Monday, March 6, 2017

Tiny Human, Tiny House-- Raising a Baby in Our Tiny House.

It’s 5:42am and my nose is being grabbed by impatient little fingers. I’d say this blasted me awake, but the baby babble has been in business for fifteen minutes and only now has quieted because Adventure Babe’s mouth is presently full of hair. My hair. I see a mischievous little grin by the light of my illuminated watch and, once I yank my frayed follicles from her toothy mouth, explain that I’m not getting out of bed until that first number is a “6”. Of course she has no idea what I’m saying and if I’m lucky she’ll spin around and start “Dadada-ing” while patting James who, wisely, has turned his back on this new morning ritual. The dog has now heard that we’re awake and his tail is thumping excitedly against the pocket door to the bedroom. I’m stubborn so we sit there for awhile until the clock strikes 6 and I roll out of bed, maneuvering pillows to form a barrier against the babe and the edge of our super tall bed. Snatch her up, dodge the pooch, and out we go to begin our day.

I get asked all the time what it’s like to have kids in the tiny house and, at least with a baby, our set up is pretty great. There is so much daylight that comes in that we don’t feel too cooped up but we are also lucky enough to be living on property that allows us to get outside as much as the February weather will allow. Babycakes, who is now 10 months of age, is an army crawling, standing-at-the-sofa, high chair-sitting machine so the containment of the tiny house is really nice for keeping tabs on where she is and what she could possibly be sticking into that mouth of hers (seriously, this kid is going to be one of those that eats furniture and rocks. Sigh). 

She has graduated out of the bulky swings and rockers that take up SO much space and which I previously vowed to keep out. All I had read of attachment parenting gave me the impression I was going to be snuggling up with my beloved child basically every hour of the day. Of course, after about a month of holding out (and holding her non-stop) I relented and let my mom bring over a baby swing she found at Goodwill. The first four months were a constant intro and exit of bulky baby gear. The minute she grew out of a swing, it was gone, either to storage in Grandpa’s basement or consignment. This quick turnover of “stuff” as it falls out of our “need” category is key to baby life (and life in general) in the tiny house. A couple other big goals for tiny house baby-life are how to keep the consumerism bug in-check when society says there are so many baby product needs, and methods to promote our zero waste goals. Also we really try to make the house baby-friendly while not having it wind up looking like a McDonald’s play place. This means nice design for her things that do need to be out and proud and being able to put away the rest with as little fuss as possible.  Balance!

Stella rocking out with Bowie in the first round of bulky baby gear (which, even with its size, was worth it!)

The second iteration in the background, plus one of the first uses of the high chair!

Since this is a pretty big topic, and in an effort to crank out more than one blog entry every two months, I’m going to hit you with a few different topics over the next couple weeks that all fall under the auspice of “Tiny Human, Tiny House”. Some are goals and methods chosen to keep our small space doable with a little one and others are parenting choices that work to keep our house a happy home, size being no object.

Keep your eyes peeled for:

Minimalism with Baby!
Co-Sleeping for Sanity (and cuddles)
A Tiny House Baby Registry
Feeding This Kid
Cloth Diapering and Other Zero Waste Wins
Babes in Nature. 

See you in a week! For real this time!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hygge in the Tiny House

...Or, Winter is Upon Us!

Since moving back from the great Midwest three years ago, I've found that winters in the PNW are incredibly hard for me. The nights are long and the days are grey and even though the temperature is WAY more mild than Chicago, I feel much more seasonally affected. I want longer days and good weather that allows for me and Adventure Baby to escape the 394 square feet of the house. Cue SAD music, here!

I also have not written in a fair few months, and for this I apologize. In the month leading up to the election, I felt much more pulled to write something that could help sway people away from Mr. Tiny Hands than about Halloween in the Tiny House and after November 8th, I felt pulled to hide under a warm, woolen blanket until January (erm, 2021), shooshing my husband anytime he began to mention the upcoming administration. It's still hard for me, that's for sure, and I'm still scared. But I'll do what I can to remember how #notnormal this all is and let the wool blankets, warm drinks, and twinkly candles smooth my shaken spirits. Long, dark winters, and dark, uncertain times call for a cozy coping mechanism.

