Changes

We got the news yesterday that we have to move. We are currently parked on private property and we knew it was possible that the county would require us to leave. But after 18 months, we've kind of forgotten that and settled in.

We just got all our winter prep done and were ready to cuddle in for our last 6 months in the bus. We're not sure what's next. We hope to move the bus this weekend, probably to my parents' house.

From there we have a few options:

-There's a converted garage/suite on their property that we can live in (it's around 500 sq feet), it needs a little work and I don't know how the space will work for our family. 

- We can attempt to live in the bus on their property, although they don't have the hookups we need to survive the winter comfortably.

- We could look for somewhere else to park the bus, which is nearly impossible, but with 6 months left until Austin graduates and we hope to purchase our own place, it seems a little silly.

- We could look for a rental home, but prices are so high here, we would barely be able to scrape by and definitely wouldn't be able to continue saving for a home of our own.

- Maybe look to buy something now? Although we don't really feel ready for that and definitely don't want to rush into it.

We're not mad, we knew this was a possibility all along and don't want to make any trouble for anyone. We're bummed about losing this space we've loved so much, and sad that this might be the end of our bus life.

Think of us over the next few days as we wrap our heads around this change and decide what's the best move and pack up and prepare for a move! Keep your fingers, toes and all other crossables crossed that the bus starts this weekend when we need it to, it's been stationary for 18 months and while we did drive it here, it was sketchy at best.

Tiny Homeschooling

I posted a while ago about how we taught Lulu to read when she asked us to at three years old. Since learning to read, she's been able to learn so much on her own! It's incredible how much she picks up from the books she reads, or even just signs and labels! I'm grateful that learning has come easy for her. In light of this, we decided to see about early entrance for kindergarten. Her birthday misses the cut-off by two months, but it became clear that Lulu was more than ready for kindergarten early. After talking with a few administrators and the kindergarten teacher, they all agreed it would be a good idea for her to start this year. 

We're 2.5 months in we're all enjoying the experience! 

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Lulu attends a local parent partnership program. It's a really neat blend of public school and homeschooling. She goes to school twice a week for a half day of kindergarten and we do the rest at home. We're partnered with a teacher who we keep in contact with and she's available to answer questions about Lulu's education. Once a month, we submit a progress report of the work we've done at home and we hear about what she's done at school. For this year, we're doing Math, Language Arts and P.E at home. 

The school provides us with curriculum and they have a huge library of materials available for us to check out: board games, flash cards, math manipulatives, etc. It's been fun to pick out a few things to supplement her book work at home! 

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Soon after we started homeschooling, our tiny homeschool cupboard was overflowing and such a headache to try to keep tidy! After some brainstorming, we decided to store our washer/dryer for the winter and use the space it opened up for a homeschooling cart. It works out well, because I like the visual cue it gives the kids as well: when the cart is out, it's school time. 

Lulu's school books are stored on the cart, as well as pencils, erasers, markers, scissors and glue. I also keep some flashcards and games on there for Abram to use while Lulu works on schoolwork. It's perfect because it's kind of a novelty for him, he can only use those things when the cart is out and it's school time.

We're pretty laid back about school this year, since it's our first year of it and she's only in Kindergarten. 

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Here's what we're doing:

Math: Math-U-See, math fact flashcards, Tangrams, Osmo (Pizza Co.), plus hours of "practical math": talking about prices at the grocery store, adding up items, counting things she sees, addition while cooking together, etc. 

Language Arts: Spelling You See, Handwriting Without Tears, LOTS of reading: Lulu reads out loud to us or we read out loud to her, listening to audiobooks, journal writing, writing letters, hours at the library. 

P.E (this is a class required by the district): Hiking, walking, running, playing, climbing, sliding, exploring. Meal planning and preparing. 

We've only been at it for a couple months, but I'm really enjoying watching Lulu learn and it's fun to see Abram following along too! 

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Up The Mountain

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We're blessed to live in an area that's bursting with outdoor activities and amazing places to visit. We love spending the summers at the beach, and we always try to make it up the mountain at least once in the late fall. Unfortunately, neither of our vehicles were up for the challenge this year. 

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When DriveShop offered to let us try out a 2017 Mazda GX-5 for the week, I was thrilled! Not only because I got to drive an amazing, sporty car for the week (for comparison, I drive a 2005 minivan with 225k miles on it....), but because I knew we'd be able to make our annual trip up Mt. Baker! 

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The drive is usually a little strenuous, but we honestly hardly even noticed it this time! The CX-5 handled it like a champ. It's a cool vehicle because it feels like you're driving a sporty little car, yet I could easily fit all three carseats in the backseat! 

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The kids appreciated the trunk space when they ran back to rest after playing in the snow for a bit! We cranked the heat and popped the back and they had the perfect resting place. There was even enough room for them to spread out and eat their picnic lunch! 

