Hi baby: Cooper Turns 1!

Happy birthday my sweet baby boy. This has been the fastest year of my life. Part of me feels so sad! I feel like somehow I missed out on your life. Where have I been?? But then I realize I've been here, with you an you sister as we have created our new normal. The first half of your life was spent being saved by your sister, and this second half has been spent experiencing PTSD and assuming every time she comes close its to hurt you. But you've survived. You are kind of a whimp, but I don't blame you.

You're definitely a mamas boy and are happiest when I'm holding you. You have this billy goat laugh that is the sweetest sound. We were in a class at church and you started laughing for about 5 minutes straight- straight thru a prayer and everyone in the room was laughing right along with you. Your smile is contagious and plastered on your face 90% of the day. When people meet you they comment on your bright blue eyes and say something like " happy boy!!"

You started walking two weeks before your birthday and have the bumps and bruises to prove it. You love cars and balls and can toss a ball pretty good! You're in the phase of "take everything out" and love to explore an unopened drawer or basket. To say you love soft blankets is an understatement. You're obsessed wth your little minky blanket and sleep with it nuzzled into your face.

You're eating me out of house and home and I don't know what I'm going to do when you're a full grown boy! You could literally eat all day, but spit anything out you're not in the mood for. You turn hangry pretty quick and if I even think about getting you out of your chair before you're full you give me an ear full.

I have been much less stressed with you, and have been enjoying each stage as it comes, instead of looking for the next stage to begin. You don't sleep in. Ever. You don't even make it to 6am and I have no idea what to do about it. Despite bedtimes or nap times, you're whining around 5:30am and your mean mother leaves you to fend for yourself until 6.  The handful of times you've made it to 6 we have celebrated. I'm crossing my fingers that you'll figure it out soon.

My favorite things I don't want to forget:
-your gap teeth grin
-billy goat laugh
-your baby blabber
-rolling around and laughing with your soft blanket & pillow

You have made my heart grow two more sizes. You bring peace to my soul. 


4 quick things you can do to minimize your wardrobe

Take everything out of your closet and drawers and pile them all onto a space you’ll need to use later (like your bed). Then spend hours thanking and touching and appreciating every piece for all the memories it has given you and focusing on your true inner-self to detect any joy or value  and then one-by-one put everything back.
Sound overwhelming and “ain’t nobody got time for that”? Yeah- me too. So today I’m sharing some simple ideas you can do before bed or during nap time TODAY. If you have extra time, do more than one. If you have 5 minutes- that will be enough for at least one (maybe more if you’re quick at making decisions) and these baby steps will help you get the ball rolling on that overwhelming closet/wardrobe issue.

1. Find one item you didn’t wear this season.

The seasons are starting to change and if there is a pair of summer shorts you didn’t wear this summer- it’s time to let them go. This can apply to a winter jacket, fall boots or a spring top. If you didn’t like it enough to wear it this year- you won’t be missing it next year.  (If you’re feeling motivated go ahead and find two, three or a dozen things you haven’t worn and give yourself permission to let them go.) 

2. Find that pair of jeans you’re never fitting into again and just…get rid of them. 
I saved one of my favorite pre-baby jeans for more than a year after my daughter was born. Even after I lost “all my baby weight” (gag) those pants still didn’t fit. My hips were never going to be the same at 26 as they were at 19. And there is nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s time to say goodbye to those jeans.
This also applies to any fat jeans you have laying around. I also had a pair of fat jeans, but guess what? Even when they fit after my baby was born, I didn’t like them. They were out of style. They didn’t fit my new fat body the same way as my old fat body (I’m using the word fat here very facetiously–no one get upset.)  The point I’m trying to make is that our bodies are constantly changing. The pants that fit you a few years ago may or may not fit you again. And if they do, are you still going to want them? And is there a reason you can’t go intentionally purchase a specific pair of pants when the time comes?

Long story short- stop holding on to clothes from the past or clothes for the future. Allow yourself to appreciate and dress your TODAY body. Not wait for tomorrow’s body. Your self esteem and closet space will thank you.

3. Next time you take a shirt off because you don’t like it- don’t put it back in the closet. 

This is my favorite way to maintain my wardrobe. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule (does anyone have a great fashion day on day 2 of their period? I say no.) but you’ll know the difference. I bet you can picture an item in your closet right now that you don’t really like whenever you wear it. Halfway through the day you’re thinking how much you don’t like it, or you take it off and change. Time to say goodbye
4. Do a quick initial sweep. 
Just go to your closet and look at your stuff. Maybe it’s overflowing and overwhelming. Maybe it’s simple and intentional. Be honest with yourself and trust your first thoughts. Grab what you want to let go of, and then don’t second guess yourself.

(Tip: get in the habit of doing this. Every time I walk into my closet my eyes are now in the habit of seeing my things and asking myself “is that still working?” If the answer is no- it’s gone.)
 So there you go! I hope these simple steps help you get started on that closet purge. Good luck!


Hi baby: Coopie boy

Hi Coopie

Hello my sweet baby boy. I love you so much! You're growing and learning everyday and I can't believe you're almost 10 months old. It has gone by so fast, and it feels like you've always been a part of our family. You are a mama's boy and it's been an adjustment for me. Most moms don't like their babies crawling around and exploring and getting into things- but I don't mind it. That's how your sister was- but not you. You want me to hold you or be on the floor right by you as you play. 

Sometimes if you're in a good mood you might go off for 10 minutes or so checking out all the toys. But it doesn't last long. I think you're getting like 4 different teeth right now and so that makes you a little (lot) more whiny. You LOVE food and sometimes I run out of things to feed you. I try to make sure it's all balanced and there are times you've eaten your way through the food pyramid and I just have to give you a few graham crackers to fill in all that extra space still in your belly. You're a wonderful sleeper and take two naps a day and sleep great at night. You love cuddling with your soft blanket and you have a monkey binki you love.

Right now your favorite item is a big yellow plastic ball. It's bigger than you are, but you chase that thing around the entire house and giggle and yell in excitement. You can pick it up and "throw" it and then chase after it. Its adorable.