Enter Hygge! Not like I'm up on what's "all the rage" these days, but both the New York Times and The New Yorker did stories about this within the last two weeks and a Pinterest search or two unearthed a slew of satisfying articles and photos, mostly of knobbly-socked feet propped up in front of a fire or steam rising from a big, red mug of hot chocolate.

This one courtesy of The New Yorker but seriously, google it... There's more where that came from!

Hygge , as all the articles will tell you, doesn't have an exact translation to English but is a Danish mindset and a national character trait that not only makes them get through winters that are even longer and darker than ours, but also get named the "happiest country on earth" every year for nearly 40 years while doing it. Hygge is the act of getting cozy, of mellowing and getting together in your own home with some dearies while leaving the stress of work, life, and controversial topics behind, and a descriptor for all things wooly, warm, and cabin-y that take a nordic bent. According the the website Hygge Life, "It’s an adjective (hyggelig) and a feeling, but also a way to live life- pursuing only the things and people that make you really appreciate the moments that make up your life." This combination of cozy hibernation and willful ignorance of the shittier things in the great wide world was just what I was doing, so hoozah! We at Chez Tiny House were unwitting trendsetters!

Trendsetters. Doing it right!

The warm, wooden walls, our wool blankets slung over the back of the couch, the nordic Christmas decorations that are our usual decor-- it all fit. All I needed was an obscene amount of candles and I was in business. The first day I hygge-d, I went to Goodwill and bought about 25 clear glass votive holders (fittingly from IKEA-- love those Scandis!), some candle stands, and two candlesticks. One trip to World Market and one hundred tea lights later I found myself actually counting the hours down to when day would fade away and I could light the lights, and curl up in my blanket with a book. I lit everything, including the menorah since Hanukkah had just started, too, and when James came home he found me on the couch under our big red blanket, happy as a winter clam. He sat with me and we cuddled and talked for a bit. We both felt very happy and content with just this little change in our atmosphere and James remarked that we better "Up our candle budget."

Thank you, New York Times! This was basically our New Year's Eve, but with a dozen more people fit into this yellow square...

I may, however, have over-hygge-d it when I invited 18 people over for New Years Eve. We had a fire going outside, which the kids roasted marshmallows on, and we had nice times eating food and playing games, though the "coziness" was less hygge and more adjective-used-to-sell-small-ass-apartment-in-New York City. We didn't have enough chairs and one of the big people in tiny house bumped my new, slightly wobbly, candelabra, spilling wax all over his shoes. What can I say? I'm an inviter! And we did have a nice time, don't get me wrong! We just reached the Tiny House's max capacity (and then I invited two more families...) But how awesome to spread the hygge and share some memorable, happy time with people!

So bring it on, Winter! Bring it on, 2017! I'll play my part in the resistance and then go home and cuddle with my hubs and babe while drinking mulled wine and watching Masterpiece Mystery. And of course, you're cordially invited.

The two Norwegians of the house approve of our Scandinavian sensibilities! 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Happy Anniversary To Us! Our Lovely, Rustic, Zero Waste Mt. Rainier Wedding

Those of you who know me know I'm not the greatest at marking events in a timely fashion. I'm the person who writes out half the thank you cards and then doesn't get the addresses done. Or doesn't buy stamps. Or orders 50 birth announcements and fails to do both those things. Sorry everyone! But it is my and Jimmy James' second anniversary today and, internet, it is finally time for me to post about our amazing wedding.

About to walk down the aisle/ Wonderland Trail
The big plan was for us to hike the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier and have our last day be our walk down the aisle. In the end we wound up camping the night before at Cougar Rock (site of amazing wedding festivities) and then had the hike on the Wonderland from Longmire to the amphitheater together. It was a wonderful few days and I'm so thankful for all the friends and family that helped make it happen. We wound up spending $5,000 for the whole wedding, half of which was our amazing photographer Melissa Kilner (all these photos are hers... seriously good, yes?)

