Why our family of 5 decided to live in 1100 square feet

Christmas at our house

2 years ago (has it already been two years?), Jesse and I pulled out of escrow on a 2400 square foot house that was at the TOP end of our budget in favor of an 1100 square foot house built in the 40s.

Coming from our 1400 square foot house in CA, 1100 didn’t seem small to us, although it flew in the face of the TX culture we were trying to embrace. Part of this TX culture is definitely superfluous– a “bigger is always better” mentality that even makes its way into vehicle choices and the way the roads, parking lots and parks are constructed. But part of it is definitely deserved, as the hot months of July and August (and, if we’re being honest, a few weeks in Sept.!) make playing and being outdoors a challenge unless you are playing in water.

snow in 2017

With the addition of a 3rd child in our midst, Jesse and I have been re-evaluating our decision to live where we do. We love the charm that our historic home provides, but you know what else I love? Closet space, something people did not believe in back around World War 2, apparently!

Also, as much as I’ve paired down our “stuff” for Baby #3, let’s face it– babies still take up room. We opted for a mini crib/sidecar co-sleeper situation that we DIY hacked ourselves, a small changing table that also holds all of his cloth diapers, clothes and blankets, a fold up bassinet for the living room (that will make way for a small fold up bouncy seat when the time comes) and a small swing that can fold out of sight. And this still feels like a lot!Baby Thomas' room

My two older boys are also bigger and taller than average, and on days where they can’t play outside, it sounds like a circus in here! Our house is pier and beam, and when the boys are running inside, the floor trembles violently, like an earthquake! My once 4 and 2 year old are now 6 and 4, and this fact alone has made me feel cramped for space sometimes!

Dallas dining room

But then this morning I read this article from the Washington Post about a family of 3 living intentionally in an 800 sq ft apt. in NYC, and it resonated so deeply with me! And I started to remember all of the reasons we chose this house.

Budget. This house was definitely on the lower end of what the loan officer said we qualified for. As a result, our house payment is close to what we paid in rent for our very first shoebox apt. in LA 10 years ago!  This automatically frees up money in the budget for museum and zoo memberships. We will never be “house poor”, by any stretch, and there is a huge comfort in this! We live in part of Dallas that is bursting with beautiful nature, and just miles away from some of the best museums and parks the city has to offer. Having extra room in the budget means we are free to enjoy all of these things, guilt free.

perot 2016

We spend more time together. When we’re all up in each other’s business, there is no “ignoring”. We find quality ways to spend time together, or we go crazy! 😉

Art projects with the boys

When I need quiet time, I send the kids outside to play instead of turning on the TV, because in a small space like ours, the TV noise becomes EVERYONE’S noise. We may have picked a small house, but our yard is anything but! We took money that we would’ve spent on video games or more toys and instead created a backyard perfect for our boys to run around and imagine to their hearts’ content.

Playground outside our house

We haven’t been able to accumulate “stuff” the way we would be tempted to if we were to have large closets. This means that more of our stuff is immediately visible, since we aren’t able to hide it away, but clutter HAS to be dealt with. Often. We give away 2-3 bags of stuff a month, so much so, that dropping off a bag at Goodwill has become as second nature to me as grocery shopping. We don’t need to do large “purges”, because the every day necessitates it in a more gradual way. There is no “someday”– that space is needed today. Ask anyone who has had to spend an entire Saturday (or many of them!) cleaning out a cluttered garage, and they will tell you gradual purging is a great skill to master!

Boys playing outside

We have more time. While this has to do with the fact that this house is great for our budget, I can clean our ENTIRE house in just 2 hours. This includes kitchen, beds, laundry, floors, bathroom– you name it! When I go to vacuum, I only need to plug in twice in order to reach our entire house– no joke! If I start with a clean house, I can keep it tidy with just 30 min./day.

my work desk

So are there things I’d like in a bigger house someday? Sure! 2 bathrooms would be really nice, for starters 😉 I can’t tell you how many times I’ve actually sent one of the boys out in the backyard to pee because the other brother was already occupying the bathroom. And don’t get me started on how nice an attached garage would be on bad weather days when I’m trying to get all three kids squashed into the backseat of our all electric car 😉

But even when we move into a bigger house (something in our 1-2 year plan), I hope I carry with us many of the lessons we learned from living small.