Everyone comments on your beautiful bright blue eyes. You smile at everyone and people think you're just the perfect looking baby. And you are. You don't look much like your sister anymore but you are so beautiful in a way totally different from her! You're growing big but feel proportioned and just look like the typical chubby Gerber baby.

You say dada all day and blow raspberries. You will say mama if you're whining and trying to track me down. You are terrified by your sister but you also giggle the entire time in the backseat when she plays and talks to you. I hope you two can become friends.

I love you Cooper boy. Your sister is still calling you Booger and it's growing on all of us. We also call you Boogs a lot or Coopie or Boogie. We'll see if any of these nicknames stick through your childhood. I hope you know how special you are, and how much you complete me life and mommy heart.



Hi baby: another entry

Hi my sweet girl. I just got done reading a small journal my mom kept as she wrote down memories and things about me as I was a baby and toddler. It was so fun to read her thoughts about me and feel her love as she wrote. I hope that is what you get out of this as you read my letters to you! 

I love you so much. You are three and bold and beautiful and smart and independent and funny and sweet and sassy. I hope you never give up on your confidence and excitement for life and new things. You have a fun imagination and like to play games. You like to be the mommy and I'm the "honey". You're a sweet little mommy and you take good care of your honey. You aren't nice to your brother and that's probably my biggest frustration with you right now. You like to terrorize him and I'm at a loss of what to do. I feel like if you could just play sweet with him all my problems would be solved. He loves and is fascinated by you, but he's also scared of you and doesn't have much patience for your constant badgering. I'm assuming one day you'll move past it, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much.

Right now you love to play with other kids. Everyone immediately becomes your friend and you can play outside with kids you just met for hours. You're a social butterfly. Sometimes you're the one in charge, but most of the time you're fine with following the leader. As long as they're being nice to you, you aren't too particular. You love to climb and test your body and learn what it can do. You also love to draw and color and surprisingly you prefer a pen and lined paper over crayons and a coloring book.

You have a funny mind that is a bit OCD/neurotic. If something is broken or bent or cracked you can't move past it. You like things how they should be. Your shirts can't come up in the back when you sit down or you freak out. You don't like capris, 3/4 length sleeves or tankinis because you think they just don't fit.

You're talking wonderfully and you're a big chatterbox. You're also a champion whiner and it really gets on my nerves. I've had to say many prayers of forgiveness for losing my temper, and my prayers for help in being more patient with you. But at the end of the day you want me to "hold me for little bit" and sing you lots of songs. I'm trying not to rush those nights. I'll know I will miss them soon enough.

I love you so much Kenny bear! You are my whole life. Me and your daddy are constantly talking about you. Praying for you, and thinking of you. I can't wait to see what kind of person you grow up to be. I know as you make right choices, you will become a wonderful spiritual giant who does amazing things.




Out of sight. In my heart

I hope I can put into words how I was feeling today!

This morning we stopped by the park. Two boys came over (around 8 and 6ish) and Kenzie started playing with them. They were all playing so well at the playground and eventually their games took them away from the playground and toward the walking trail behind it. Soon she was out of my sight. I could still hear them every once in a while. But I couldn't see her. I realized it was my first time ever that she was playing away from me and I couldn't see or hear her at all. Not only that, but she was even playing with complete stranger kids. This was a whole new experience for me. As I sat in the grass with Cooper my mind was racing. 

Should I go check on her? But it's good for her to feel safe and independent while she plays. I don't want her to see me and think she needs to be checked on as she plays. 

There's really nothing dangerous over there. But what if something happens- will I be able to hear it? What if she wanders off and gets lost? 

The boys are playing with her and being really attentive. But what if they get bored with her and run off? Or do something physical that she can't yet but wants to? (Climb walls, scale the hill, etc). 

On and on and on. 

I'm not a helicopter mother. I don't mind them (you do your thing mama) but that's not how I am. And sometimes I think free range parent's are seen as taking an easy route. Look at that mom sitting on the grass in the cool shade instead of going down the hill and following her daughter in the sun. 

But you know what? My heart and brain were ON FIRE as I was letting her be a kid. I was a hot mess inside while she was out of my view. But I believe it's important for kids to be able to play semi-unsupervised with other kids. Even at age 3. And because I believe that, I stayed on the grass with my baby. It wasn't easy. No parenting style is easy. And maybe there are moms out there that don't blink an eye when their kids aren't in their view. Maybe I was a hot mess because she's my first, and I can't believe she's old enough! Maybe it's my anxiety that gets triggered and I go to all those bad scenarios in my head. Maybe I'll send Cooper out the door without a second thought. Or maybe not. 

But either way, I was really happy when the games were over and we could go home. 


Hi Baby: Happy 3rd Birthday

Happy birthday my sweet baby girl.

 I know every mom says this on every birthday- but I can't believe you're already 3! Today after your nap you cuddled with me for a full 15 minutes. And while that might not seem that long to some, for you and your world with big, explosive feelings and energy- it felt like forever. And it was just what this mommy needed. Your sweet soft skin clutching onto that stupid old puppy and still fitting your head right where it needs to be. It was the best 15 minutes I've had this week. You can tell everyone your birthday is "August 5th!" and when asked what you want for your birthday you immediately yell "CAKE!" and then a notch quieter yell "AND POPPY AND NANA AND JAKE". You're an easy girl to please.

I remember August 5th 2014 and being told you were coming TONIGHT, not in 3 days like we thought. I was in labor but your stubborn body was breach which meant we had to do things a little differently. But you came out perfect at 6PM and I've been enamored by you ever since. You have made me a better person. You have shown me my purpose here on Earth. Being your mom is the most satisfying and fulfilling thing I have ever done. Not a day goes by that I don't thank my Heavenly Father for trusting me to be your mom. I pray that I can raise you and love you and mother you in the ways that will help you grow and succeed and flourish. I never want to be the person that dulls your sparkle or rains on your crazy little person parade.

