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

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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!