My family of five, and our dog, live in a 1200 square foot condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a den in downtown Vancouver. Over the years of apartment living I have probably heard all of the remarks about living in a small space. Most people appear shocked and like to ask, ‘so when will you guys move?’.
It seems many people believe that in order to thrive as a family you need a big house. The idea that less space can actually be more makes some people a little uncomfortable and confused. One thing that I know we are doing right as a family is that we are thriving! We live a purposeful life with a minimalist approach and our ‘stuff’ doesn’t own us.
This is how we do it:
The two big kids share a bedroom with bunk beds and their closet is converted into an organized catchall for toys and games and some clothing. Two big drawers under the bunk bed can be pulled out for special personalized collections. Currently you will find My Little Ponies and Shopkins in one and Lego and Transformers in the other.
When a new toy comes in we always make sure there is a space for it and if not, then something gets donated or given away. We don’t accumulate a lot of excess and that is on purpose.
I never bought a change table for any of my babies. This fact is surprising to many people who come to visit us or come to take care of my kids. I have always used foldable washable changing pads and have had a basket of diapers/wipes/creams that moved around with me as needed.
“For our family of five living a minimalist styled life in a condo continues to work for us because we make it work”
Each kid gets one of something and not more. They have one bike each, one warm Winter coat each, one pair of everyday shoes each, etc. Since we don’t have the space to pack away a variety of different fashions the answer is to have just one good quality thing. I will fork over the dollars if I know the item is to be made well and not disposable.
Can you believe my 8 year old has had the same Peekaboo Beans hoodie for over a year? It wasn’t cheap but it washes up so well and I bought it big knowing we’d just have the one. Amazingly, he hasn’t misplaced it at school!
We don’t have different everyday dishes and fancy occasional dishes. There’s no room for a China cabinet that would house stuff only to be taken out on special occasions. Instead, we use our Denby dishes that we got at our wedding ten years ago as our everyday meal dishes.
Once in awhile I do wish for an extra bedroom or a private space to relax in away from everyone. However, I know that ultimately my kids would still hunt me down and find me even if we had a huge house with many rooms. Kids are smart like that!
I like that our Costco robot vacuum can clean our floors without needing a battery charge and less space means less for me to clean. For our family of five living a minimalist styled life in a condo continues to work for us because we make it work. We don’t have any plans to move anytime soon and enjoy spending time together at home and in the city we’ve come to love.
My kids get up early, 6:30 AM is pretty normal for both big kids to be up and at ’em. When the youngest was still a baby I’d just wave my hand and give the okay for them to go and watch a show. It was my way to keep them quiet so that the baby could keep sleeping.
Soon the early morning rising and watching of shows started to happen every single day. It became this expectation that they could just wake up and have screen time.
My kids started to roll out of bed even earlier and flick on a show and curl up in blankets on the couch while I was still snoozing with the Elisabeth. It was totally a bad habit that we got into and over the summer I let it go on because it felt ‘easier’.
When it was time for back to school we gave our morning routine a serious look and realized that something needed to change. Too often the big kids were so enthralled with a television show that they had on their T.V. blinders and could not see or hear me.
It would take forever for me to get them up and going and I’ve never been a morning person as is. It felt like a constant battle to get them moving on from the breakfast table to getting dressed. Eyes were always half glued to a screen and that is when we realized, something that to change.
We went cold turkey and completely banned screens on school mornings. Surprisingly, it was actually not a hard transition for them to make. It’s been over a month with no screens in the morning and things have seriously improved.
My kids still wake up at 6:30 AM but now they hop onto the couch and read books and, this is the big one, they play together without fighting. I literally find piles of books on the couch each morning and I love this. Getting them moving in the morning is now a lot easier and there is so much less hollering from me to get a move on.
Besides reading books they also listen to music and have random dance parties in the living room. We’ve been on a real Dolly Parton kick lately (Jolene! Jolene! Joleeeeene!) and there is laughter and movement. The kids play silly games with each other and the vibe is so much more calmer.
Their listening also got a lot better and they seem able to really focus on their morning tasks. Turning off the television and stopping our morning binge has been a really positive change in our family. It has even trickled into the rest of the day with much less screen time overall and I randomly find them getting lost in books. Now that is a habit I fully support!