 I've learned to give you space and independence and you're thriving. You have such amazing control over your body and strength. You're such a physical person and I love watching you experiment and test your body's limits. You're starting to draw and I'm pretty impressed by you. You can draw circles and faces and lines that are "mom and daddy and Booger and Kenzie!" You love to use your scissors and still aren't super into toys. You still yell "I'LL HELP YOU!" and proceed to drag a kitchen chair over to the counter to help me cook. You get frustrated, but can be talked down pretty quickly. You throw tantrums, but only when you're tired. You love to watch movies/TV and we usually watch a show in the evening to help you calm down a little bit. You're starting to become sweeter and nicer to Cooper and you two actually played together for 20 MINUTES and I thought I died and went to Heaven.

You're smart, sassy, funny and quick. You ask questions when you don't understand something. You repeat until you totally comprehend what I'm saying. You love making new friends and can play for hours with others. You also sometimes like to act like a "little baby" and need to be held and I don't mind it one bit. You're starting to test bedtime and try to pull the "I need a drink. I'm hungry. I want dad to sing me a song" but I'm still winning that game...for now.

I don't know how to express my love for you. And this last year has been so much FUN. I've loved being able to talk and communicate. I love your funny sayings and demeanor. You make me smile and laugh every day, and I try to make you laugh every day too. You're my best girl. I say a silent prayer every day that we can always be best friends. I hope as I write you something on your 13th birthday I can say that same thing. But for now, I will soak up every sweet moment with my little 3 year old. I love you Kenzie girl.



A little life update

I thought it might be time for a little Bowen family update. Mostly because I'm sitting at the computer and finally have some time and motivation to write something- but a particular topic doesn't come to mind.

We're all settled into our apartment in Herriman and it's totally great for us. A little more space, but all on one level and it's starting to feel like a new home. I feel like we're pretty adaptable and since nothing else in our lives changed, the move actually didn't end up feeling like that big of one. I miss my friends and neighbors, but I know I will make new friends and have new neighbors. We've already met a few and I look forward to getting to know more people as time goes on.

Football season has officially begun and Bart is pouring his heart and soul into the Cottonwood HS team. It's overwhelming and exhausting but also exciting and it's going to be a good year. Kenzie already walks around the school and field like she owns the place, so I don't see us having any problems adjusting.

Cooper seems to be crying more than smiling these days, but I remember reading that same sentiment about Kenzie around the same time frame so I just have to remind myself it's a stage! And his big smile still comes out on a regular basis, so he knows how to melt my mama heart. He's pulling himself up and even starting to stand on his own for a second or two at a time...we'll see how long it takes him to figure out that walking is an option. He's a fun loving little boy and I'm still his favorite. But Kenzie and Bart can get him pretty happy and excited too, so it might be a tie for second place favorites.

Kenzie never ceases to amaze me and I love just being around her (most of the time). She's so dang smart and the stuff that comes out of her mouth makes me laugh. Today she started saying "what the heck are you doing mom". I don't think "what the heck" is a catch phrase of mine...but I'm sure she heard it somewhere. She did start saying "that happens" after an accident (spilled drink, broken something, etc) and I know she got THAT from me. That one made me laugh pretty hard hearing it for the first time.

In general I've really loved having two kids. They both just add something totally unique to the family dynamic and it's a perfect fit.

That's all I have for now- but like I said, football season has started so this single mother and lonely lady will have plenty of time at night to write away all her feelings while her husband abandons her for a group of teenage boys. Don't worry- I'm making him take me on a vacation at the end to make up for it!


Our story behind small and simple living

This is another post for the Small Living Series I've been doing with a group of amazing women all over the world! I love being part of this community and I hope you take the chance to read some of their stories linked at the bottom of this post.

It's funny that I'm writing this "how did we end up here" just weeks before we move away. We're selling our home and renting a different one a town away. The square footage won't change much, but I know that's probably the only thing escaping big changes. So while I could talk about how my husband and I ended up here, I think I'll talk instead about the lessons we have learned as we look back. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, moving into a two bedroom townhome at the time 4 years ago seemed pretty typical. It was just us and we didn't feel the need for a "legit" house with a yard and more rooms and bathrooms than people. We just are very budget conscious and the price range we could afford was a townhome. It's not a very romantic story- but that's the truth. We didn't drastically change our ways and downsize to "start over". Our story was only just beginning. 

But what have we learned since? A few things. Probably the biggest thing we've learned is that life happens and with our life came kids and STUFF. Our big roomy two bedroom didn't feel as roomy as soon as my larger-than-life daughter came into this world. Again, we're pretty frugal/budget friendly and I personally am kind of cheap, so we didn't have all the new baby gadgets and toys and equipment for every stage. But we still had plenty of stuff to take up plenty of space. Soon shelves in the garage were built to store things. Her bedroom went from a simple nursery to a play space to now a bedroom for both kids and a place to play. Our home has evolved right along with us and we have really loved it. 

But a big shift has come over our home and family the last 4 months after I discovered Minimalism and implemented it into our family. Bart caught on pretty quickly because he was too busy to care otherwise (insert emoji here ;) He has appreciated my new habits and I think he's starting to see the lifelong changes I have made and is no longer thinking it's some fad I'll get over.  As I pack up our home I can't help but be thankful I discovered simple living and minimalism when I did. I have thousands of less things to put in boxes and move across town. I'm not as stressed about the things and the errands and the "we need that" and I've been able to slow down and enjoy the ride. 

So while our first move into a small space wasn't based on the notion that "less is more", this new place is. We didn't look for the biggest house we could afford to rent. We focused on things that mattered more than square footage (location, price, quality) and found the perfect space for our little family of 4. It adds a few hundred more square feet, but takes us down from 2.5 bathrooms to one. Its going to be enough. Big enough. Nice enough. Because if I have learned anything these last few months, it's that we don't need a lot of stuff or a lot of space. "Enough" actually starts to look like "plenty" and the gratitude for everything you do have grows exponentially. We have a lot of love and a lot of dreams and living simply is helping us accomplish those goals and dreams in record time. 