Seriously, getting married at the National Park was a brilliant move in the budget department. All we needed was a special use permit that cost a whopping $61 for us to be at the amphitheater and then we reserved a large group campsite for around $60 a night for three nights (one to get ready, one for the actual event, and one so we didn't have to pack up until everyone was gone the next day). We managed to transform the group campsite into a beautiful combination dining area, cooking area, and (most importantly) dance floor. Decor-wise we strung up some solar twinkly lights and paper lanterns, decorated our big tent, and let nature do its thing. My dress was only $90 from Mod Cloth and I prodealed (prodealt?) my shoes and warmer clothes, along with all our blue enamelwear dishes that we still use for the catering. Glasses were jelly jars that now house this year's cherry preserves and to keep the waste way down we bought cute gingham cloth napkins and cutlery from Goodwill. 

The night before James and I helped our families set the decorations up and once I got over-stressed, he and I went to the blackberry pie restaurant outside the Nisqually entrance for dinner/escape. After I was jolted out of my panic during dessert, we returned to the campsite and hung out around the campfire. The campsite across from us were a delegation of climbers from the Ukraine who were planning on summiting the next day. They were curious about our decorating and once we said we were getting married the next day, we were all invited over for some vodka toasts and long-winded speeches, which was nice. By now I'm mellowed and happy and James and I crashed out in our Hobitat 4 for the last time as boyfriend and girlfriend.

Pretty, yes? Moissanite and rose gold handmade
off etsy. James' is titanium with a rose gold vein.
The next day I woke up to a misty chill and hoped that it wouldn't rain but wasn't too concerned. I walked down to where my mom and aunt were awake, making coffee and my bouquet, respectively, and hung out for a little while at the picnic table. It was a wonderfully calm way to get the day started. Stephanie and I then went to breakfast at the Inn at Longmire and then upstairs to our room that Jessica had decorated for us to get ready. Steph did my hair and makeup and then it was time for photographs.

Everyone else headed to the campground and James and I took a couple last pictures and then headed down the 1.5 mile aisle together.

Having that time to talk and walk hand-in-hand definitely took away my nerves. We got to the campground and met Russ, our friend and officiant. As we crossed the street, a car of my besties sped by (one of whom was slated to play the guitar as we walked down the actual aisle) so we waited about five minutes and then headed down the campground's main loop towards the amphitheater. Once there, James went first and then I followed, smiling at all my lovelies that joined us there on the mountain. The ceremony was absolutely lovely!

The reception was fantastic, too. We made food in the dutch oven, grilled chicken and sausages, and had a nice array of desserts. There were some toasts, we cut the cake, and we danced. Then, of course, there was winding down around the campfire, which was splendid. James and I went back to the National Park Inn to our room overlooking the mountain around 10pm. The next morning we met up with all the campers back at the group site and had a delicious, round-the-campfire breakfast of pancakes with bananas foster on top (and leftover desserts, obviously). 

The biggest regret of our wedding was we had really limited space so were only able to invite 30-ish people. I wish we would have just put together a carpool and had twice the number of people show up, but alas! 

Steph helps doll me up in the National Park Inn. 

Right after we did our "first look" on the porch of the National Park Inn.

We had bubble blowers for the kids to play with.

While our wedding party (slash, our sisters) didn't have a set outfit to wear, it turns out that our guests all decided to coordinate their Patagonia puffy jackets. 

mmmm, I love our Pendelton Mt. Rainier edition blanket. In fact, it's draped over our couch and I'm leaning on it right now! We gave one of these beauties to Russ as a gift for officiating our wedding, too.

I love this picture. A lot of the guests and a view of the "reception" while my mom says her toast. It never did rain but the tarps were put up earlier in the day just in case.

Tea lights, burlap runner, cloth napkins, and full bellies. 

Our first dance. The solar lights were just starting to twinkle and there were tea lights in  the mason jars hanging on hooks around the dance floor. The only electricity was in the bathrooms next to our site, so my brother burnt a CD and played music on an ancient battery-powered boombox.
erm, leave no trace.

My grandma Stella's suitcase with globe and greenery paid an homage to James' and my life of travel and served as the depository for gifts and cards. My sister made our guest book with pictures from other hikes we'd been on.

Zero waste, no electricity.