I am just in love with this next guest post by Andria from The Cheerio Diaries. The first time I met Andria I was sitting in a robe, sipping champagne and enjoying a birthday visit at a spa downtown. She had just come back from her first maternity leave and was working for the accounting department and came by to say hello.
What a great introduction to a new blogging friend! She is definitely a woman who cares about other people. Andria blogs about about life with her two kids and gives an honest, upfront look into her world. She is always on the go and up for new experiences and I think she just might always be planning or throwing a party.
Dear Pre Baby Self,
Tonight when you get out of the shower I want you to stop and take a look at yourself in the mirror. Take a look at your body, your stomach, your thighs and most importantly your breasts. Stand there for a minute, take it all in, absorb the way your body looks and cherish it like the sacred temple it is.
Now tomorrow when you wake up take the bras from your drawer and burn them. You know the ones that you have in eight different colours that make your breasts look the way you think they are meant to look. Perfectly round and just the right amount of umph. Yes, you heard me, take them and burn them. Go buy yourself something that is comfortable and fits you better, just trust me on this.
These breasts that you think are meant to look perfectly round, and with just the right amount of oomph, are going to mean so much more to you in a few years. Yes, they will grow and may leave you with stretch marks but they are going to do remarkable things. They will allow you to nourish not one but two beautiful babies. One of those babies will self wean around nine months and the other will not want to stop and you will go on to extended breastfeeding, something you had never even knew existed.
These breasts that you feel you need to make look perfect are already perfect and your babies will sense this from the moment they are born. They will instantly snuggle up to you and recognize this as a safe place. A place they go to when they need nourishment and comforting.
While breastfeeding might seem a little painful at first you will both get the hang of it and in no time you will have a routine. You will spend many hours trapped to your bed with a baby snuggled against you. Enjoy it. Embrace it. And most importantly bring snacks with you. These minutes, hours, days that you spend snuggling and nursing you babies are oh so important. The bond that you are creating is everlasting and before you know it they will no longer depend on you.
All I can say to you is to stop worrying about whether or not your breasts are perfect, because they are. One day when you’re a little older and possibly a little wiser, you’re going to look back at yourself and laugh. Laugh at all the times you stressed about the way you looked. So stop it, stop it now.
Embrace your body, your breasts, for what they are and just know that one day, yes they will be a few sizes bigger, but most importantly your breasts are going to be amazing and will have the power to nourish and grow a tiny human.
Your slightly older and wiser self,
Through out this week we will be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with guest posts from different bloggers. Today we have the always funny, tells it like it is, blogger Hillary from Hillary With 2 L’s (please).
I’ve known Hillary for a few years and have always admired her support of the pumping mama and full term breastfeeding. She is always ready to give a pat on the back to another mother and just recently just had her second baby, Poppy Bloom.
I knew nothing about breastfeeding before my son was born.
I didn’t research breastfeeding. I didn’t have many friends with babies, and of those who did and lived locally to me, not many chose to breastfeed. I knew what breastfeeding was in theory but I hadn’t seen it in practice.
My entire breastfeeding preparation consisted of my doctor asking me when I was about 37 weeks pregnant if I planned to breastfeed. I told her I planned to try. And that was it.
The day after my son was born, I shuffled down the hospital hallway to a small room where an enthusiastic lactation educator held a crocheted breast to a bizarrely disturbing doll’s face and told the group of bleary-eyed new parents that we should breastfeed for at least two years, per the WHO’s recommendations. I vividly remember rolling my eyes at my husband and thinking, “Puh-lease. I’ll give it a year, tops, but as soon as he’s walking and talking, we’re done.”
Hillary of yesteryear was adorable in her naivety, right?
My son breastfed for a year. And then he breastfed for another year. And he continued to breastfeed well past his infancy, through toddlerhood, and into his preschool years.
We’re not comfortable talking about full-term (or “extended”) breastfeeding in western society. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed, but not for too long or else it’s creepy. Never mind that there is no evidence of full-term breastfeeding being detrimental to a child’s health or well-being, but there are numerous benefits in continuing to breastfeed as long as mama and child both wish to continue.