For now I don't have a big amazing story of "how we ended up living this way", But I know that down the road we will be able to look back at the beginning of our simple living journey and have many great stories to tell.

This post was written for inclusion in the July collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Little Bungalow-- "Accidental then Intentional" : A visual tour of all the small homes we didn’t buy before we bought our most recent smallish home in beautiful Victoria, BC.

Fourth and West-- "The Home That Chose Us" : Realizing the home we had was actually perfect all along.

Tiny Ass Camper-- "Casita Life" : How and why we chose a 17' Casita Spirit Standard as our home on wheels.

600 Sq Ft and a Baby-- "How We Ended Up Living Small" : Looking back on why living small stuck for us.

Fancy Pigeon-- "Why We Live Small" : A vlog on why and how our family has consistently downsized over the years.

The Streamlined Life-- "Why I Fell in Love with Small House Living" : Sometimes our earliest memories have the strongest impact.

This Lovely Day-- "Tiny Transitions" : Follow along with Kate Shaw, a retiring Air Force pilot, as she transitions her family of five from living in a 3200 ft.² century home to a 900 ft.² downtown high rise condo in the city.
The Justice Pirate-- "Minimalism: My First Tiny House" : Once upon a time, a little girl dreamed of having her own tiny house and her dream came true...temporarily.

Family Pedals-- "Finding Abundance in 1500 Square Feet" : In our culture it would be easy for us to view our house as a stepping stone to something bigger, something nicer. For us, the next step we’d like to take is to something smaller, something simpler.


2 Cents: Not every mom is tired

I was reading THIS article this morning and it just got me all sorts of riled up with opinions. They might not be popular opinions, but here they are.

First, I don't agree that every mom is exhausted. I have a 3 year old and an 8 month old and I'm not exhausted. I'm not even tired. Does that make me a bad mom? I don't think so.

There are definitely times I have been exhausted. That newborn stage for 3+ months- I'm a crazy person two steps away from killing over because I'm so tired. After a night with a sick baby, I'm exhausted. But after my newborn gets a little older- I wouldn't say "tired' is on the description list of my life. But this article makes it sound like all moms are tired all the time. And why is that? Because they need some "me time". And since that "me time" doesn't come until after the kids go to bed- that must be why everyone is so perpetually exhausted all the time.


Are you all of a sudden incapable of going to sleep? Can your body physically not close its eyes unless you have browsed the internet for 3 hours? Is someone standing over you with a bright light and loud music telling you you're not allowed to go to sleep yet? I didn't think so.

If you're really THAT tired after the kids go to bed....GO TO BED YOURSELF. It's this crazy thing called going to bed early. Without watching TV or playing on your phone. Don't want to go to bed yet because this is the only free minute you've had to yourself all day? fine. But don't complain or be confused as to why you're always tired. You're tired because you are choosing to stay awake instead of go to sleep. End of the story.

My kids wake up really early. Like- 6AM is our typical day and all this week they've actually been waking up around 5/5:30AM. And while I wasn't the happiest about it- it wasn't the end of the world. But after three days of really early mornings and no time for mommy rest, guess what? I crawled into bed at 8:30PM and went to sleep. I didn't catch up on any TV shows. I didn't chat with friends online. I chose to go to sleep early because I WAS TIRED. And guess what? When I woke up the next day at 6AM....I wasn't tired anymore. Weird how that works.

If this article was titled something different I probably wouldn't be so annoyed by it. Because I absolutely agree that at the end of the day it's amazing to have a few minutes to yourself. To not have to get up and get someone a snack. Or to share your own snack. Or to watch something that doesn't have a catchy theme song. I personally like to unwind and spend 30 minutes scrolling through Instagram and watching the IG stories. Or I'll take a bath, write, watch TV with Bart, etc. And yes, that only happens after the kids go to bed. But if I'm exhausted, or if I've had a really emotionally draining day- I actually choose to take care of myself and give me "me time" by going to bed and getting some sleep. It's OK to give yourself permission to be in bed by 9PM. You're not a loser. You aren't wasting your life away. You're taking care of yourself. And if you feel like you're "always tired" and your kids are sleeping just fine- then maybe it's time to reevaluate the priorities you have at night- and go to bed early once in a while.

*The article on Babble isn't talking about moms whose kids are still waking up every few hours. And neither am I. That's a whole other hell world and I'm not talking about that situation here.*


Cooper 8 Months

My sweet baby boy is growing up so fast! He got 2 teeth and learned to crawl this month. He is trying to pull himself up on everything but hasn't quite gotten strong enough yet.  He's been grouchy and fussy most of the time but has been a bit better since learning how to access his toys or move a little closer to mom. He is a total mama's boy and usually doesn't whine for anyone else but me. If I'm not holding him he's not super happy. But I love his snuggles and don't mind it most of the time 

He loves to talk and make noises and blow raspberries. He isn't saying mama or dada yet but definitely loves both of us and gets the biggest smile when he sees me or Bart. Be pretty much with flash a big fat grin at anyone who smiles at him it's darling. 

He loves food! Will eat anything and everything. I haven't been awesome at keeping food around that he can just pick at (blueberries, finger foods, etc) so I don't have him eating as much as Kenzie did (she was always in her high chair having a snack) but when he does eat with us he'll eat just as big of a serving as Kenzie and loves all varieties and textures. 

He's been harder for me to figure out when it comes to naps and nighttime but he'll sleep thru the night and try to wake up around 5-5:30 but I just leave him in bed until we get up at 6 and I'm hoping eventually he will catch on! He seems to every few days. He loves his binki and his thumb but really doesn't use either until he gets tired. I don't have a special blanket or stuffed animal for him (mostly because Mckenzie just steals anything and calls it hers). 

He loves playing with toys, especially if they make sounds. But he is non-stop entertained by his sister and other people and can go hours without a nap if there are enough people to watch. 

