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

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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!

Tiny Home Meal Planning

When we moved into our tiny home, many things about our old lifestyle had to change. The first few times we went shopping, we WAY overbought and could not fit everything into our small kitchen. Since then, we've learned how to make it work for us!

We have to meal plan very carefully. I'm used to planning 2-3 meals for the week and kind of winging the rest. That doesn't work anymore, as we rarely have extra food to use! I plan 5 meals for the week and we eat leftovers for at least one meal and usually eat at a friend's place, or on the go for another. 

We have quite a bit of cabinet space, but only an apartment sized fridge and no extra freezer. For appliances, we have a small 4-burner gas stovetop and a countertop oven, I also use our Instant Pot daily (or more!), we have an electric skillet that we use quite a bit, our Kitchen Aid mixer and a small blender. We got rid of all of our other appliances before we moved, or within the first few months when we figured out which things we'd get the most use out of. 

I rarely buy large quantities anymore. This was a hard change for me! I'm used to stocking up when things are on sale, or doing a huge Costco trip once a month. That just doesn't work anymore. We do still shop at Costco for some things: coffee, sausages, coconut milk, and snacks are a few of the things that come to mind. I go to Costco twice a month now and still regret it almost every time, haha! I feel like it takes 2-3 days to get everything put away. 

We're also picky with which leftovers we save. We used to keep everything, and rarely eat any of it. Now we only keep what we know we'll actually eat and toss the rest. This has also taught us to make smaller amounts of things. I used to make two batches of some meals and freeze one, but we just don't have the freezer space anymore! My friend Renee (a local blogger with 14 kids!) recently gave me this awesome rubbermaid set and we right away got rid of any other containers and only use these. They stack together perfectly and I like that they're plastic, so easy for Austin to toss in his backpack and take to work or school.

Several months ago, we decided to try out a gluten and dairy free diet, to see if it would help with Abram's asthma and Austin's excema. While neither is cured (and we didn't expect them to be!) we've seen pretty incredible improvements for both of them, so we're sticking with it for now! It has changed our shopping and eating habits quite a bit,  we buy WAY more fresh fruits and vegetables and way less processed food and canned items. Not because we're super healthy, but because we have no other choice! 

Gluten and dairy free "cheesecake"

Gluten and dairy free "cheesecake"

I expected our changes in shopping and eating habits to make our food budget way higher, but the truth it, it's the same or less. Because we're careful with what we we purchase and don't buy any extras or go shopping until all of our current groceries are used up, we end up saving a little each month. 

Dishes are all done by hand, and we only have enough to get us through one meal - so we're forced to keep up with dishes! It's not a big deal now, but it was a challenge when we went for weeks without running water in the winter. 

Meal planning has proven to be yet another way that tiny living is teaching us good habits and forcing us to keep up with them. I'm grateful for the push to eat healthier and meal plan more carefully! 

One Year

One year ago this week, we bought our RV. We were excited, nervous, hopeful and terrified. We used most of our savings (which had been dwindling away each month) to buy it and hoped and prayed it would work out. 

I wish I could go back and give myself some advice. I would tell terrified me that this was a good choice! I'd tell her that it would be hard and frustrating, but that things would work out better than we thought! 

As we began our renovations, every day we uncovered unwelcome surprises (mold, broken fixtures, unexpected expenses) and I felt discouraged many times. I wish I could send myself a picture of our home now: cozy, comfortable and perfect for us. 

I want to go back and tell myself that all of those possessions we had to sell? A year later, I wouldn't even remember. I wish I knew how much I would enjoy the simplicity and contentment that comes from only keeping your very favorite things. 

A lot of the challenges I was worried about ended up being unnecessary. I was worried about how the kids would do in a small space (totally fine!) and if sharing a room would be hard on them (nope!). I worried about finding a place to park it (not an issue) and if it would be worth it, financially (YES!). A few of the things I wasn't worried about have been tricky: freezing pipes, days and days of snow and leaking. 

We have spent many, many happy days in our tiny home. We've learned to live together in a small space and how to keep our possessions to the minimum. We spend more time enjoying our surroundings, in our own yard and community than ever before. 

The biggest reason we made this move was to help us gain more financial freedom. This goal has been met a thousand times over. Our low cost of living allowed Austin to stress a lot less about work and focus on school. He excelled this year and was offered a 3 month internship in January. His internship ends in a few weeks and he has been offered a fulltime, permanent position. We're over the moon excited! We were able to pay off our student loans this month and we feel like we are now set up for success. We'll be able to start aggressively saving for our next adventure (don't ask me what that is yet!). 

It's difficult and scary to step out and do something different. We were living in a perfectly normal little home, Austin was working 40+ hours a week at a job he didn't love and struggling to find time for our family and school. Taking this risk and living in an unconventional way has paid of tenfold and has been a wonderful experience for us all. 

I'm often asked if it's been worth it. I think you can guess my answer: YES!!!

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Quiet Time

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Quiet time (aka: how I survive in a tiny home with two small children) is very important around here. Both of my kids gave up naps right around 24 months. It was bearable with Lulu, but after Abram quit, I knew I had to find an alternative. 

A few months ago, I started implementing daily quiet time and it has changed my life! Once a day, usually right after lunch, both kids head to their room and spend an hour quietly playing. During that time, I get a chance to answer emails, edit, blog or nap (especially lately!). I really didn't want to make quiet time a punishment or miserable for anyone, so we started out by just doing 15-20 minutes and have extended it to an hour. 

Lulu especially does really well when she understands the reasoning behind everything, so explained to the kids how important it is for our bodies to have rest during the day, even if they're not sleeping. I stressed that while they're having quiet time, I am too! I rarely do any housework during this time or any kind of loud activity. 

I think the key to successful quiet time in our home has been audiobooks. Every time we go to the library, I pick up 2-3 audiobooks that are around an hour long. The kids choose which book and quietly listen to the entire thing. They know that when the story is done, so is quiet time. I like this because it prevents them from constantly asking if they can come out. I don't know how much of the stories Abram actually grasps, but Lulu is getting really good at focusing through the full hour. Either way, they both listen quietly. I keep the volume pretty low so that they have to be quiet to hear it. 