James' mom made this absolutely gorgeous cake.

S'mores bar!!

Cutting the cake. Since this was my family, dessert also featured an apple pie, mini cheesecakes, tarts, and chocolate covered blueberries.
Me hiking near Devil's Dream

James near Emerald Ridge.

The Cougar Rock campground's amphitheater was the perfect spot. We had a fire set up in the firepit next to James and his mom made the lovely cedar garland. Set up and take down took mere minutes. More time for cooking, eating, and campfire sitting!

My vows. I hiked alone and found a spot by a waterfall the day before to write them. James still has them tucked away in the pocket of that vest.
James was a twenty-first century dude and wrote his vows on his iphone.

Bye! See you at the Ceremony! I loved the looks we got from people on the trail and getting congratulations from fellow hikers on our way to getting married.

Toasts around the campfire and sweet little Nanuq in his matchy matchy garb.

Smooch! It's official!

One of my favorite pictures. Brother and Sisters in our natural state.

Chelle made the flower crown for me.

Dutch oven baked mac and cheese. I had her take this picture so I could put it in my camp cooking powerpoints. Like a pro!

And lastly, what would a wedding be like without a bunch of midwesterners dancing to Journey?

And while the midwesterners dance, the Northwesterners sit around the campfire and drink beer. Here's to a lovely wedding and many years to come with my sweet man!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Family Life in the Tiny House

So to better get these blogs out in a timely fashion, I made a little document awhile back where I've been throwing post ideas for times like tonight when the stars align and the babe goes to sleep at a reasonable time and I'm actually awake enough to cook, clean, and write coherently (or ambivalent enough to ignore the former two and perhaps start a half-hearted blog I edit the crap out of two weeks from now). I opened the word doc and, after tetris-ing it so I can't see the few dishes piled in the sink from my vantage on our couch, I settled in with some cucumber sandwiches and apple cider for a nice blog entry about zero waste baby.

But you think that's what I'm going to wind up writing about today? LAUGHABLE! Further down the list was a little sprout of an idea, "Family life in the tiny space". I figured I would write about this in a few months once the Bean started doing a little bit more than cuddling and smiling and ambi-turning over on the floor but in addition to my Scandinavian-inspired second-dinner, I'm writing this to the not-so-sweet soundtrack of The Walking Dead, which my half-deaf husband is watching on his computer up in the loft. The awful sound of gurgling zombies, screams, suspenseful music, and, (harumph, harumph,) the sound of terrified crying babies is permeating all 394 square feet of this joint and it kind of is driving the topic of cloth diapers out of my head. So friends, I give you "Family Life in the Tiny House" or "How Doors Saved My Marriage!"

Close quarters= Close family. 

Funnily enough, James and I lived in even closer quarters before chez Tiny House rolled in from Oregon last November and the only door we had was to the bathroom which my 6'5 husband couldn't close anyway. I guarantee you, dear reader, you take doors for granted. Without doors you are constantly wobbling between either trying to keep yourself quiet around your significant other or remembering some tiny-life transgression of theirs and saying "fuck it" while listening to 6:30 am NPR and using the coffee grinder, excuses and argument forming in your mind. Since we were in our pre-married blissful state, there was much more of the former and good thing, because now when I get fed up with listening to the zombie gurgles I can just go into one o
f our three (count them three!) rooms and finish my writing there. Granted, one of those rooms is the bathroom, and the other is occupied by a snoozing Stella, so the close-door option right now is: the kids room.

I once read a great article about what travel guidebooks around the world say about the USA and our culture to folks travelling here and one thing I never even thought of, but which was mentioned in a slew of the books, was that it is a major faux pas to go into an American's bedroom without very specifically being invited. Obvious to us, yes? And reading my fair share of parenting books, I hear a lot about making the parents' bedroom an almost sacred space in order to keep the peace/keep your adult privacy intact when the house starts getting overrun with child noise and neon plastic blinky things.
I get this.
But right now I don't want to wake up the babe, who basically senses Mama-proximity if I so much as share the queen size bed with her which means those built in bunk beds in the kids room are the option if I need to flee zombie-noise. And I doubt when we're in the running child, blinky light phase 2 to 15 or whatever years from now, our room can't possibly be off limits-- that's a whopping third of our house! And half of our non-toilet doors! Most likely no part of our house will be shut to anyone else-- it's just too small. Proposing-- The Rule: If the door's closed, don't even bother to come a'knocking. Just let whoever's in there do their private thing. If you're cool with sharing space or aren't at home and don't care either way, leave the door open! Doors, Doors, Glorious Doors! You make my NPR listening, coffee grinding mornings possible!