He's much more sensitive and snugly and can get overwhelmed and just need to be held and loved on. He still hates loud noises but doesn't cry as often when something startles him. He giggles and laughs pretty easily and has a hilarious chuckle that sounds like a goat that he will just randomly do when he's excited about something. 

This past month has been a little more draining but he's learning and growing so much I don't blame him! I love my little man and can't believe how quickly things happen with the second child! Instead of me waiting around wondering "when will he do this" I just look one day and he's starting a whole new skill or behavior. 

It's no secret I'm obsessed with my little dude! 


When your garbage can has to hide

This is just a public service announcement to let you all know that I will probably not clean my house again until July 20th.

But before I explain that happy announcement.. Our home is under contract and we're set to move the weekend of July 21. Yay! It took 2 days to get an offer, and then a total of 12 to get everything finalized and on paper. And I have to say that it felt like MUCH longer. Having to have a home "show ready" every second of every day is a hellish ordeal I never want to do again! 

I am all for a clean house. My home is kept clean and tidy. But...I also have two children who both happen to be mobile and messy and to make sure there isn't a single crumb on the floor while simultaneously keeping the laundry going so there isn't dirty clothes in the basket and oh yeah your trash can has to be out in the garage and did we mention you have 3 showings today and have to stay away from 1-7:30PM?

So every morning while getting 4 people ready and fed and lunches packed and out the door by 6:45AM and oh crap there's still the hand soap on the counter and we need to hide those towels in a drawer and WHERE IS THE EFFING GARBAGE CAN?!?!? Pull the blackout shades up every morning in case someone comes while we're at work but then take them back down so Kenzie can nap once we're back home and then after the nap PUT THEM BACK UP! NATURAL LIGHT! and then bedtime..back down because it doesn't get dark until 10PM and my sanity and happiness and will to live won't last if my kids aren't going to sleep until 10PM. And don't even get me started on the kitchen and cooking. Cook a meal? Okay but then you have to hide every trace that you ever existed in this room so put away the washcloth and hide the paper towel dispenser and IS THAT A CRUMB? DID YOU SPILL YOUR WATER!? I may or may not have forgotten to feed my poor children lunch/snack more than once because...crumbs and THE GARBAGE CAN IS IN THE STUPID GARAGE. 

Do you get my point? Are my caps coming across as a crazy person? Because that's how I have been feeling. But now...now we can be total slobs if we want because no more strangers will be coming over. So now there is a corner for my dirty laundry, soap on my bathroom counter and a garbage can in my pantry. And if you need me, I'll be making a mess cooking dinner and watching a movie with my children on our own couch because...priorities.

OMG THE LIVING ROOM IS A MESS - me the last two weeks (eyeroll emoji)


Kenzie update

I realized Its been a long time since I've done a little update on Mckenzie! She'll be three in 5.5 weeks and I am amazed at the difference that comes almost every month at this age! It's like she's a newborn again learning new skills and tricks every few days. 

had a blast at the carnival and went on almost all the rides! big girl

Her language has improved a ton and she is speaking in full sentences. Sometimes she is a little slow at completing a thought and you can tell she is searching for the right word in her head. If you give her the chance, she'll complete her sentence using the right words and phrases 70% of the time. She is starting to voice her emotions like "she made me sad" or "I'm having a hard day" or "are you mad at me mom?" Don't worry- that last one had me rethinking all my motherhood behaviors! I can call her on the phone and we talk about her day or I can calm her down if she's upset. She still very much likes to talk through things and that's the fastest way to get out of a tantrum is talk out of it. Either by explaining or putting words to her emotions. 

She loves apples and would eat 3 a day if I let her. And sometimes she does because I'm not in the mood for a battle. She is still a great eater and will try and eat most things. She doesn't really like potatoes but that's the only food I've seen her consistently not like. She still loves oatmeal and cereal and would eat hummus with a spoon. 

She's still napping 2 hours a day and goes down great at night. She's still in her crib and has never once tried to crawl out or fight it. I'm scared of the big girl bed but will start to think about it more after her third birthday. She still loves her puppy and tried to take up the binki again, but after a disastrous weekend when she couldn't have it I told her no more and she's now back to sucking her thumb.

loves to draw and color!

She can totally get herself undressed and dressed and loves to do it herself. She can also brush her teeth and brush her hair. She's basically an adult. She's wearing her summer clothes from last year and she's getting taller but not much bigger. Still in the 2T range. 

The hardest thing for me right now is her behavior toward Cooper. It's like 50% nice and 50% mean and I don't know how to teach her how to be kind to him. It's a struggle and I'm hoping I can help her somehow.

Loves him soooo hard

My favorite things about her right now:
She's awesome at climbing and using her body. Can go up those kid rock walls and ladders, etc. 
She sticks with things and tries until she can figure it out. And then she practices until she has it mastered 
She's turning really social and loves playing with other kids. Calls everyone her friend
Still goofy and likes to play/goof around. Says "I'm just teasing", "stop talking mom", "you're a good parent"

Doing pushups with mom!


Divine Simplicity

I do believe my journey into minimalism and living a simple life had some divine intervention. I was beginning to feel restless and dissatisfied in my life. I saw "everyone else" with their bigger homes and more stuff and I started wanting that. And questioning why I didn't get it. I was convinced that to have a productive day  I had to get out of the house and run an errand, or visit the library, or do something structured. I was feeling discontent and I was being ungrateful. 

After learning all I could about this thing called "minimalism" and living simply my life changed for the better. It didn't look too different. I still went grocery shopping-I just stuck to my list and didn't pick up some random summer toys or holiday decor. We still go to the library and to the park- but only on days Kenzie actually wants to go. Not just because "we need to get out of the house because sitting at home isn't good for you." We have more tea parties and watch movies together. She explores and seems less stressed when our agenda isn't overflowing. 

"Whatever God you believe in, He would want you to live a more simple life"

When I heard that quote from a podcast several weeks ago I immediately agreed. Living a more simple life has made me slow down and focus more on my belief in Christ and to be more thankful to God for all the blessings he has given me. It has helped me not be so focused on what others have, but how I can help those around me. It has helped put my priorities back where they should be. 