They often choose the same story for 3-4 days in a row and sometimes they want to listen to it at bedtime too! A few recent favorite books: Juana & Lucas, Where Are You Going Baby Lincoln?, Horton and the Kwuggerbug, and The Magic Treehouse series. While we usually check them out from the library, I've purchased a few on Amazon as well. If you're okay with buying used (I am!) you can get most audiobooks for around $4-$5. 

Other quiet time activities that are very popular:

- Pop Beads: I found two of these big canisters at Value Village for $5. Both kids like making patterns, long chains, necklaces, rings, bracelets, etc. They're a really nice, quiet activity that they can do for a long time. I enjoy sitting with them and stringing them together too sometimes!

- Magna Tiles: I got the kids a set of these for Christmas and I ended up buying a second set last month because they played with them so much! 

- Books: I've mentioned before how much we enjoy our local libraries. We usually check out between 50 and 60 books a week and the kids spend hours looking at them. 

- Other: A friend of mine recently posted about how her little guy enjoyed playing with their Battleship game. I found a game at Value Village for $3 and gave each of my kids one of the "laptops". They both love carefully putting the pegs in the board, making patterns, playing with the boats and making letters with the pegs (Lulu). They both also love these Water Wow books from Melissa & Doug and sometimes spend the whole hour carefully painting. 

 

Sometimes they choose to just lay quietly and listen to the story, which is just fine with me! It's been a good way to transition Abram away from naps. If he's really tired, he does fall asleep during quiet time, but usually he just enjoys the down time! 

I usually ask the kids to stay on their beds, but it's not something I strictly enforce unless they're having a hard time being quiet together. As I said earlier, I really don't want quiet time to be a punishment or a fight. So far, it's been great for all of us and feel like the kids are starting to appreciate the time as much as me! 

Preschool Embroidery

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I recently posted about Lulu's new obsession with embroidery and I had quite a few questions, so I figured I'd post about it here! 

Lulu came along to a midwife appointment a couple weeks ago and spent the entire time working on a couple of those lacing cards. My midwife mentioned that her daughters loved doing simple embroidery and explained how they did it. I knew right away and it was something Lulu would enjoy and we stopped at the store on the way home to get the supplies!

We picked up a few things at Value Village, but you can find everything at JoAnn's or Amazon.

Yarn: If I was doing a knitting project, I'd choose something nicer, but for this, stick with the cheapest stuff you can find (like this!). We picked up a bag of random small balls of yarn at Value Village for $2.99 so we can use a few different colors.

Embroidery hoops: We got a 6" hoop for $2, and later picked up a variety at Value Village for a little less. Lulu is excited to try something bigger with the bigger ring, and I can imagine a cute tiny project in the small ones! Here's a good option on Amazon. 

Yarn needles: I got 4 of them for $4 at the fabric store. Lulu already managed to bend one beyond repair, so I'm glad we had a couple back-ups. They're thick and durable, not very sharp, but easy to maneuver through the burlap. You can get 16 of them for around $5 here!

Burlap: I picked up a yard of burlap at JoAnn's for around $2.50. I almost got 2 yards, but when she laid it out I realized that's way more than we need! You can get burlap on Amazon as well, but not in such a small amount! 

You'll also need scissors, a pen or marker and lots of patience....

Lulu chose to do a butterfly for her first project. I put a piece of burlap in the ring (be sure to pull it really tight!) and she lightly drew on the back of it. I traced over it to make it a little easier for her to see where to stitch. I helped her do the first few stitches, but really found that my explaining made it more confusing for her sometimes. 

A few tips:

- Tie the yarn to the needle, Lulu lost her yarn a bunch of times before I tied it and that was frustrating for her.

- The most common mistake she makes is that she stitches on the same side twice, so the yarn twists around the hoop instead of making a stitch. It's a super easy fix and I made sure she knew that. I did have to tell her to come to me right away if she needed help, because at first she'd make a mistake and then keep on working, asking for help half an hour later. Of course, this meant I'd have to pull out a half hour's worth of hard work!

- Go slow! I made the mistake of praising Lulu for how fast she worked, which made her try to work even faster and led to more mistakes and some tears. I had to backtrack and explain that this is not a fast project and it doesn't matter how long it takes!

- Keep it simple. Lulu's butterfly was a perfect first project, although switching from the body to the wing was tricky for her. 

- When she wanted to do a project with words, I had her write the words on a piece of paper and then I traced it (backwards!) onto the back of the burlap to make it easier for her. 

Lulu has been very proud of each project she completes, and I love them too! She's given a few away as gifts and is currently working on a special project to hang by her bed:

It's really fun to have a project that can so easily be personalized for her and what she's interested in. I'd love to have her embroider her full name, a sweet way to remember her 4-year-old handwriting! 

She spent a full day working hard to make a birthday gift for Austin to keep on his desk at work: 

I bought a handful of frames at Value Village ($1-$3 each) and I've been putting her work in frames before displaying it or gifting it. Lulu has been thrilled with the finished product every time, I love to see her so proud of the work she's done! 

I also love that this is a non-messy, quiet activity that can be easily transported (she likes to work on it in the van or while waiting places) and that she can work on it for an hour or 2 minutes at a time! It's easy to store and even if (when) Abram gets into it, it's not hard to clean up. 

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Lulu often works on hers as soon as she wakes up, during quiet time or if she needs some alone time. Especially as she needs less help, she's starting to pick it up on her own and working diligently by herself. 

I have to admit, I often feel a little jealous when I watch her sitting and peacefully working on her embroidery! 

 

Grateful

I did our taxes this week, which isn't my favorite task but it always feels good to get it done. While I was working on filing however, I noticed something that shocked me. I compared our 2015 and 2016 files and realized that our income this year is half of what it was last year. HALF. And to put things in perspective, in 2015 we made just over what is considered the federal poverty level. Meaning, in 2016, we made half of what we would have to make to be living "in poverty". I'm not sharing this information to make anyone feel bad for us or to complain, on the contrary, I'm thrilled. Why? Because we didn't notice. When I asked Austin to guess how much we made this year compared to last, he guessed we made more. 

