Thursday, July 26, 2012

The irony of the housing market

Guess you could call this "Small Spaces Part 2." Though it's more like just a thought tangent that is related, but I didn't want it to clutter up the other post.

I find it ironic, that typically when a young couple (like Nick and I) just starting out in life buy a home, we tend to go for something small at first. This type of home is often referred to as a "starter home," and (at least before the housing market crash changed things for some of us) isn't intended as a home that the couple will stay in long term as their family grows in number and size.

But small children seem to take up a lot of space; and the younger the child, the more disproportionate is the space he or she requires. But, the family somehow struggles through the first few years as their small home threatens their sanity at every turn, causing them to exclaim in exasperation, "We need more space!"

But then, by the time the couple can afford to "upsize," often the oldest children have started school, then the younger children follow; the family spends less and less time at home, and the growing children-- while not perhaps requiring less space than when they were small-- are more capable of sharing space, keeping that space tidy, and picking up on the concept of organization and space efficiency, making the small space finally begin to feel more livable.

Most families, though, will still choose (if they can) to move into a larger space. But then, after several more years, the children start to leave the home. Suddenly all that space that once seemed so necessary instead just starts to feel empty. And, in the end, you're often left with an elderly couple living alone together in a house that (except for when the kids and grandkids come to visit) is simply overkill on a day-to-day basis.

Anyhow, the irony is: when we really need the space, we can't afford it; and when we can finally afford it, we don't really need it anymore.

Small Spaces

When Nick and I were first married, I spent a good deal of time drawing up numerous "dream homes." I didn't think much about conserving space, but rather drew houses with a variety of different rooms for different desired functions: such as a craft room, a home gym and such, in addition to the typical bedroom, kitchen, living room, and so forth. They had basements, they had third stories. Point being, they were BIG houses. Hey, if you're going to dream, why not dream big, right?

With time, though, tempered by experience and a very limited budget, lately my "house plans" have become smaller and smaller. Now, it is an exciting challenge for me to try to design the smallest possible home which would still be safe and up to code, and efficient for our family-- and which we could also actually afford. And far from feeling deprived of my initial big "dream homes," I have absolutely fallen in love with the idea of "living small."

If someone came up to me tomorrow and offered me an affordable (for us) 1500-2000 square foot home, I'd turn it down immediately. What would I do with that much space? I'd just fill it up with junk, and I'd have to work harder to keep it clean, and don't even get me started on maintenance of the structure.

Currently, my family and I are living in a condo with 700-720 square feet of living space. And with three small children, yes, it does feel small at times. Less so in the summer, moreso in the winter. But the secret of living in a small space is to take advantage of the vertical space, and that is something we have only been able to partially do so far. But, we're making slow progress.

When we first bought this place (shortly before the market crash), we figured we'd live in it for a few years, then sell it and use the equity to qualify for a loan on an actual house. As it's turned out, we have now been here for over four years, and the end is still not it sight. And while I used to often say, "I can't wait to get out of this place," now I'm beginning to ask myself, "Why leave?"

Pros of living where we live:

*cheaper electric/heating bill
*We are responsible for no external maintenance (except to keep the area in front of our unit looking presentable) or yard maintenance as it is covered by Association Dues
*We are within walking distance of 2-3 parks, a mall, the library, farmers' markets, a mini market, our chiropractor, a gym, G's elementary school, and many downtown shops including second-hand stores, not to mention other places yet to be discovered as the kids grow older
*It's a solid structure, safe, and sanitary
*We like (most of) our neighbors
*G and Z love having playmates right next door in the same building
*There is a large lawn right in front of our unit for the boys to play on, and I can see most of it out my kitchen window
*I love being downtown, participating in all this city has to offer; while at the same time the peace and tranquility of nature is only a short drive away
*A monthly mortgage payment lower than most stand-alone houses, and cheaper than rent


*Less privacy than if we lived in a separate house
*There is not a fenced-in yard for the kids to play in (though we're possibly fixing that in the next little while)
*Occasionally noisy neighbors; and occasionally nosy neighbors
*Lack of sufficient outdoor storage space for stuff like strollers and bicycles
*The washer and dryer are in the kitchen, which I personally find a little annoying (not to mention potentially unsanitary)

Umm, that's about it. I don't even consider "small living space" to be a con anymore. Rather, it's simply a challenge that-- with a little ingenuity and funding-- can be easily conquered.

In trying to research the codes/laws for living space per person in the US, I've gathered that each person (if I've found the right information) is required at least 100 square feet of living space. That means Nick and I could add one more person (child) to our family and still be meeting safety codes. As for what the condo association would say, that's another matter, and certainly needs more looking into before we get ourselves into trouble there.

Just a few days ago, I finished drawing up a house plan for a family of 5-6, with around 900 square feet of living space. This was an enjoyable exercise for me, and I still like the finished product. But then, I started thinking about ways to fix up the place we already have to accommodate our family and it is amazingly doable, and by far the most economical option in every way.