I don't think stuff is bad. I don't think buying things takes you further away from God. But for me personally, not buying things and having less stuff to worry about has brought me closer to Him. 


Home For Sale

I can't believe I'm typing out these words, but we're moving! Our home is going up for sale this weekend. It started with a "should we sell our house" 10 days ago and here we are. We have lived in our little town home for almost 4 years and we've really loved every minute. When we bought it as a young couple with no kids we felt like we had all the space in the world. And here we are two kids later and we still love this place.

This is where I brought two new babies home from the hospital. This is where my baby girl took her first steps and said her first words. This is where she learned to walk and run and play outside. She's biffed it on every sidewalk around the neighborhood. She knows where all the parks and swings are. This is her home. She can find her way back after we go on a walk and she knows this place like the back of her hand. This area is where we have trained for half marathons and have gone on countless evening walks. This is where we have built our life.

It's crazy how much can happen in 4 years! So much has changed. We have friends here and Kenzie has friends here. We really love it. But we've been told it's time to go on to our next adventure. We weren't planning it. We weren't hoping for it. We thought we'd be here for a few more years at least! But sometimes changes happen overnight. So here I am, typing away when I should be deep cleaning and getting ready for the photographer and open house. We've filled up a handful of boxes so our house looks less like "a family lives here" and more like "YOU could live here". Our walls are empty and our hearts are full.

I'm scared and nervous and excited and anxious and ready and not ready. We plan on living in the same general area so I'm hoping we can still keep the friends and little tot playmates we have made here and I look forward to meeting new people too. I've grown and changed a lot these last 4 years, now it's time to take that new Megan somewhere else and see what happens.

Wish us luck!

A million memories like this one in our home! 


Hi baby: bedtime snuggles

Hi my sweet baby boy,

Tonight as I was putting you down for bed you passed out in my arms. I held you and sang a song and you were asleep before the end of the first verse. I don't think that has ever happened. I sat there and snuggled you in my arms for 30 minutes before finally laying you down. It was a dreamy way to end the day. I love you so much. I've said this since the day you were born- you bring peace into my life. You're such a cuddle bug and I'm loving it. Your smile and eyebrow-grin is still going strong all day everyday. You're starting to get up on your hands and knees and I think you'll be crawling in a matter of weeks. You're obsessed with real food and you have drastically cut out the milk you want. You're ready for the good stuff!

As I was holding you tonight staring at your perfect button nose and juicy lips I tried to imagine the boy and man you will grow up to be. Will you be a sweet and mellow dude? Or a crazy kid bouncing off the walls? Will you be kind and happy? Or an angsty teen? Will you have addictions or a mental illness? Will you grow up and live a long and healthy live, or does Heavenly Father have a different plan for you? Will you always be my sweet baby boy? Or will you demand independence and space and call me once a week? Will you be responsible and respectful and hard working? Or will you struggle to find your space in this world? There are so many people that go so many different directions. I can't help but wonder what paths you will choose. What mistakes you make. What decisions will guide your life? I can't imagine the little boy or toddler or teen that you'll grow into (well I can, in my mind you'll be that smiley kid that everyone likes and maybe a little trouble...but we'll see if I'm right). But there is one thing I know about the future. I will always love you and you will always be my sweet baby boy. 



The Truth About Living SMALL

So excited to be part of this community and contribute my thoughts to their monthly topic! I hope you enjoy and connect with me over on IG @minimalistmeg

We are a family of 4 (kids 3yo and 7 mo) living in 1,200 sqft. Some people live in much smaller spaces. Some live in much bigger. Bart and I moved in before we had kids. We thought it was huge! After living in apartments in college, a two level town home felt like a castle. Our home comes with two "master bedrooms" so they're both big, have 2 closets and their own bathroom. Our spare room was totally empty until our first child was born. Babies bring a lot of stuff with them. Now our second baby is 6 months old and we are adjusting to our space that now feels less roomy. Before I stumbled upon minimalism I was getting antsy and unsatisfied. But that's a post all on it's own. Now that I have rearranged my priorities and point of view, I am very happy in our home. We have a kitchen, living room, 2 bedrooms. 2.5 baths and a 1 car garage. Here are my thoughts on "the truth about living in a SMALL home" 

SIMPLE- We live in a small space. And we live a pretty simple life. We go to work. We go to the park. We eat dinner together and kiss our babies goodnight. I don't spend my weekends cleaning my home or shopping for more stuff. We don't schedule out every second of our day- and some weeks are less "simple" than others. Our life in a small home probably doesn't look much different from yours. It's simple. 

MANAGEABLE- Not only is living in a small space manageable, it's enjoyable. We make it work. When my second child was born he spent a lot of time napping in my bedroom walk-in closet because it was the darkest, quietest spot in the house. He still takes his afternoon nap in there while my daughter naps in their room. Bart calls him Harry Potter sometimes. But hey- he doesn't seem to mind. We have toys on both levels. We have one couch and 4 kitchen chairs. It's enough. It also makes cleaning SO manageable. Our entire house can be a complete disaster with stuff everywhere and it takes maybe 15 minutes TOTAL to pick everything up and put it away. It takes maybe an hour to scrub/vaccum/deep clean the entire place. 

ABUNDANT- We are very blessed. We have more than 99% of the people in this world. My small home doesn't equal hardship or scarcity of resources. Could we afford a bigger home? Yes. But we find joy and value in the home we are in. We have an abundance of laughs, good food and happy memories in our small home. We sleep on comfy beds, watch TV and movies, go on vacations. The size of your home doesn't equal the size of your happiness. A small home doesn't mean you're living a small life.  

LESS STUFF- With less space automatically comes less stuff. We have a one car garage that actually houses a car- so we have some shelves to one side and that's it. We don't have a lot of holiday decorations. We don't have dozens of bikes and scooters and countless bins of stuff. We don't have a spare bedroom with everything a house guest might need. (a blow up mattress + a few extra towels is what we can offer!) Don't ask me how I was able to find a few thousand items in my 5-day purge back in March! Our closets, cupboards and drawers are a lot less full. But I do still have to be intentional with our organizing and make the most of the space we have been given. We have stuff. We just have less stuff than others. 