In 2015, we struggled. My husband was unemployed for most of the year, although he had full-time work all spring and summer and for the Christmas season. We scraped by and scrimped and cut corners and generally felt quite constrained by our finances. Each month felt like a bit of a stretch and we often came up a tiny bit short. To put it plainly, we were slowly sinking. 

In January 2016, we realized we had to make a change. Austin started school again and we knew we didn't want to take on anymore loans. This is when we first started thinking about alternative living situations. We decided to make the jump while we still had some savings left, before they were eaten away by our monthly housing payments. It seemed crazy at first, but almost a year later, I can honestly say this has been one of the best decisions we've ever made. 

Our monthly expenses dropped by $1,000. And while this doesn't mean we're able to save $1,000 a month (because, let's be honest, we don't have $1,000 a month....), we're certainly not sinking. In fact, it's beginning to look like we might be able to start swimming in 2017. 

Austin was recently offered a paid internship position with a local company. He'll be interning at an engineering firm 3-4 days a week, while still attending school full time and working a few shifts at his current job. It'll be a busy time for us, but we feel like it'll be worth it in the end and Austin has been very encouraged by his success in school. 

If things work out like we hope, we'll be debt free in the next month or so. After attending private university, both Austin and I had hefty student loans when we got married 5 years ago. Somehow, we've been able to pay them off steadily even while going through some tough financial times. 

I can't explain how good it feels to not be constantly burdened by finances. While Austin does work a lot, he doesn't feel stressed about making ends meet each month. I am able to stay home with our kids (while running my photography business) and not feel overwhelming guilt. We were able to enroll Lulu in dance class this year, something we couldn't afford in the past. We both feel happier and more hopeful than ever before. 

While our life is not always easy, we wouldn't change it. This winter has been trying. We've gone weeks without running water, been stuck inside for days on end, had trouble keeping it warm enough and endless other small issues. But we feel so grateful. We love our tiny home and the freedom it's given us. 

The decision to move our family into this kind of living situation wasn't easy, and I often questioned whether we were making the right choice. 8 months later, we're already reaping the benefits and feel certain that this choice was the right one. 

 

Christmas Day

We celebrated Christmas at my parents' house. While it's not as tiny as our bus, it does get a little crowded. Their home is just over 1,000 sq feet and we had 20 people, 5 dogs and lots of presents, food and games crammed in there for the day. 

We enjoyed lots of visiting and the kids played all day long. Lulu's best friend/cousin Eleanor got a little jealous of Lulu's music box at one point and one of her aunties tried to solve the problem by giving her an old music box she had around. Unfortunately, the ballerina wouldn't spin. Opa tried to fix it to no avail. Lulu tried to comfort her cousin by saying "Eleanor, it's okay. If Opa can't fix it, there's just nothing we can do"

I hope you all enjoyed a lovely Christmas, wether it was filled with family or friends, at home or traveling!

(not so) Tiny Troubles

We're often asked about how tiny life is going, or I get emails asking for advice about our lifestyle and information about getting started. I'm generally quite encouraging and enthusiastic about our life and our home. But I'll be honest, there are times when it is very hard. When the bus won't start when it's time to move, when rain drips onto my head in the middle of the night, when the wind whips through the windows, when we spend a week sealing the roof, only to discover more leaks the next day, when we can't stay warm no matter what, when the pipes freeze and the water heater breaks, when no one really knows the solution because there isn't an easy one: It's tough. 

It seems as though every season we've been through in our tiny home has brought with it challenges that we didn't anticipate. And every challenge takes time, ingenuity and money to solve. Austin and I are both creative and determined people, so sometimes it's fun to tackle a new, unexpected problem and do our best to find a simple, effective solution. However, the reality is that this is our home and not just a fun project that we work on on the weekend, and it can be scary to wonder if it's going to work out.

I know that our life looks idyllic and serene from the pictures and things I post, and honestly, it is 95% of the time. But lately, we've run into issues and difficulties that have made it slightly harder to enjoy. Two weeks ago, on our first really cold day of the winter, our pipes froze (even with the water running) and we haven't had running water since. We've been hauling water in and boiling it to use for dishes and washing. Laundry and showering has happened elsewhere. 

After each problem that's come up, I feel totally defeated. I think I've asked Austin 10 times if we should start looking for apartments to rent. But every time, we let the problem sit for 12 hours and slowly, the real needs come to the surface and the things that seemed like big issues slowly sink away. From there, time after time, we've been able to tackle each dilemma and move on with our life. While it's frustrating to think about, it's also comforting to look back at all of the issues we've run into and how we've been able to solve them all. It reminds me that we are smart, resilient and creative and we will figure this out too. 

Our tankless water heater completely froze as did the hose (even with insulation). At 1:30am, Austin headed out with the blow dryer to dryer to try to get the water moving again. When that was unsuccessful, we just unhooked all of the water, instead of risking more damage. We brought as much as we could inside and let it thaw out in our shower. A couple days ago, we decided to try to hook it all up again, just for a couple hours to use the water and get some laundry and dishes done. We spent several hours getting everything straightened out only to find that the water heater had water gushing out. We assume a pipe (or several pipes) burst inside from the freezing. So now we're trying to decide what to do next. It is likely that we will not have running water again until the weather is consistently above freezing. 

We will have to purchase a new water heater and since it's unlikely that we'll be able to keep the rest of our plumbing from freezing, we don't want to bother spending the big bucks on a freeze-proof heater. Instead, we're hoping to be able to use the water during the day, or when it's above freezing and then turn off and drain the system each evening, or when it's predicted to be below freezing. Of course, a new water heater requires money and it's not something we've budgeted for this month (hello Christmas...)