Thomas’ Birth Story

Meeting Thomas for the first timeThings have been a little busy over here….mostly because right smack dab in the middle of the holidays, our Baby Thomas was born! Juggling three young kids + Christmas + New Years + running my oils business+ Jesse re-starting teaching and graduate school once more hasn’t been easy!

Since it’s been exactly a month since he was born, I decided it was time to hurry up and write out Thomas’ birth story, since every mother knows that these details fade after too long 😉 If they didn’t, would we ever decide to have more kids? I am pretty sure that the labor amnesia + heavenly newborn smell are purposefully designed to make sure the species survives!

For the overall quick stats: active labor was 2.5 hrs. long (but felt MUCH longer, due to how intense it was!), and transition + pushing lasted all of 3 minutes, HAHA! I’ll get to that part.

On the 9th and 10th, Friday and Saturday nights, when I was just 38.5 weeks along, I was up MOST of the night with prodromal labor. I downloaded a contraction timer app, and diligently timed the contractions, until eventually, I would fall asleep in between one, and not wake up until the morning (meaning, the contractions stopped).

Saturday night was the worst, and I only got 1 or 2 hours of sleep total when the contractions dissipated at 6am. At 8am, the family got up and started getting ready for church. I confessed to Jesse that I had JUST fallen asleep. He wanted to stay home with me instead of going to church with the boys– with labor so impending and around the corner, he didn’t want to be far away from me. But then I realized that it would be many more weeks before I could attend church again, so I decided to rough it out, get dressed, and go. What better way to start labor than being where I feel the most at home and at peace? I actually said a quick prayer and asked God if he could make the baby wait long enough for me to please just have one more Sunday at church with my family.

Right after church, I came home and crashed with a LONG three hour nap while Jesse took the boys to the gym. Apparently, when we compared notes later, he told me that he was unable to workout at even a FRACTION of what he was used to! It was basically one of the worst workouts he’s had. After trying to push himself and failing miserably time and time again, he realized it was because he knew, deep down, that we were having the baby that night, and that he needed to conserve his energy! Somehow his body knew before his mind did, haha!

Sure enough, when I woke up from my nap at 5 pm, contractions started again, about 10-15 minutes apart. I was in denial that this was “the day”, but I did let Jesse and my parents know what was happening. Jesse slowly started getting ready, pumping up the tires on the car (they fluctuate when it’s cold) and packing a few things. He had already left all of his pre-written Finals on his desk at school for a sub to administer the following morning (it was Finals Week at his high school), so he knew that he was ready to go if he needed to call in sick to work.

I spent 2-3 hours with these contractions that were still not too hard or getting too close together. Finally, my mom texted, “We’re coming to get the boys for the night.” I kept objecting, because I knew she AND my dad were both scheduled to work the next day, and I was still convinced I wasn’t in labor. I was even on Facebook, checking in with my oils team, and almost did a Zoom call with all of them! I was so convinced I wasn’t in labor. But my mom and dad still came and got the boys, because they didn’t want to be up late worried about having to rush over. My mom said that at the very least, it was a “practice run”. 🙂

I got up and put the boys in their jammies, then packed the boys’ backpacks and toothbrushes and vitamins. We did our nightly “Advent Calendar” routine, and then the boys left with my parents at around 9pm. The moment they all left, the contractions just STOPPED. I felt my heart sink a little, because I was so worried that my parents had just gone through all this work of calling in sick to work the next day and coming to get the boys, all for nothing. But in the back of my mind, I remembered that AJ’s labor was the same way– after having contractions pretty far apart for a few hours, they completely stopped for 2-3 hrs, then started back up when my water broke! So I was wondering if this was going to be the same way. I fell asleep on the couch right away.