LOTS OF LOVE- A loving family can exist in any size home. Big or small- it's the relationships and people inside those 4 walls that matter. We are happy, thriving and content. One day we will live somewhere else. But today is not that day. So we spend our days in close quarters and right on top of each other. We try to fill the "empty" spaces with lots of love. 

I know some people wonder how we live in such a small space, but to be honest- I wonder the same thing about them and their big house! So what's the truth about living in a small family home? Well...the truth is- it's probably just like living in a large family home with 2 little kids. Messy, loud, sometimes stressful, most of the time wonderful 

Naps in the closet #reallife

This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Minimalist Meg -- “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.

Little Bungalow-- "Less Space, More Happiness" : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.

600 Square Feet and a Baby-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn't.)

Shelley Vanderbyl-- "Five Things You Don't Need in a Small Home" : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don't need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.
The Streamlined Life-- "The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value": Just because you're a minimalist family doesn't mean you aren't sentimental.
The Justice Pirate-- "What Small Home Living is Like" : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.

Our Nest in the City-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we "cope" and thrive despite it all :)
Fourth and West-- "You Can't Have it All" : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING-- "The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home" : A smaller home is why we're able to live such a full life.

Family At Sea-- "The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom" : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn't realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.

Real Food Simple Life-- "The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family" : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper-- "I Didn't Know Tiny Living Was For Me" : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.

Family Pedals-- "Location Trumps Size" : The truth is, it has been our home's location--not size--that has determined our happiness in a given space


3 Weeks of Whole30

Now I know what you're thinking "Um, Megan....whole30 is something you do for 30 days...hence the name?" and you're correct. Except we only did it for 3 weeks so let's call is Whole21 for this post shall we?

4 weeks ago Bart started up the conversation about how he was feeling exhausted all the time, was emotionally eating (he was at the peak of the business between end of school, start of summer football and start of a new semester for his masters) and just overall not feeling super awesome about himself. So of course I immediately took advantage of his vulnerability and said we should do Whole30! It's not a secret that I have stuck to an anti-inflammatory diet for the last 4 years, but Whole30 is even different and "more strict" than that! So after some discussing and "but can I just have ranch and one cheat meal? (no and no)" he finally agreed to do it with me. This is the FIRST TIME EVER Bart has agreed to do something like this with me that actually had real rules with no exceptions and a required length of time. I was totally pumped because I see so much value in real food and it's connection with health that I knew this would be awesome for him. I was also looking forward to having some motivation for myself too.

So I make a menu, stock up on food and we get this party started. I think Bart asked "how do we feel about Ranch?" multiple times that first week- but he stuck to it! I have to say it was totally easy for me to do this kind of restrictive eating when he was along for the ride. We both had the same things for dinner. I didn't have to worry about adding anything to his plate. He complained about the situation, but not about me and my cooking :) I finally had my person on board with the boring and depressing way I had to eat- haha!

We got the hang of it and got sick of eating eggs for breakfast. Our new favorite snack was a heated up apple sausage with mustard on it. mmmm. Bart ate more vegetables than he had in the last year combined. I was more motivated and did much better too. I usually can have corn and rice, but Whole30 says nay, so we didn't. That was an adjustment for both of us, but I realized I am totally good without it! Bart really missed rice and tortillas, but seemed to be fine without bread. He also really missed his milk. I can usually eat dairy, but Whole30 says nope to that too, and again, I didn't miss cheese or yogurt that much at all! Sure, those things are convenient and make for a quick healthy snack, but not having them wasn't a big issue for me. Bart did fine without them too (although we both agreed cheese makes EVERYTHING taste better).

The hardest thing for both of us was our craving for sweets. A sweet at the end of a long day or on a Sunday night when the kids are in bed- let's just say we tried to fill that void with a smoothie or a bowl of fruit but it didn't quite hit the spot. I am so proud of Bart for staying away from Pepsi! Even though our Whole21 has ended (more on that later) he still hasn't had any soda. Proud wife moment.

Bart lost about 7 pounds almost instantly and I've lost 5 this past month. We weren't too motivated to exercise religiously so I say that's a pretty nice side effect! Bart didn't say "I'm tired" ONCE  that first week and didn't need a Saturday nap (which was pretty awesome). I could tell he was seeing a change, even if he wasn't super vocal about it, because he really didn't complain or ask if we could be done. (okay, so he only did that a handful of times.)

To be honest, we stopped at 21 days because we were both just over it! Bored of the food, and straight up sick of all the time it took to cook/prep. We also felt like we had gained some really good habits and broke a lot of our bad ones (there's something about that 21 day mark!) We also had a discussion before we officially stopped and decided what we wanted to add back in. So we are saying yes to rice (even though I'll probably not include that just because I've been fine without it) and milk for him (but not the rest of the dairy products) and then a sweet treat on the weekends. Whole30 has SO MUCH PREP WORK in the kitchen. Like soooo many dishes and time spent prepping and cooking and cleaning. It can feel a bit much sometimes. But I tried to embrace it and find recipes that were realistic for us to cook and enjoy without taking hours to make. I should note that Kenzie ate mostly what we did, but did have yogurt and sandwiches for lunches here and there.

As much as I hated spending all that time in the kitchen, I was reminded of how warped our perception of eating has become. Our grandparents or great-grandparents spent all day in the kitchen cooking for the next meal. Real food means real cooking. And I'm trying to embrace that. We don't eat prepackaged/premade dinners anyway, but something about these specific food restrictions made it feel like we spent a lot more time prepping and cooking.

When we officially ended the first thing I ate was a bowl of plain cheerios with almond milk. It was so good- and then I INSTANTLY got a headache. -cue the eye roll emoji here- Despite it being gluten free, and only having 2 grams of sugar per serving, my body wasn't super happy about it. My autoimmune disease will always have a big impact on how my body reacts to things and at this point I've just gotten used to it!