I'll admit, it has been surprising how much of a problem not having water has not been. As in, it's not that bad. The first few days we were out were bad because we didn't have a good water holding jug, so instead we were filling up milk jugs, measuring cups, mason jars and even our drinking glasses. Soon enough, our lovely neighbor saw our problem and saved us (again). We now have a couple big jugs we can fill up every few days and it has made life much easier. Not that I wouldn't appreciate running water, but we're grateful for what we do have. 

So yes, while our little tiny house life is often wonderful, joy filled and cozy, it's also challenging and frustrating. I'm grateful for Austin, who encourages me and lifts me up when things are frustrating and continues to plug away at this life we're building and for our kids, who go through life so blissfully unaware of any problems we're experiencing.

(This post is not meant to be a sob story or complaint, I just want to do a better job of portraying our life honestly!)

 

 

Tiny House Christmas Gift Ideas

I'm in the middle of Christmas shopping (online, always) for my family and I thought I'd share some cool gift ideas I've run across! A lot of these would be great for friends or family living in a small space, trying to downsize or anyone who hates giant, battery operated toys! (This post includes Amazon Affiliate links)

For Lulu (age 4):

1. Boogie Board

Lulu is really into drawing, writing and doodling right now. I love seeing her learn and try new things, but I HATE how much paper we go through! She's insistent on using a new sheet every single time (I'm the same way, I get it) but it's frustrating in a small space. I'm hoping that she'll love this board and maybe cut down on paper usage. It's an LCD screen that you can write on with the included stylus, or your finger. Then just push the button to clear the screen and start again! I think it'll be great to use in the van or at church or for her handwriting practice! 

2. Melissa & Doug Stencil Set

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I think I might get this set for Lulu, yes, it's sure to contribute to our paper situation, but I think she'll love it! Plus she can use the stencils on the Boogie Board! I love how the whole set fits nicely into the wooden box and the stencils look nice and thick and durable. 

3. Kite

Several weeks ago, I asked Lulu what she wanted for Christmas. She didn't hesitate and answered that she wanted a kite. I asked what else and she said she didn't really need anything else, "But, you can get whatever you think would be good, Mommy". She slays me. I got her this kite for $7, it looks pretty nice and durable, hopefully it holds up!

Both kids: 

I'm probably going to give each kid 1-2 presents of their own and then a few things for both of them together. 

1. Window Bird Feeder

Both kids have been really interested in birds lately, we have a handful of books about birds out from the library and they've been enjoying identifying the birds that come to our hanging feeder every day. I saw this neat little bird feeders on Amazon for under $10 and thought they'd enjoy them! I got one for each of them. They suction to the window and since they're made of clear plastic, we'll get a nice close up view of the birds! I think they'll love them, and I'm excited too! My favorite part is that they won't take up any indoor space!

2. Butterfly Wall Stickers

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Along with their love of birds, both kids also enjoy looking for and identifying different birds and butterflies. I posted about these on my Facebook page the other day, and it looks like this particular set is sold out now, but there are quite a few similar ones still available! A friend suggested attaching some of the butterflies to the ceiling as well as the wall, and I think that's what we'll do. Aren't they pretty? They have very high ratings too, although most suggest you get your own adhesive. 

3. Pathfinder Wooden Logic Game

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I got this game for the kids. I know Abram won't get it, but it seems like a simple toy that he can play with too, even if he doesn't play the game correctly. Lulu has started to really enjoy playing games, and I'm always on the lookout for games that are a bit more unique and complex than Memory. This is a cooperative game that we can play together, or she can do alone. I love that it's small and simple! 

For Abram (age 2):

1. Stack and Count Parking Garage

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Abram loves cars and stacking, so I think this toy would be great for him! I love that it's small (notice a theme here?) and that it all stacks together for easy clean up. I get pretty sick of toys with lots of small parts that don't have an easy way to store them. I could see Abram playing with this parking garage lots of different ways! 

2. Matching Shape Eggs

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I'm thinking of getting something like this set for Abram. He loves matching and sorting and putting simple pieces together. I could see him playing with these quite a bit, sorting, matching, pretend food, etc. 

3. Everyday Hero Figurines

Abram's been playing with our nativity scene and the little figures in in more than anything else this past week. I think he'll really love these "everyday hero" figures! He loves anyone in uniform and I can see him being really excited about these! Lulu got a similar set (fairies) for her birthday and they've gotten tons of play! 

Austin and I

Austin and I don't usually get gifts for each other, unless there's something specific we want. We always send out Christmas cards to family and friends and I consider that part of our gift, since we both love sending and receiving cards! However, if you're shopping for someone who has everything, or wants nothing, here are a couple ideas:

1. Amazon Prime Membership

We use our Prime account daily. Seriously, every day. We order tons of stuff online and the free 2 day shipping paid for our account in the first month. We also love using Amazon Music (offline!) and Amazon Instant Video. It's really great!

2. Museum or Science Center membership

We have memberships to our local museum and the science center in Seattle. We've used them both multiple times and it's so fun every time! My in-laws gave us our museum membership for Christmas and it was a great present for the whole family!

3. Gift card for dinner/date 

I love the gift of cold hard cash, but I'll be honest, 90% of the time when we're gifted cash, it goes towards rent, groceries or gas. It's not that we don't appreciate the gesture, but it's hard to spend any money on ourselves when things are a little tight! I love getting a gift card because it feels like a guilt-free excuse to go out with my favorite husband! 

We've never spent a lot of money on Christmas gifts for our kids and we definitely won't this year either. As I mentioned above, I haven't purchased most of these gifts, but they are ideas I have on my list! I'm trying to take a bit more time to decide what they'll actually enjoy and what won't drive Austin and I crazy! 

Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

When we moved into our tiny home 6 months ago, a big thing we had to do was downsize all of our possessions, including our clothing. We did a pretty good job, and we've continued to pare down as we've lived here. The kids had an incredible amount of clothing before we moved in, hand-me-downs, gifts, thrift store finds and dress up outfits filled their dresser and closet to overflowing. I obsessively packed away outgrown clothes and we had 6 rubbermaid totes full from Lulu's first 3 years. 