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After playing for a while, we headed back down a ways and ended up at Nooksack Falls. It was crazy how cold and snowy it was at the top, I was grateful for the heated seats and steering wheel! Austin (aka: Scrooge) even let us listen to Christmas music! 

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Since the mountain's not open for skiing yet, it was so quiet and peaceful! 

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The waterfall was cool and all, but I was distracted by this sweet baby and those delicious cheeks! 

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The kids loved hiking around the snowy forest and it was so gorgeous! We could have stayed all day!

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A quick nursing break for Felix and we were on our way back down! While the mountain is lovely, it's not my favorite drive in the dark! The CX-5 sure made the drive easy, though! It has auto-lights, even sensing when someone was coming towards us to turn off the high beams! The windshield wipers turn on automatically too! The kids thought it was a magic car, and I kind of agree. 

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Thanks DriveShop and Mazda USA for letting us enjoy this annual trip! We loved the Mazda CX-5

Tiny Space Kids

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links)

After the kids' birthdays this past week, we organized all their toys to include their new things. It;s always a relief to have their room clean again, and to do a big purge every once in a while! The kids almost always help me when we decide it's time to purge and they've gotten really good at knowing when it's time to pass something on. 

These are the current toys: On top: Grimm's Rainbow blocks, Keva Planks, Play Silks (and basket), In the bins: Duplo blocks, Magnatiles, play animals. I also recently found the American Girl doll at Value Village and she's been a favorite. 

I'm often asked about the toy storage we have, the white bins are from IKEA and I built the shelf to fit them. We've found it's super important to have a place for everything to easily fit if we want the kids' room to be clean at all. 

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We rearranged the kids' room a few weeks ago and now Abram's bed is under Lulu's bed instead of against the wall. This gives us a little more floor space and gives each kid their own bed space. When we first moved in, we had a dresser under Lulu's bed, but we found the kids didn't need that much space for clothing so we put a bookshelf there instead. Eventually we moved the bookshelf so that it's more accessible and made a bed for Abram underneath. Lulu's bed is a crib/toddler sized and Abram's is a little smaller. We cut a piece of foam to fit just right in that space. 

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Their room used to be the master bedroom in the RV, the space where the platform is is the size of a queen sized bed and where their bed is is where the closet used to be. It's a tight space, but we make it work. 

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After we moved Abram's bed from under the window, we were able to move their bookshelf out so it's much more accessible. It was impossible to get to before, meaning that they would always take books off, but never put them away. We have gotten rid of almost all of the books we own and we use the library instead. It's so nice to have a rotating collection of books and the kids spend a lot of time reading. 

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Our hanging clothes are in the corner behind their CD player, the cupboards and drawers are full of their clothing and off-season items and we also store the laundry in the corner (under the coats). It's hard to tell, but the ceiling is only about 5 feet high in here, because the engine is under the platform. I'm grateful that the kids' have their own room, but it's a hard space to work with and I think I just have to accept that it will never be a cute "pinteresty" kids' room.

Halloween 2017

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I'm grateful my kids still let me pick their Halloween costumes (with some input from them). This year they/we chose Alice in Wonderland. 

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It's not as fun to dress up a baby who's not sitting up yet, but Felix makes a pretty cute white rabbit! 

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I found Lulu's Alice dress on Amazon, found thrifted shoes, and tights. Abram's hat is from Amazon, everything else is thrifted. His jacket is a girl's size 6 blazer. 

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Happy Halloween! 

Abram is THREE

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Abram joined our family three years ago today, 8 days after his due date. His birth was perfect and exactly what I wanted, he was born in our dining room. He has been a happy, chubby guy since the beginning, weighing in at 9lbs 12oz. He gained a pound a week for a while, and was almost 30 lbs by the time he was 6 months. I'm so glad I have Abram as my son, he entertains us, loves us, challenges us and makes us all happy!

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Osmo

As we begin our homeschooling journey, I've been on the lookout for educational materials that don't take up a lot of space, that my kids will enjoy using and that they can use without my help. While we'll certainly be doing a fair bit of structured "book work", I like the idea of having several options for them to use while I'm nursing or making lunch, or getting the baby down for a nap. In my searching, I stumbled upon Play Osmo. It's an iPad add on, you use your own iPad and buy the base and reflector and any games you'd like from them.

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Osmo was kind enough to send us the Creative Set and we are loving it! I thought my kids would like it, but I didn't know just how much! Lulu (4.5) loves all of the games and I love that they're simple enough that even Abram (2.5) can participate, although he's usually pretty happy to sit back and watch too!

Masterpiece is a really clever app that allows you to draw whatever you'd like! You can choose from pictures that are included with the app, pictures saved on your device or take a picture of something around you! My kids love drawing the simple illustrations that are included and I like trying to draw something a little more complicated. The Osmo records a video of you drawing and it's fun to watch it when it's done! You can resize the images to fit where you'd like, so Lulu has illustrated some greeting cards and used it to practice handwriting! 