So here is a sample menu from one of the weeks:

Banana pancakes
Fried egg "sandwich" (fried egg on top and bottom with a piece of turkey in the middle)
Sweet potato hash
Scrambled eggs + fruit
Egg muffins
Sausage + veggie hash

Salsa chicken lettuce wraps
Turkey wraps (turkey, lettuce, bacon, avocado)

Fried cauliflower rice
Chicken poppers
Taco soup
Spaghetti squash + marinara sauce
Salmon + veggies
Pot roast + veggies
Veggie soup
Grilled chicken strip salad

Veggies + hummus
Apple + peanut butter
Mixed nuts
Turkey slices

So as you can see, there's nothing fancy about this menu! It's just whole, real food. We didn't make any "whole30 ranch" or our own mayo. We just stuck with what was naturally whole food.

One of my favorite things about doing a restrictive diet like this for a set amount of weeks, is that it helps reset your eating habits. It teaches you what "hungry" feels like, and it helps your mind get over the thought that you really NEED that the-kids-survived-another-day-and-you-deserve-a-treat moment that comes every other night. I don't think it's realistic to do this long term, but I would recommend it to anyone who feels like their eating habits are out of control. Because learning to control your eating and diet is such an empowering feeling! Not to mention your body loves you for it too :)


Little people big feelings

As I crawl into bed after a LONG day with the kids I can't help but think of their little perspective. 

Cooper is cutting another tooth. His second in as many weeks. I can't imagine how bad that must hurt to be growing a bone up into your mouth. Ouch! I remember when Kenzie was teething I wondered WHY? Why do babies have to go through that pain? I don't have an answer. But thinking about it that way- how painful it must be- has helped me be more patient with the teething process. If I was in constant pain I would want to be held ALL DAY too. I would be irritable and grouchy and I for sure wouldn't want my 2 year old sister all up in my grill (no pun intended ;) 

And then there is my big small old baby girl who will be 3 in two months (cue all the crying emojis). She woke up crying and didn't really stop today. And all I could think of as I was driving her to the babysitter's this morning as she screamed and cried the full 15 minutes was how hard it must be for her to have those big huge emotions and not understand what they are or how to deal. I freaking don't know how to deal and I'm 27 years old. So I just let her cry. I didn't get impatient and tell her to stop. I tried talking her off the ledge (because she does like that kind of communication) but she wasn't having it today. She just needed to let it all out. I get it. Sometimes my pillow ends up soaking wet too. 
And then after a dramatic and traumatic experience at the pool where I had her wear a puddle jumper (cue another 20 minutes screaming crying fit) we went home and proceeded to do nothing but watch movies naked (well SHE got to be naked) because I get it. Sometimes all I want to do is curl up on the couch and eat some of my feelings and not wear pants. 
And as I was tucking her in bed tonight she gladly snuggled her puppy and went right to sleep. Because sometimes we just need to sleep off our bad days. 

My little kids are humans too. Perfect imperfect humans that have real big powerful feelings. And I'm just glad I could see it that way today. And I'm glad for bedtime because....these days are exhausting for mom too :)

Questions to ask yourself as you minimize your stuff

I thought it might be nice to write down a few things I say to myself as I'm going through a cupboard, drawer or closet and letting things go. As you gain momentum and a habit for letting go of things that no longer add value, the process becomes a little easier.

First, where to start? If there is a space that stresses me out every time I look at it/open it- I know there is work to be done. First you need to take everything out. As you're removing do the initial purge of things that are clearly good to toss. Expired food or stained clothes. A random piece to a toy you no longer own, etc. it may or may not be garbage, but these things are pretty obvious and easy to get rid of. Next when you have that pile go through it again without putting anything back yet. Ask yourself these questions as you go "when was the last time I used this?" "When was the last time I even thought about this?" "Have my children outgrown it and is it worth storing?" "Why am I keeping this?" "Would I buy this again right now?" "Is it useful?" "Do I really need _(insert number here)_ of these? "Does this go somewhere else?" Etc

At this point if there is a lot of stuff you can start making piles. Make a mess before making everything clean and organized. Make the following piles:

• for sure to keep
• goes somewhere else in the house
• donate
• garbage
• can't decide

I usually give myself just a few seconds with each item. What is your gut telling you? If you go to toss something don't second guess yourself or put it in the "can't decide" pile. Just get rid of it. I have come to trust my subconscious and instinct and it makes the process go by much quicker. I NEVER go back through my get rid of pile. If you give yourself long enough you can talk yourself into keeping almost anything.

It's time to put things back. The goal is to organize as you go. Do you have an extra plastic tote lying around that would work well here? Go get it. Need to refold all those towels to fit better? Now is the time to do that. If you find yourself over-stuffing the space- get brutally honest and either find a new home for things or get rid of them. Remember, fear or greed are the two things keeping us from letting go. Be honest and give yourself permission to lighten your load. You will NEVER regret it.

At this point your space should feel light and stress free. You should be able to open and close the door without having to adjust everything. Everything should have a place. Remember our family's needs change and so can your storage places. If you're kids are growing up you can switch things from down low to a little higher now that they can reach, etc.

Address the other piles. Go put things away in their actual home. Don't just shove them somewhere for now. Put the garbage in the dumpster and your donate stuff in the trunk! You shouldn't put your donate pile/bag/box in a place you can see. Get it out of your line of sight and out of mind until you can drop it off.

This whole process can take 2 minutes if you're re-addressing a small kitchen cabinet or 2 hours if you're going through your closet. Even after purging my home I find myself adjusting and making changes whenever I feel the "flow" is off somehow. Again, if you feel any kind of stress or discontent  when you open a drawer/door/cabinet it's time to make a change.

Hopefully this process will help you! What space comes to your mind as you read this? Let me know how it goes as you simplify and minimize :)


sometimes what you needed or used even a few months ago- isn't adding value anymore. learn to let go


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