When I heard about the idea of a capsule wardrobe; a small collection of classic, simple items of clothing that can be worn several different ways in different seasons, I loved the idea for myself but also for our kids. I made a list of what I thought we'd need for each of them and got rid of everything except for the essentials. Since then, we've gone down again to about half of that. 

I did several big loads of laundry and we rearranged their clothing from their dresser to simple baskets under Abram's bed, so I decided to take a few pictures and document what they have now. Of course, after I was done, I found a few other random things lying around, but this is 95% of it. 

When I was going through their clothing the first time, I immediately got rid of anything with cheesy sayings, characters or annoying graphics. The kids weren't attached to any of it and we generally don't buy stuff like that anyway. I tried to keep pieces that were solid colors or simple patterns, things that they could wear together in different combinations. 

I originally kept two pairs of jeans for Lulu, but we recently got rid of those too, since she hasn't worn them once. I can't remember the last time she wore pants - just dresses for our girl! Today, she decided she'd like to donate her skirts too since she really just wants to wear dresses. 

Lulu's favorite dress is this one from Old Navy. I found one at a thrift store for her and she loved it so much that I looked it up and bought her a second one for her birthday. On Black Friday they were on sale again and I bought her two more. I ended up paying around $8 for each of them. She has two solid colored ones and two patterns. She wears them literally everyday.

The two cute tunics are really more for me than her, I think they're adorable and she tolerates them. She has several pairs of leggings, she's very picky with her leggings (the pattern, not texture) and we finally have 5-6 pairs she'll wear, instead of washing the same two pairs daily. Not pictured, but she also has two solid colored cardigans and several scarves that she can wear with any of her dresses. 

I love how easy it is for Lulu to dress herself now, she grabs any pair of leggings, any dress and she's done. I often get compliments on her outfits and I laugh because she dresses herself all the time, and picked out 90% of her clothing herself. 

Lulu has three pairs of fleece jammies and her new pair of Christmas pajamas. When we went through her clothes this time around, I finally got rid of all of her "girl" underwear, since she prefers the "boy" ones. And I don't blame her! Why do they make little girls' underwear cut so that they have a constant wedgie? Not to mention, the boy pairs have nice thick waistbands and are almost always made of thicker, more comfortable material. 

Abram has little to no preference when it comes to clothing, except that pink squirrel shirt you see in the pile. It's a hand-me-down from Lulu and he thinks it's great. The ruffled cap-sleeves do really look nice on him. The last time he wore it someone asked him "Is that a GIRL shirt!?" to which he responded, "Yep, it's my squirrel shirt!". I was relieved. 

Abram has 4 t-shirts (actually, 5, I found one afterwards), 4 button up shirts and 4 pairs of pants (3 jeans and one dressier pair). He occasionally borrows leggings from Lulu as well. 

Most of their clothing is from thrift or consignment stores, but I have found that since I've started capsule wardrobes for them, I've been buying a few more things new. Sometimes it's just easier when I have something specific I'm looking for, ie: a solid colored stretchy dress for Lulu vs. clothes for Lulu. While it is more expensive (sometimes) to buy things new, I feel like I'm saving money in the long run since I used to buy a lot more for them when I bought it second hand. 

Abram was wearing a pair of fleece jammies when I took this picture, so he has 3 pairs as well. We could easily get rid of a pair of them, but the kids love their pajamas and we have the space, so I haven't bothered. I keep all of the socks in Abram's basket because if I split them up between them, Lulu is convinced that whichever socks were in her basket are hers forever, even though they share them all. It cuts down on the drama to keep them in Abram's basket. He also has a darling pair of suspenders that he hates more than anything. I'll probably get rid of them since it just isn't worth the fight to get him to wear them. I got a cute picture the last time I forced him, so that's probably all I can hope for. 

Abram has a couple sweaters that aren't kept in the baskets and Lulu has a special drawer with some ballet clothes and a princess dress. Other than that, this is really everything they own. If they outgrow something or just don't wear it, I replace it with a similar item. We avoid any arguments about clothing and Lulu is totally happy with every item she owns, Abram doesn't care but I will keep the things that I know he likes until he outgrows them. 

Another change is that I no longer save clothing. I have realized that a) I'll probably forget about it and buy new stuff anyway and b) my kids (and I) have different tastes from year to year and probably won't like whatever we did the year before. Instead, I donate, pass on or consign everything as soon as we decide we're done with it. When we did our first initial huge purge, I brought tons of stuff to consignment and I'm still using the credit we earned! 

Austin and I have capsule wardrobes as well and I'll probably post about them one day too, if we ever get them organized! 

Raising Bookworms

My kids love books, love being read to and love spending hours (literally!) looking at books. I have no idea if their love is because of something we've done or if that's just how they are, but I am so grateful!

Lulu has just started reading on her own and watching her learn is so fun! I started doing this book: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Amazon affiliate link) with her almost a year ago. We got about 20 lessons in and then we bought the bus and it was impossible to keep up with. I packed it away and pulled it out again a month ago. It's crazy to see how much she's retained since we last did it and also how much more easily she's picking things up than she was last time. We're now about 40 lessons in and she's loving it. 

I recommend this book to people all the time because I love it so much. It's incredibly simple, it seriously tells you exactly what to say and when to say it. Each lesson takes 10 minutes and they're very simple. For the first couple weeks, I had a hard time believing it would work. And then she started sounding out simple words and learning sounds! We chose not to the writing portion of it because Lulu found it overwhelming and since she's only 4, I don't feel the need to force her to do any learning she doesn't want to do (for the record, she begged me to teach her to read!). 

Since we've moved tiny, we've gotten rid of almost all of our books. We kept a few favorites and ones with sentimental value, but only a small percentage of what we used to have. Of course, that doesn't mean that we don't have a home full of books, we've just gotten better at utilizing the library. 

One of our favorite places to spend time during the week is our local libraries. We're lucky enough to have five amazing libraries within 20 minutes of us! It is not uncommon for us to visit 3 or more of them in a week, and on occasion, we've visited a couple in the same day. 

If you haven't been to your local library recently, you're missing out! I'll be honest, the books are not my favorite thing about the library. Don't get me wrong, I love the books; as you can tell by the fact that we currently have close to 50 of them checked out... But there are so many other things to do at the library! 