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Newton is my favorite app, there are 60 levels to beat, each one harder than the previous one! Balls fall from the top of the screen and you need to guide them to the appropriate area. Using the Osmo creative board, you can draw platforms, ramps, baskets, etc. for them to go through or use other objects (you hand, a Duplo block, the baby's pacifier, etc) by laying them on the board. My kids aren't quite able to beat the harder levels yet, but they love experimenting with different shapes and objects. They introduce new concepts and it takes creativity and critical thinking to solve each level. 

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Monster is the favorite of both kids. A big, friendly monster named Moe leads kids on an adventure, helps them decorate a house or puts on a magic show! The kids create all of the props for the stories! Using the Osmo board and wipe off markers, Moe tells the kids which items they need, they draw them however they'd like and Moe magically pulls them into the game! My kids LOVE this game, and I love that it promotes co-operative play, creative thinking and fine motor skills. The good news is that Moe doesn't care if your flower looks like a broom, or the broom is actually just a scribbled line, so Abram can play just as well as Lulu can. 

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Another really cool game I recently purchased is called Pizza Co. The kids (mostly Lulu) really enjoy it and it teaches so many good skills! It's a time management game where the player is managing a pizza shop. Customers come in and tell them what kind of pizza they want. The kids quickly make the pizza and slide it off the screen and into the oven! After the customer eats the pizza, it's the kid's job to collect payment and make change. After I bought it, I was worried it might be too tricky for Lulu, but I was pleased to find out you can play it on "junior mode". It's the perfect level for Lulu right now, which means she has lots of room to learn and grow! 

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I like that it introduces kids to the concept of money and making change. They also illustrate each math problem on a number line and write it out mathematically. It seamlessly introduces math concepts to kids in a practical, fun way! 

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My kids have also started to realize how important it is to keep the ingredients and money organized, if they don't it's too hard to find what they need quickly! Who doesn't want their kids learning that lesson?!

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The whole set up packs up so compactly and it's easy for the kids to put away and take out on their own. I love that I can sit down to nurse the baby and the kids can set up this activity on their own. It's also nice to know they're actually interacting and learning some new skills while playing! We don't have a TV or DVD player, so they spend very little time in front of a screen. While we still limit how much time they spend on the iPad, I love having these educational options! 

Another cool thing that Osmo just came out with is a base for the iPhone! It's nice to have a smaller option sometimes! Or I can let the kids use my phone while I work on the iPad. I love the portability and simplicity of the Osmo.

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We've loved the Osmo and I'm hoping to add a few more games to our collection as we get further into the fall/winter and our homeschooling year! 

Check it out here: PLAY OSMO

 

 

 

LULU is FIVE

Five years ago, I became a mother. It's hard to imagine life before this girl entered our lives, and I hardly want to. I'll admit, Lulu was a difficult baby. She cried inconsolably for hours a day and it was hard for me to feel like I was doing anything right. But since she turned one year old, she's been a dream. She's funny and smart, caring and kind. I don't know what I'd do without her help these days and I love the conversations we can have about everything! 

Here are a few (hundred...) of my favorite Lucille pictures:

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My "tiny" 9lb 14oz, 23" baby girl

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My Ta-da list

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

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

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

TA-DA LIST:

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

- Did all the dishes before breakfast. 

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- Changed two Felix poops

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

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

- Made Lulu a good school snack 

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

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

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

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

- Bought Lulu a birthday gift with Abram noticing 

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Started dinner while keeping Felix happy on the floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Got Felix to bed while editing photos 

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

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

Hard Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austin misses having space to easily store his instruments.

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

I wish we had a bathtub.

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

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

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

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

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When it rains, we stress about leaks.

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

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

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

There’s no space for hobbies.

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

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

We miss being able to easily host overnight guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I find myself longing for my own forever home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiny Home/Minimalist Gift Guide

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER IDEAS:

- Thingamatink

- Clothing

- Board games

- Audiobooks

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

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

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

- Pottery date to paint something they can use at home

 

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

5 on Friday: Five favorites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lulu's Crown Braid Tutorial

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

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

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Here's how I do it: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five on Friday: 5 things that are stressing me out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anyone want to solve my problems? 

Board Games for Kids

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

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

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

Here are a few of our favorites:

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- Gobblet Jr. 

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

 

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- Up The River

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

Wig Out

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

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Camp

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

Connect 4

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

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Spin Me a Rainbow

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

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

Dancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiny Living with a Newborn

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

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

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

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

A few of our favorite baby items so far: 

- DockAtot

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

- Ollie Swaddle

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

- Mamaroo swing

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

- Vintage buggy

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

- Baby clothes

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

- Diapers

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

-Nursing gear

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

- Solly Baby Wrap

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

- Meals

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

- Indoor/Outdoor Spaces

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

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

 

 

 

 

One Month of Felix

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

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

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Felix Robert

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

Two weeks before Felix was born 

Two weeks before Felix was born 

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

Just before heading to the birth center

Just before heading to the birth center

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

Early labor

Early labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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