Sure enough, 2 hours later, at 11pm, the contractions woke me up, stronger and closer. Jesse asked if it was time to head to the hospital, and I said no. I was still laughing and talking through them, and they were still about 10 minutes apart. He went to take a nap on our bed, and I laid down next to him. Not even 5 minutes later, I had a LONG 2 minute power contraction that HURT a LOT. I opened my eyes and looked at Jesse. I said, “Um, that contraction made me mentally lose my shit. Let’s go to the hospital now.”

We walked around the house gathering last minute things, and that’s when I got SUPER emotional. I started sob-crying about how I didn’t want to leave the safety of my house, how I didn’t want to have the baby now, how I didn’t know if I was ever going to come home, because what if I died during labor? Safe to say, the hormones were strong, by this point, haha! Contractions still weren’t close enough together or long enough to be considered active labor, but I was starting to admit that things were getting serious (note: Jesse knew all along, haha).

We left the house a little after midnight. One of our main concerns about picking the hospital/midwife team that we did is that they were 25 miles away. There were times that it took me over an hour to get to my prenatal appointments, because the freeways that go that directions are almost ALWAYS clogged with traffic or accidents! So it was such a huge answer to prayer that I went into labor in the middle of the night, because there was no one on the roads! It took us just 30 minutes to get there. Since my parents switched cars with us so they’d have the carseats, we were in my parents’ really nice Infiniti, and I remember grabbing a towel on our way out the door just in case my water broke. “My dad would kill me if I ruined his nice leather seats!” I remember saying (note: he wouldn’t have, but it’s just odd the minute and random things that make you worried when are in labor!).

We weren’t terribly familiar with the hospital where we were giving birth– we’d only been on one small impromtu tour a few weeks prior. We got to the elevator, went upstairs, and were standing at the intercom outside the labor and delivery unit. “Hello?” they said. “Hi,” Jesse said. “Um, we’re supposed to have our baby here? Can we come in?” Haha. That’s literally how it happened. Because we’re super prepared like that 😉

We were put into a triage room before being brought to their special natural birth delivery suite (the suite with a big labor tub, birth balls, etc.). The nurse, who, turns out, was a midwife at a birth center before becoming a nurse, checked me, and said I was only 2 cm dilated. But when she heard that we were a long drive away, that this was my 3rd, and that I had a 5 hr. labor with AJ, she didn’t tell us to leave. She went through the list of questions: “are you with the midwives? what are your plans for pain management?” I said, “um, to get it over with?” She looked at me and told me to be more specific!

She then hooked me up to a monitor that would keep track of the contractions, checked the baby’s heartbeat, and brought me some ice and water. “I’ll be back to check in an hour. If things get hairy before then, go ahead and ring the buzzer!” she said.

hated the little triage room, in retrospect. They wanted me to wear this stupid gown, and Jesse and I could not figure it out no matter how hard we tried! We joked that we had multiple graduate degrees between the two of us and still couldn’t figure out a silly hospital gown!!

All we had done to prepare for this birth was take a 5 minute tour of the hospital and spend a few minutes reading a Bradley Method book, HAHA! So my first plan for labor was to try laying as still and comfortable as possible on my side to breath through the contractions like the book said.

NOPE.

Didn’t work. Hated it. Stupid Book.

So I stood by the edge of the bed rocking my hips side to side. Each contraction, Jesse would jump out of the chair and try applying counter pressure or just talking to me softly. I was REALLY uncomfortable though, and I really wanted a ball to sit on. I wasn’t even having that many contractions yet– but the ones that I was having were REALLY intense! I was shocked and even a little dismayed, because if I wasn’t even in active labor yet and the contractions were already this intense? I started to doubt whether I’d be able to keep going like this for another 5-10 hours (what I thought it would be for some reason).

About 45 minutes later, a little after 2am, I went to the bathroom and noticed the bloody show and that my water had broken. We called the nurse in, and she said YAY! She checked me and I was at 4 cm. When I asked for a birthing ball, since the contractions were finally 5 min. apart and getting super tough, she said that we were actually moving a few doors down to the birthing suite since I was now technically in Active Labor!

When I got into the room, I immediately got onto the ball and leaned onto the edge of the bed. The contractions were super tough, at that point, and I could actually feel him descending with EACH one. Jesse was right behind me, coaching me through them.