 

We attend two Storytime programs every week, one on Monday and one on Friday. When I was very pregnant with Abram (his due date, actually!), on Lulu's second birthday I waddled into the storytime program at our local library and I was in love! Lulu loved it from the very first time we went: stories, songs, rhymes, felt board stories, musical instruments and a wonderful little community that we get to be a part of! We have gone almost every single week since. I thought about that today, actually, as Abram cuddled up to the librarian as she read: She's been our storytime lady for his entire life! How fun to attend with him in utero, and now to see him actually sit still(ish) for a story or two. 

The programs that we attend are perfect for kids ages birth-5, there's a short story/song time and then lots of open time for the kids to play with various toys that are available. I love that we get to meet other kids and parents from the community and it's fun to see the same kids each week, and meet new people too! As a stay-at-home mom, I get lonely and I find that storytime is the perfect time to connect with other parents and enjoy a few minutes of adult conversation! 

 

The kids love picking out books and because it's free to do so, I don't mind to let them choose whatever they want! For a couple weeks, they wanted nothing but cookbooks and cake decorating how-tos. This week it's bird books and field guides. I love that using the library is a super easy way to foster their interests, however quickly they change. Lulu enjoys chatting with the librarians and I'm always impressed by how much they enjoy talking with her, always asking questions or helping her find what she's looking for, they never act like her thoughts or interests are worth less because she's only four. 

When we lived in our rental home, I used to be pretty hesitant to check out lots of books. They seemed to get lost all the time and we were forever searching for a lost book or DVD. Since we've moved tiny, it's much harder to lose items (I mean, we still do) and because we have very few of our own books, it's easy to find library books and return them on time. An awesome thing that many people don't know about our local library is that they don't charge late fees for children's books checked out on a child's card. I can't tell you how often I've been grateful for this policy! However, even when we do pay our (unavoidable) lost item fine, I honestly don't mind. The fee is usually pretty minimal and I look at it as paying for our membership to an institution that acts as play group, preschool, museum, social hub and playground for our family.

Recently, I was able to participate in a really awesome parenting class that was offered at the library. A local professional taught the class and childcare was provided. It was such a great class, but also just a good opportunity to connect with other parents and get a break from the kids! The library offers all kinds of classes and seminars! 

It is not unusual for us to go to the library and not check out any books. The kids love playing in the children's area and every library we've been to has tons of great toys and games for them to play with. When we lived closer to the library, we used to get the kids ready for bed right after dinner, then walk down to the library to play for an hour before bed. I think we had the children's area to ourselves every time we did that, apparently 8pm isn't a popular library time for most toddlers!

Our local library system has more than just books available for checkout: DVDs, CDs, Audiobooks, computer games, board games, preschool kits, American Girl Dolls (!), Coloring books (complete with colored pencils), and I'm sure many more things I don't know about! 

I know not everyone is local, but if you live in Whatcom County - check out this amazing calendar to get an idea of how busy our libraries are, there are events every single day for all ages. Lego club, tea parties, book clubs, writing groups, crafting and knitting meet-ups, there's something for everyone!

If you aren't local, be sure to check out a library near you, I can almost guarantee you'll be impressed by what's available!

I know this sounds like one big advertisement for the library, but I promise it's all genuine. I'm not getting paid a cent by the library and no, they're not paying the lost item fine that's waiting for me (anyone seen a 'Dora and Friends' DVD?). I just seriously love the library (if you couldn't tell!) 

 

 

Tiny Home Essentials

We're certainly not tiny home experts, but we have been doing it for a while now and we've noticed there are a few things we wouldn't want to be without. This isn't to say that we couldn't do without them, I'd just rather not!

Here's the list:

(This post includes Amazon Affiliate links. Any items purchased through these links earns me a couple bucks. Thanks for the support!)

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1. Nature's Head Compost Toilet

I swear I talk about this toilet more than I talk about my kids! We love our compost toilet, it's simple and easy to use and effective. When we made our tiny home plan, we knew we'd want to get a compost toilet to make it easier to find a place to park. Not to mention, RV toilets aren't all that glamorous anyway. I'd rather deal with the trials of a compost toilet than a black tank!

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2. Tankless Hot Water Heater

When we started our renovations, we found that the hot water tank in the RV was original. Meaning it was 26 years old and rusted through. It was a 6 gallon tank, which means it was enough water for a 3 minute shower. And then we'd have to wait for the tank to fill up and heat again. It was taking up precious cupboard space and we couldn't guarantee it was safe. We pulled it out and began looking for a replacement. We had tossed around the idea of a tankless (also known as on-demand) water heater, but figured it was out of our budget. When we realized we'd need to replace the tank anyway, we reevaluated and found our tank for around $325, less than a traditional tank would cost. The one that we got can be installed on the outside of the bus, uses no electricity (2 D batteries to ignite and propane to run). We have as much hot water as we have propane and it's worked wonderfully for us! In the 6 months we've been using it, we've gone through 2 barbecue sized propane tanks.

 

3. Splendide XC2100 Washer/Dryer

When we first bought the bus, we weren't sure if we would keep the washer/dryer that it came with. It takes up a large cupboard in the kitchen and we wondered if we would use the space more than the machine. Now, I can't imagine being without it! I know we could do laundry at the laundromat or family or friends' houses, but I'm so glad we don't have to! The machine is smaller than a regular machine and does take longer, but we're usually able to keep up on laundry if we're consistent about doing a couple loads every day. If we fall behind, we'll do a load at my parent's house. 

4. Kid's Bedroom

This is something that both Austin and I felt very strongly about when we started tossing around ideas, we saw lots of RVs where the kids slept on the pull out couch or on a bunk in the living area and we knew that wouldn't work for us. It's important for me that the kids have their own space for sleeping and playing, so that we aren't always tripping over their toys or tiptoeing around when they're asleep. It's worked great for us! We honestly rarely miss having a "bedroom". Once the kids are in bed, we have the house to ourselves.

