would have ever come up, which makes me love it all the more. 

4. Hammock

We have two hammocks hanging in our yard in the summer time and they've been a huge hit with the kids and their friends (and Austin and I!). We're looking forward to hanging them again when the weather gets nice!

5. Scavenger hunt

Sometimes I'll give the kids a bucket or basket and a list (3 leaves, 2 sticks, 5 rocks, a bug, a flower, etc) and send them off to hunt. More often than not, they get distracted by something and totally forget about the hunt, which is fine too!

6. Each other

I love it when they play outside for hours without any outside help or toys. They make up big pretend games and race each other and sit and talk and search for cool rocks and sticks. It makes me so happy to leave the door open and listen to them chat about birds and bugs and everything else!

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Some other favorites:

- Spray bottles (dollar store!)

- Dirt

- Mole hills

- Markers and a pile of rocks

- Trees

- Leaves

- Bubbles (this bucket is amazing and really doesn't spill!)

We've spent a lot of time outdoors over the fall and winter, but definitely not as much as I would like and not nearly as much as during the spring and summer! I'm really looking forward to another season of outdoor play and learning!