I feel like part of the discomfort stems from how sexualized breasts have become. We use breasts to sell products and ideas and experiences. We’ve lost the connection to breasts’ biological purpose, which is to nourish our young. This isn’t to say that breasts shouldn’t be considered sexy. Breasts can be sexy and nurturing (just like women can, go figure!). Body parts don’t have to be one thing. Arms can be used to steer a car and embrace someone (not at the same time, safety first!). Mouths can be used to eat a sandwich and kiss a lover. Breasts can feed a nursling and be physically attractive. It’s not an either or scenario.
I wish that someone had told me when my son was born that it was okay to breastfeed for as little or as long as we wanted. I wish I hadn’t felt pressured to reach some imaginary milestone (breastmilk doesn’t suddenly lose its nutritional value at one year) and then felt like I had to hide it after we passed it and continued to breastfeed. I wish that society viewed breastfeeding a biologically normal thing to do but didn’t burden mothers to start if they don’t want to, or stop before they’re ready to. I wish we could find a way to support women without making them feel inadequate or wrong.
I talk about breastfeeding, share my story about breastfeeding my son for years, and breastfeed my daughter in public without a cover because I want to help normalize breastfeeding. I want women to feel comfortable making choices that fit their family, whether those choices mirror mine or not. We’re all just trying to do the best we can for our kids. I’d love to help you feel supported.
Back when I was a 19 year old nursing student I was sitting in my university Pathophysiology class and the professor started talking about the main symptoms of diabetes. I carefully nodded my head, taking it all in and understanding how quickly uncontrolled diabetes could take a turn for the worse.
I sat there sipping my Coca Cola and went on to study the rest of the afternoon away. Only fleetingly thinking about the odd frequency of my trips to the bathroom to pee and the weird way my mouth was dry as a bone. I slurped back another sip of Coke and kept on studying.
From rereading my huge pathophysiology text and matching up my symptoms, I knew that something was just not right with my body. I was feeling a bit of stress from nursing school and the intense course work and let myself believe that it was all just stress.
A week later I went to my family doctor and it turned out that my pancreas had given up producing insulin all together. Sugar was floating around my blood at dangerously high levels making me feel incredibly tired and really gross. The dry cotton mouth and the need to pee a few times every hour were also big red flags. ‘Hello! You have diabetes!‘.
With more education and lots of family support, managing my diabetes did become part of my life. Needles and finger pokes were just adapted into my lifestyle and are really no big deal for me. I make changes in my insulin doses based on working night shifts or day shifts and always made sure to pack snacks for low blood sugar fixes.
My husband and I traveled Europe through time changes and eating out and my diabetes came along with me. For me, it was never a huge issue to be a type 1 diabetic and I made it part of my daily life.
Fast forward to motherhood and it’s the single most influence on managing my diabetes.
Apparently type 1 diabetics are suppose to eat healthy food on a pretty regimented schedule and take their insulin like clockwork. However, everyone knows that mothers often eat the scraps of old waffles from their kids breakfast plates while making sure their kids eat well balanced meals.
Apparently type 1 diabetics are suppose to get ample sleep so their cortisol levels don’t spike making their blood glucose rise. However, everyone knows that mothers live on threads of interrupted sleep.
Apparently type 1 diabetics should take their insulin doses on a very strict schedule. However, sometimes you get so busy trying to get your kids ready to get out the door that you literally forget.
Apparently motherhood complicates type 1 diabetes.
Motherhood is a busy business and there isn’t a lot of room for chronic disease. Taking care of yourself is important and vital but it seems that mothers are often the last ones to be taken care of. How does that work if you also have a chronic disease to take care of?
If you’re the mother who has missed out on regular showers, enough sleep and haven’t had a hot cup of coffee in weeks then you probably can imagine the trouble that comes with being a type 1 diabetic and a mom.
It’s already a constant struggle to take care of myself as ‘Andrea the person‘ and even more so to manage my disease. Unfortunately, the side effects of not taking care of my diabetes are extremely dire so it’s something that I need to make sure happens.
Since I love being a mother to my three kids, I have to make it a priority to manage my diabetes and really take care of my whole self.