5. Tiny Furniture

We found the tiniest couch ever from Wayfair. It's not the most comfortable, but it's perfect for our living room! The dining room table that we have is great because it folds up to take up very little space, or the leaf folds out and there's room for all of us. Our IKEA stool can be used in several different ways (step stool, chair, desk, kids' table) and both kids sleep in toddler sized beds to conserve space. We did our best to pick out the smallest of each item we have to make everything useable for us!

6. Dehumidifier

It gets pretty stuffy in here with all of us breathing and moving around. If we do any cooking, wash dishes or pull out a load of warm laundry - the windows quickly fog up. We bought our dehumidifier just a couple months ago and it's made a huge difference. Mold is a big concern because of Abram's allergies and respiratory difficulties. He's quite allergic to dust mites, and keeping the humidity low is the best way to fight them. We have our dehumidifier on during the night and when we notice the windows fogging up. We got a pretty heavy duty model for our square footage, but we felt like we'd rather go big right away. We're glad we did! The humidity in the bus is often over 70% when we turn it on, and it keeps it right around 45% very comfortably. 

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7. Space heaters

Since we took out the propane furnace and heating system that was in our RV when we bought it, we had to figure out a good heating solution. I did lots of research to try to figure out what kind of heater would be safest, give off the most heat and use the smallest amount of space and energy. In the end we settled on two difference heaters, one for the kids' room and one in the living area. A friend of ours brought a couple space heaters over when we were first moving, to sell in our garage sale. Turns out, space heaters don't sell very well on a hot spring day. This ended up working out well for us because when I pulled them out to list them on Craigslist this fall, I realized they were very similar to the ones were planning to buy! We've been able to stay very warm and cozy with the two space heaters and if they're both running on low, they don't pull very much energy either. 

8. Outdoor Space

We have a really wonderful place that we're parked at. Our landlords worked quickly to fence in our entire space and it's been so nice to let the kids have free reign of it. Even in the rain and chilly weather, they often spend time playing outside every day. In the summer we spent more time outside than in, we ate most meals outside and the kids spent hours playing in the yard while I worked at the picnic table. Living in our tiny space would be much, much more difficult if we didn't have such a nice outdoor space to complement it. 

Christmas Preparations

I love Christmas. LOVE it. The thought of not being able to decorate or get a Christmas tree was pretty devastating to me, especially with some pregnant, emotional hormones raging. I decided we'd do whatever rearranging it took to get a real tree, as we always have. Turns out, we were able to find the perfect little tree and it fits perfectly! I have to admit, I almost cried.

We should have clarified with the kids that just because we got the tree, it doesn't mean that it's Christmas the next morning....there was a bit of disappointment this morning.....

Updates

It's been way too long since I've posted here! Things have been busy and before I realized it, almost a month has gone by! I figure I'll just do a big post about the past month. 

Storm

We had a pretty big storm here several weeks ago, although it was predicted to be much worse. While many people around us grumbled about how they had prepared for a storm that didn't come or wanted to experience a real typhoon, we were so grateful that it passed us by! The night before had been very windy and rainy and we ended up with several leaks in the roof. It was very frustrated, especially considering all of the work we've done to fix it.

There was a pretty significant leak in the kids' room as well as one near the foot of our bed. We talked it over and decided to replace the entire roof instead of continuing to patch the existing one. The roof is over 25 years old and is brittle from age. We ordered a new rubber roof along with all of the adhesive to install it. Since then, we've had several incredibly rainy days (over 2" of rain in 24 hours) and we've had zero leaks. I have no idea what has changed but it sure makes us less motivated to take on the huge job of replacing the roof. 

Trip

We recently took a long trip to Ontario to visit family and friends. We were so grateful for the chance to see everyone, but the trip itself was very stressful. The kids were both quite sick for the majority of the trip, culminating in Abram being hospitalized in Detroit. We ended up needing to extend our trip and change plans because of the ordeal.

Thankfully, Abram recovered very quickly and the trip home was smooth. We have never been more thankful for our cozy home than those first few days back at home. 

Heat

As the weather grows colder, we've been wondering how well we'll be able to stay warm. So far so good! We have a nice little heavy duty space heater under the dining room table in the main living area and a small one in the kids' room if we need it. We also have a big dehumidifier that really helps keep things warm too! We were surprised what a difference it made to have it running.

On mild days, we still don't need any heat on at all. If it's a little cool, it's often enough just to have the dehumidifier running. In the evenings or cold mornings, we have the big heater on as well. So far we haven't needed the heater in the kids' room. We've been able to keep the bus at a comfortable 68* quite easily. We'll see if that continues as the weather continues to grow colder but so far, it hasn't been an issue!

Rain

As I mentioned above, we've had quite a few rainy days. Besides the one issue with leaking, we've been warm and cozy inside. I was worried about how all of the time stuck inside would go, but so far it's been fine! We leave the house almost everyday: Bible study, story time, preschool drop-in, play dates and other activities keep us busy.

We've also had many days at home, playing, crafting, reading and enjoying each other. It doesn't feel different to me than rainy days in our old house. Yes, it's smaller, but there's room for us each to have our own space and spread out a little. 

Baby

Yes, we are going to be adding a baby to our family! I'm due early June and we're all thrilled! When we told Lulu the news, she listened quietly and then stared at us, stone faced. Certainly not the excitement we were expecting. I asked her "Lulu, are you happy?" and she said "Well, I just don't know if you're telling the truth." when we assured her we were indeed telling the truth, she was as excited as I expected!

We're already brainstorming ways to fit a baby and it's accessories (however few) into our home. It'll be a challenge, but I know it will all work out!

 

Our Favorite Things: Ducksday Rainsuits

When we started planning for the fall and winter, one thing I kept thinking about was how hard it would be to be stuck inside. Then I heard someone say "there's no bad weather, just improper clothing". So I started researching what kind of rainy weather gear would work for our kids. I found quite a few two piece options, which seemed bulky and hard to store and keep track of. I also saw lots of cute raincoats, and then found that reviewers were less than impressed with their actual durability. Then, I stumbled upon Ducksday Rainsuits from Ollie & Stella Outfitters. I sent an email to the company, asking a few questions about the suits and they generously offered to send us a couple suits for the kids! 