Aside from making space for each other in the house, there's also spending time with each other and that is often more fun than challenging. We usually hang in our main room, which is a combination kitchen, living room, and dining room, and now that the babe is here, playroom/ nursery. Our dining table has two large leaves so we can entertain or I can have an extra surface for baking. I just set up Stella's high chair today so she can join us at the table THE MOMENT she starts sitting up on her own. Our couch is super tiny though we manage to squeeze both of us on here in our cuddly moments; mostly one person will be hanging on the couch and the other is either at the table, cooking, laying on our bed, playing on the floor with baby cakes, or up in the loft.

Talking between rooms is easy, too. Right now we are in the "one person on the couch, other person in the rocking chair in the loft" mode, which was just wonderfully convenient for James to drop me chocolate he had over the railing and into my hands-- very satisfying in a Swiss Family Robinson sort of way. Even with such close proximity, I feel like I have a nice balance of alone time and family time. Also, Baby monitors are super unnecessary and I hear a stir in Stella world, so I'll bid you adieu for now.

It's now the morning after I posted this and I had a sweet husband roll into bed after his zombie-filled night to ask why I wrote such a negative entry. I, of course, didn't mean for it to sound negative, I just happened to get too sleepy and had to go tend the baby before happening to list all the positives. Apologies, Babe! But really, it's mostly a blessing to be able to hear baby girl from any room, to talk to each other wherever we happen to be in the house, and to basically commune with each other no matter what. This house is SUCH an improvement to the trailer because if you do ever want alone time or, like now, you happen to wake up before your hubs and want to bang around in the kitchen and type off an addendum to a blog entry, you don't have to do it with ninja-like silence under cover of darkness. A tiny house with a couple doors makes it more realistically livable for us, especially after experiencing the alternative. Like I said: the trailer had one door and it was a bathroom that never closed. How is that for intimacy, peeps! We got close, we got comfortable and we got used to life with each other in tiny spaces. Now we'll see how this fares as Stella grows up!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Look Ma, No Hands!": Babywearing and Strolling on the Farm and in the Tiny House.

I'm in bumper crop go-time mode here in Chez Tiny House and even though the Little Bean is a few months from solid food, we're putting up all sorts of nomalicious seasonal eats for her when the Big Day comes. The apple and pear trees are creaking under the weight of fruit this year and I'm in a constant state of stickiness trying to pick and puree and freeze this stuff before the window of opportunity is gone. The garden, on the other hand, is SUPER LAME this year, seeing as I only planted about half the space, figuring this is going to be a tough season what with the lil babe and all.  I put off planting some things and didn't do as many plantings as I should have but the real kicker was my stupid, free range gourmand chickens ate EVERY SINGLE LITTLE BRASSICA seedling in the whole field. It first started with the winterbor kale, then they moved on to the red russian, then the broccolis were toast and down and down and down hill it went until there was nothing standing from that family of plant save some sad little stalks of leaf-gobbled kales. It was like a glutton chicken free for all! I basically got some mizuna out of the deal and, of course, never replanted it. Ey yi yi. Bad farmer! Put some fences up, woman!

Peaceful between the pear trees. 

Next year will be a different story, obviously-- we actually would like to scrape a living from growing and making food and generally that takes more than one hand. And look at this sweet little thing? I'm lucky that the little one really loves to be outside. We kind of just cruise around in the stroller and I put her under whatever tree is least likely to drop fruit on her. Brilliant! Blackberries are in full-force in Washington, too, so we've done a few rounds of picking those puppies, which I used during a farm-to-table catering gig last weekend. The babe hung around on me and her playmat but mostly wanted to just chill outside with my mom and whichever yogi felt like holding her at the time. I felt very official and had business cards printed this time around so fingers crossed that I truly can expand the catering side of Operation Homestead like I mentioned in a previous post. Ideally we'll be feeding ourselves while also making some bucks. Financially, it's feasible, especially if we start in the shallow end of the schemey pool and ease our way into it. Really the biggest thing for us is just starting rather than continuing to have these dreams and plans. So in that spirit: Next year is our year, peeps!