When someone posts a photo bursting blog post about their kid’s birthday I am usually all over it. I love seeing all the details and looking at the Pinterest worthy photos. In fact, I’ve even thrown some of my own Pinterest inspired parties and I certainly do love a well thought out celebration with small details.
Once kids are old enough to be dropped off, which for me is about school age, there are no parents to impress with your amazing decoration skills. It turns out that 8 year old boys do not actually care if your theme is noticeable throughout the entire party. However, they do care if there are enough chips to snack on.
I don’t know if it is a boy thing or an age thing, or a combo of those two, but putting together a birthday celebration for my 8 year old son was a completely different ball game than back in the day with the under 5 crowd.
This post will be my reminder for next year when it comes to planning his ninth birthday.
- Under invite. Less is more when it comes to a kid’s birthday guest list. We had 12 guests and it was a lot of work to keep them organized and entertained, and that was even with all the teachers in my family pitching in. Next year it will be more like 4-6 buddies.
- Kids will not care if your napkins match your theme or if your cake topper is on point. So, basically, LET IT GO!
- There will be wrestling. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, wrestling of some kind will still happen at some point.
- An organized planned out activity is great but there will always be hiccups when you get a bunch of big kids together.
- At some point a kid will voice their disappointment to you about the party. Maybe it’s because the snacks aren’t ready and they came to the party starving, or their best friend didn’t show up, or because one kid brought quarters to the bowling alley and is buying all his favourite friends jawbreakers and some is feeling left out.
This year we planned a Pokemon bowling party for my 8 year old and I was excited to get Pokemon Go team pins for the kids to wear and I loved the invites I had printed.
I was going for low stress but it didn’t feel that way when my Pikachu cupcakes didn’t work out as planned and I had to scrap the idea of themed cupcakes. However, in the end it actually didn’t matter as kids tossed down the grocery store mini cupcakes exclaiming how tasty they were. I didn’t even bake them and they didn’t even care.
Planning birthday parties can get quite pricey and I honestly think that the big kids would have loved it all the same if I had thrown down a mass of 711 snack food on a table and told them to play video games.
While I’m happy to find a middle ground in party planning, next year I will definitely remember that kids don’t see the small details and really they just want to have fun with each other.
Trust me, you know if you have a high needs fussy baby. Those kind of babies make themselves very obvious and there’s no wondering on the topic. That being said, you might have a high needs baby if:
- You constantly find yourself jiggling your body left and right, up and down, even when you aren’t holding your baby.
- Following the ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice means you yourself get about 20 minutes of sleep before the baby wakes up (again!).
- A feeling of physical violence overcomes you when someone suggests getting your baby to sleep by putting them atop of the washing machine or using a white noise machine or taking a night time car ride.
- You’ve considered if it would really be that bad if you let yourself pee your pants because the baby has FINALLY just fallen asleep on top of you and you’ve got to go BADLY…but alas, sleep.
- The deluxe top of the line designer stroller you bought pre-baby goes untouched. Putting your baby down does NOT work.
- You discover that if you want to ever eat again, you will now have to cook dinner while safely jiggling a tired baby in your favourite carrier. In fact, this becomes a must.
Eight years ago I welcomed my first very anticipated baby. I was so excited to be a mum and so shocked when I realized that the loud crying he started in the hospital didn’t all of a sudden dissipate once we got home. In fact, it kept getting louder and for longer periods.
There was absolutely no ability to put this baby down without major soothing. He cried and he cried loudly. Very loudly. Baby wearing and constant jiggling were a must. At the end of his babyhood I became a self professed expert in parenting a high needs baby.
It’s Not Colic
In the olden days fussy crying babies were given the title of ‘Colic’. The idea that here tiny tummy’s were giving them pain and so they cried. My baby did not have colic. He was not in pain. His personality was just loud and he required lots and lots of external soothing to calm down.
The things that work for easy or text book babies often don’t work with high needs babies. Once you realize this you are at a great parenting advantage. Sorry baby, it’s not me it’s actually you.
High needs babies are in a league of their own and if you’ve ever had to parent one than you know just how much more work and exhaustion it can be. Now that I’ve had three babies, 2 with text book personalities, I realize how hard it actually was parenting my first baby.