And we are all about economy...

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's in the pants

We have a few foam puzzles with foam letters and other foam shapes. This evening as I was changing C's diaper, G was supposed to be picking up the foam puzzles.

From my bedroom, I heard Nick half-laughing and half-scolding G because he had put some of the foam letters down the front of his pants. He appealed to me: "Dear! Help, I need you!" (heeheehahaaaa)

Me: "What?"
Nick: "G's putting foam pieces down his pants." (gigglesnort)
Me: (Come on, Nick...) "And what do you want me to do about it?"
Nick: "I don't know! Come tell him he's not supposed to put toys in his pants!"

Nick continued to laugh uncontrollably, and then I got it: He wanted me to be the serious one and discipline our kid because he was too busy laughing at our son's antics to do it himself.

So, naturally, I laughed, too. I assume G eventually cleaned out his pants on his own.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some baby/brother pictures

Almost two weeks old:


He fell asleep like this on my sister's lap:

Z just loves his baby...

...even when sitting on the potty...

Gotta love those faces:

Kinda nice to have someone else available now to read out loud...

Monday, July 16, 2012


Someday, I'm going to have a big blank wall in my house. I will paint it white, then invite my children to paint/color/draw on the wall to their heart's content. Every once in a while, when it starts to get too full, I will take pictures and then paint over the whole thing with a fresh coat (or two) of new white paint.

White-- while technically not a color-- is a beautiful "color" nonetheless. It's attractive, appealing, and somehow even interesting. Some, looking at a white wall, or a white canvas, or a white sheet of paper, may look at it and see nothing. It's boring. It's dull. I look at all that white, and I see potential. I am not an artist in the main sense of the word, but if I were, I would never be able to leave any white surface blank for long. Or if I did, I would not be able to look at that white surface and not see something beautiful and exciting and amazing in my mind, telling myself that someday, that white surface would be transformed.

Instead, though, for me, my "white surface" is usually more figurative. It manifests itself in the newly-cleared and cleaned countertop just begging for a fresh batch of cookies to be baked. Or a cleared-off table after dinner asking for a card game to be played upon it. Or an empty bookshelf inviting new books or knick-knacks to be placed upon it, to add their own "spirit" to the room.

Not surprising, then, my house is rarely found with an empty surface anywhere. When this happens, I may be found going into a frenzy, desperate for a single clean surface anywhere. When my life gets so utterly cluttered and disorganized, it gets difficult for me to be creative at all. Even fixing a simple dinner becomes an unbearable and overwhelming chore. So I clean (which, in a way, is also a creative process and the only enjoyable way for me to look at it). And as soon as a surface, or closet, or room, is clean and tidy once more, I find I can finally breathe easy again. I can relax again. I can think again. I can be creative again. But, herein lies the irony; because no surface/area/room remains clean for long, thanks to the overwhelming urge to look at the potential of that "boring" space and do something new and exciting with it.

But in between the active cleaning and creating, it's nice to step back and look at all that "white" for a moment and admire its purity, its dignity, and-- most of all-- its latent potential.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Four Months

I'm only one day late this month!

C weighed in at 17 lbs. 13 oz. at the WIC office today. He also measured at 27 inches, though I don't trust the accuracy of length measurements so much. I could still believe it, though-- he really is a long baby, and now wearing 12 month sleepers and onesies.

He loves to smile and laugh, and enjoys all the attention he can get, especially from his big brothers.

I have to say, I was worried before C was born, that Z would be jealous of the baby; but he absolutely dotes on his little brother and calls him "my baby." I actually have to fight Z sometimes to let me change the baby's diaper or nurse; we've had many a gentle "tug-of-war" over the poor kid already.

Now that it's warm outside I've been having C out as much as possible. He is always so happy to be outside, and objects whenever I try to bring him in. He's taken a few "catnaps" out front in his stroller, though I don't let him nap in the stroller often as those naps never last very long.

Some nights he sleeps several hours, but most nights he wakes more frequently. He still falls asleep around 7 or 8, and then wakes up between 9 and 10 and won't go back to sleep until 11 or even midnight. A bit exhausting at times; but at least he takes a good long sleep in the morning to make up for it; sometimes even the boys sleep in, so I get a more-or-less peaceful morning before the chaos begins...

He really enjoyed watching the fireworks on the 4th of July. I was worried he'd get upset at all the loud sounds, but he just sat on my lap and watched the pretty flashing lights; and when we got home that night, he went right down and slept for eight whole hours!

Teething is full-blown now. He drenches his onesies with drool; or if he's resting on our shoulders we have burp rags to protect out clothes and he drenches those, too. He gets fussy sometimes, but he's also taken to sucking on his hands/fingers to soothe himself (I used to put socks on his hands to keep him from scratching himself and others; but I've given up on that because he just kept drenching the socks). I have a box of teething tablets I bought a few weeks ago, but I keep forgetting to use them :/

He really is a good, happy baby, and so well loved by all of us :)