Super smiley blackberry help and farmer-in-training. Thank you, BOB Stroller!

Down to business with the ring sling at the yoga retreat.

To take Operation Homestead to the next level for next season I have to keep rolling with the punches as far as getting shit done with a baby goes. I'm a super pro at sitting on the couch, cruising the internet while she moves in and out of sleeping and eating but alas, it truly is so much nicer to write a blog entry with the use of both my hands (the previous one was definitely a single-finger peck-at-the-keyboard job, by the way). Multi-tasking with the Bean has been one of my struggles and triumphs, though the trouble with it is that once I think there is a new normal and I figure out how to cook/write/garden/clean the house/sleep/ read with her, she goes and mixes it up with some new developmental achievement (jeeze). At the yoga retreat cooking gig, she learned to roll for the first time and has been floor-shimmying ever since. But dude, I just bought a playmat thing since you also just started wanting to hold toys! I finally figured out how to transfer you to the bed to nap, leaving me free to do whatever my little heart desired in the wee house! It's cool, it's cool. 

I love playing with her here but she also gets a nice dose of alone-play while I cook or clean around her. Nice thing about the tiny house is she can watch me doing a lot of things and we're never too far from each other, even if in our "own" space.

Baby wearing allows me to get things done around the house and while running errands (see the above pic of me working at the yoga retreat with my squashy little assistant) but I thought I would be a maestro of "Look Ma! No Hands!" by this point and that's not exactly the case. I use the ring sling for cooking and errands and would love to use my soft sided carrier, an ONYA BABY that is similar to an Ergo around the farm, but Stella gets a heat rash every time I put her in the thing for longer than 30 minutes. We're right around the corner from her sitting up by herself, though, which means I can lose the heat-trapping infant insert and try, try again. Once that milestone hits we can actually wear her on our backs in the ONYA or in our super sweet, yet to be used Deuter kiddie frame backpack. This means I can hoe the garden without bopping her and bend and squat a little easier (plus she can check out what's going on better). Oh! And knife skills? Definitely a better situation is ahead when I don't have to look over my babe's head to see where I'm cutting. 

Fun Fact! Apparently My first word as a wee precocious babe was "Wow!", exclaimed from my position in the frame backpack while looking over my mom's shoulder into the Kitchen Aid mixer while she was baking. Appropriate much? 

The ONYA BABY at Sol Duc. Look how tiny she is!!

The surprise from left field has been the BOB Stroller. I use that thing EVERY FREAKING DAY. Pre-babe arrival I assumed I would solely babywear and James would use the stroller if he wanted but no, it's a Stapleton staple, that's for sure. Seeing as Stella loves being outside, she loves being in the stroller and I have the bonus of accomplishing something in my day. I don't use it for grocery shopping or cruising around town-- I barely even use it on trails; nope, that puppy comes out for exercising, which I talked about in the last post, and to simply wheel her to wherever I'm working outside. She stares at the trees for awhile, watches me work and maybe watches the chickens a bit, and then usually nods off pretty fast. Millions of Scandinavian moms can't be wrong! Babes thrive from sleeping outside!

So we've come a long way from the tangly mess that was the MOBY wrap, and yes, I can see myself having a "problem" acquiring kid carriers if left to my own devices, but I'm sure I have enough tools at hand and it's really just building up experience with the babe-juggling, especially as Stella gets more and more mobile. Right now she is delightfully portable and observes her surroundings on an almost creep level (seriously, she didn't blink for 30 seconds while staring me down yesterday... I counted) but this practice season that seems to be all about adjusting and experimenting gives me hope that next year when we're trying to rock this farm for real, I'll have a toolbox of experiences along with a tiny house full of carriers.