Survive And Thrive
Give up your expectations and lofty dreams about putting your baby in the crib and having them doze off on their own while you read a book or enjoy a hot coffee. It really might never happen for you.
It is easy to feel totally overwhelmed and lost when you are learning to be a mum to a baby who has a different set of rules. Don’t give up. Soon you will get to know more about what works for you and your tiny ruler.
Invest in a carrier that works for each parent/caregiver. Get everyone on board. Briefly mourn the idea of pushing your baby on a peaceful walk while you chat with your friends with easy babies. Your reality will be jiggling, baby wearing and ‘shhhh shhhh shhhing’. Just let that be okay.
Embrace the concept that this high energy period will truly pass and it’s temporary. You will experience a weird jealousy to parents of easy babies.
One day your baby will celebrate their eight birthday and they will sleep through the night and read books on the couch. In the meantime, bring out the ear plugs and coffee. While it won’t cure the situation of a fussy baby, it will help a little bit. Plus, there’s always Wine Friday.
The other evening I was getting a ride home from work and as we walked to her car I could just feel the change in the air. Driving towards the beach I couldn’t help but notice that the sky was just a little bit darker than it had been the week before. There was a crispness in the air that was relieved with a sweater.
Summer fades to fall and I actually feel kind of impartial to it all. I don’t love it or hate it yet I’m still always ready for the change. We had such a fun time this summer and the three kids are at a fun age but there’s no choice except to move ahead.
Yesterday we were hit with a rainy day; the rain started overnight and kept going on and off all day. I felt like the rain confirmed that summer is over and, well, that it’s time for us to move on.
I wore my pyjamas most of the day and we didn’t go outside till after 4 PM. I drank hot coffee and we listened to music. There was dance parties and Netflix and we made it through our new pile of library books.
Then we got up to some serious painting.
Our sweet Elisabeth has become quite the vocal toddler and with two big kids around she wants to do everything they do. Parenting that third baby feels so different and I love it. I find myself to be more present and more relaxed.
“Sure, Elisabeth. Here’s your paper, your paints and a paintbrush. Try not to eat the paint..or at least not too much of it, okay?”
We haven’t had one of these days together in a long time. A day where we’re all together with no place to go. We are often outside adventuring or just out and about, so it was refreshing to slow things down. Deep breath, things are changing.
Sometimes I wonder, how did I get here? Not here in Vancouver at 4 PM on a Tuesday, but here as in this part of my life. As a mum to three kids who I’m responsible for shaping their childhood and memories.
Oh, the memories.
The other afternoon it was sunny outside and we had just been lounging around at home post nap time.The kids kept asking again and again, ‘when can we have screen time mum?’. I had really had enough with the constant question on repeat and so I decided to just get outside.
To be honest, anytime in my life when things feel like they’ve hit their peak in overwhelmingness or annoyance, I always take life outside and it always has been the right decision.
I quickly packed up water bottles, towels and sand toys and told the big kids to hit the bathroom and get their beach shoes on cause we were heading out.
It wasn’t planned but it was perfect.
As we walked the kids kept shouting, ‘…and make a sand castle with me!’ and they’d fight over who I’d be building sand castles with. I did my big motherly SHHHHH!! and kept on walking with them. We’d all build castles together.
We got to the beach, a short 10 minute walk from home, and I ungracefully pulled the big Uppababy Vista stroller over the sand to get closer to the water. Popping wheelies the whole way because taking a stroller on a beach is no easy feat.
Together we set up a little spot and got out our sand pails and shovels and I set up Lizzy in a little area where she could sit and feel the sand between her toes. Funny enough, this kid does not want to move at the beach. She literally just sits still and enjoys herself.
There were many trips to the ocean to fill up pails with water and a little bit of sibling arguing occurred on who got the coveted newly filled bucket of water. We practiced and practiced making sand castles and had many collapse and fail.
It wasn’t till the end of the beach trip that the nearly 8 year old perfected his sand castle building skills. We left high on life and our impromptu afternoon beach trip trickled into early evening.
These are the moments that I want to remember when I’m 8o plus years and saying, ‘how did I get here?’. These are the memories I want my kids to grow up and say to each other, ‘remember when mum would take us to the beach and she’d build castles with us?!’.