We've had the suits for a month or so now and to say we love them is an understatement! They are practical, comfortable, durable and cute!

Things I appreciate: 

The suits fold up super tiny into a pocket in the leg, they are easy to store this way, or we they take up very little space just hanging on hooks in their room. 

I like that they are thin. My kids hate wearing thick coats that impede their movement and are uncomfortable. These suits are thin and flexible. I can easily put layers on them underneath and then with the suit on top, they stay warm and dry!

The hood and wrists of the suits have velcro so that we can tighten them to fit the kids perfectly. This helps keep them warm and prevents the sleeves from slipping over their hands (another thing they both hate about most coats!)

I like that the bottom of the suit has stirrups so that the legs stay securely tucked down into their boots, no pant legs riding up to reveal chilly ankles!

The suits have lots of pockets and large zipper pulls, so that the kids can do it themselves. Perfect for storing sea shells, pinecones or whatever treasure they might find! 

I love that the kids can get dirty, wet and muddy outside and then I can just easily slip the suits off when they're ready to come inside. We don't have "outside" or "play clothes" for the kids, as I didn't want to deal with keeping track of two sets of clothing. The Ducksday suits make it easy for them to head out in play in whatever they're wearing and still stay clean. 

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As I mentioned, both of my kids hate wearing coats, however, neither of them seem to mind wearing their Ducksday suits at all! I think they are thin and breathable enough that they don't find them uncomfortable, and I know it helps that they each picked out which color they would like. 

They wear them not only in the rain, but almost every time they play outside lately. They are wind resistant and easily wipe clean for playing in the mud and dirt. 

We often leave the suits in the van so we're ready to play whenever and wherever we feel like it! We've made trips to the park in the pouring rain, played at the beach on a cold, windy day and enjoyed making mud pies with friends. These suits are versatile and I love that we don't have multiple coats/pants/hats for each kid. 

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Every time we've been in public while the kids are wearing them, I swear I've been asked at least 5 times where we got the suits from! 

My complaint is that they don't make them in my size! The kids are eager to explore in any kind of weather now, meaning Austin and I are left trudging behind in the rain, mud, wind and gloom. 

I am so grateful to Ollie & Stella Outfitters for giving us these great suits and we've already decided we'll be buying a size up each year - they are more than worth it!

Tiny House Confessions

1. We still lose things all the time. In fact, I think it might be more frustrating to lose things (keys, library books, shoes, phone) in a tiny home than in a 'big' house.

2. It's messy all the time. It's true, but it's a different kind of messy. In our old house, it would take us a lot longer to make a big mess, but also took longer to clean up. Our tiny home feels messy as soon as a few items are out, but it only takes minutes to clean. I do find I'm less motivated to clean the house during the day, because I know I can get it almost all clean in the time it takes Austin to get from the car to the house.

3. We still have too much stuff. Last week, we donated two black garbage bags full. I have no idea where it came from. Was it stuff we accumulated since moving in or stuff we moved in with but no longer need? I honestly don't know.

4. We're bad at this. Every time I get groceries, I WAY overestimate how much space we have. I get home with a Costco sized shopping trip and spend the next three days trying to put stuff away and eating as much as we can to make room.

5. We get sick of tiny living some times. Yes, there are times that we wish we had more space or that I long for a door to close between myself and my kids (or husband). 

6. It's easy to grow discontent. Visiting friends, browsing Pinterest or watching home improvement shows can easily end in frustration about our small space. Don't get me wrong, I love it and I don't want to move, but imagining a kitchen with an island, a full sized fridge, a bathtub, office space, etc. Well, you get the idea. We love our home, but we're human and we daydream.

7. We force our kids to play outside. They love playing outside, they just don't always remember that they do. Good thing they have loving parents who are there to remind them. 

8. We miss our friends! We have always enjoyed hosting friends and used to have friends over for dinner once a week. This summer, we had friends over a few times, but that's gotten more difficult now that the weather is bad.

9. We are not minimalists. We have so much stuff that we don't need (see #3). Part of me would love to be a minimalist, but I'm just not. 

10. We think we're crazy sometimes. When the kids are fighting, the house is a mess, we're trouble shooting issues with the bus, trying to catch up on homework and studying, running a business and working - yes. We think we might be nuts. 

Sick Days

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We're recovering from back to back illnesses for our family. It was brutal! We rarely feel our home is too small, but we did this week. We survived, but barely.

Last week, both kids had high fevers and sore throats for several days. They were lethargic, clingy and sad. They both wanted to be near me all the time, but also wanted (and needed!) to rest and sleep. Our couch is barely big enough for one of them, and there's no floor space for an extra floor bed. I was grateful for our bed in the main living area, since the kids could spend a lot of time snuggling up there and still feel like I was close by if I was working in the living room or kitchen.

We don't normally do a lot of electronics, movies or screen time, but we pulled out the stops on all three this week. I am grateful for our local library, we picked up all kinds of fun DVDs and books and that kept the kids happy for several days. I bought a Kindle Fire on Amazon a few weeks ago for under $40 and that was invaluable! I made Lulu her own profile on it and could add a few apps at a time so she always had something new to play. I can set time limits so that her time is limited, but I'm not the bad guy. Seriously, it was a lifesaver when they were both sick and miserable! 

It took 4 days for Lulu to feel better and 6 for Abram. We couldn't wait to finally sleep for more than 1-2 hours at a time. 

That night, Lulu woke us up at 2am and puked all over her bed. We covered our little couch with sheet and towels and tucked her in for the night, assuring each other that it was just a fluke. Until Austin hopped out of bed an hour later to toss his cookies. 

To say the last few days have not been my most glamorous would be an understatement. Let's just say that tummy sick toddler + compost toilet is not a winning combination. 

Today, we're all feeling better! I've gathered lots advice and information about boosting our immune systems and I hope that we'll be able to avoid a season full of sickness!