It was at this point that my thoughts really started to wear me down, even though I was only 2 hours away from meeting Thomas. I couldn’t believe that the contractions were already THIS intense. “How am I only at 4cm?” I kept thinking. The contractions felt almost transition-like in their intensity!

I started to think that perhaps I had just forgotten how hard labor truly was, and that’s why they hurt so bad (nope, it just meant he was moving FAST, haha!). Jesse says I was really quiet during this time, breathing quietly through the contractions without barely a sound, but that I was surprisingly more communicative than I’ve been with either of my other labors. I was able to tell him where to put counter pressure, what was working, and what wasn’t working. We were actually working really well together as a team, which is great because we hadn’t prepared much at ALL. My other fear going into this labor was that I had never found a doula this time around! Turns out, I didn’t need one!

About an hour later, just one hour into official active labor, she came in and I begged her to check me again. She hesitated and said that they try not to do any checks once the water has broken in order to reduce risk of infection. But I asked her to anyways. I was only 5 cm.

This is when I mentally started to break, because these contractions felt NOTHING like the ones I’d had when I was at 5 cm with AJ. With AJ’s labor, we were still walking around in the parking lot, laughing and chatting! And yet, here I was barely keeping my cool, ready to panic and run for the door at the thought of having to do this for hours (hint: Thomas was just a little over an hour away from being born!).

But I didn’t know how close he was, so I turned to Jesse and said, “I CAN do this. I know I can. But I don’t think I WANT to. I am not enjoying this one bit, and I don’t want things to be like this for hours.” I asked if I could get an epidural, something I had been open to this time around since I didn’t have one with either of the other births, and I wondered if it was the right thing for the last one so that I could be semi-pain free and actually enjoy the process a little. He said that if it’s what I wanted, I could, so the next time the nurse was in the room, I asked her to get the process started. She paused (remember, she was a midwife before becoming a nurse!) and instead of agreeing, she said, “Let’s try the tub.” I argued for a bit with her (Jesse said I barely said a word, haha, but I remember arguing!), but I finally agreed to try the tub first. She kept assuring me that I’d be able to manage a whole lot better.

So they turned on the water and the jets (it was a REALLY fancy tub! My midwife was the one that had designed this entire room, turns out). I slowly made my way over, contractions happening super fast, and got in, with Jesse to my side with one foot in, one foot out. The water was REALLY hot, which felt great on my back muscles that were starting to ache. The tub, I’ve decided, doesn’t lessen the pain of the contractions, but it does keep residual pain from accumulating and snowballing in between the contractions, which is important.

It was really hard to get comfortable in the tub. I had a soft-sided portable tub with AJ’s labor, which made it easy to lean on the sides during contractions. But with this one, it was built in to a tile surround that was raised off the floor in the middle of the room, with steps to make it easier to get in and out of. The nurse that had been helping us all along brought me a oval shaped birthing ball to lean on the side of the tub and rest my head on, but it kept wanting to pop out of the water, so either she or Jesse had to push it back to hold it still. I was on my hands and knees, leaning forward on the ball. My knees were really starting to hurt on the hard floor of the tub, but I almost didn’t care– it was the only way I could manage the really intense contractions that seemed to be right on top of each other. Jesse was great about applying just the right amount of counter pressure on my back, which also helped me push down into the tub during each contraction. But things were hurting SO bad, I really didn’t want to keep going. When the nurse came back in the room, I officially asked her to call the anesthesiologist for an epidural. She finally agreed to get the process started (note: she did not hurry about this!).

You can ALMOST see the tub behind these flowers

You can ALMOST see the tub behind these flowers

It had been about 30 minutes in the tub, and I could tell that each contraction was REALLY effective at pushing him down, and I started vocalizing really low and almost growling like (what it felt like to me, anyways. Jesse says I was still quiet as a mouse). I kept asking the nurse “when my epidural was going to get here???”. She kept smiling and saying that he was “stuck in traffic” (at 4am in the morning???). She also tried to dissuade me from getting one, saying things like, “you know, when he gets here, you’ll have to go empty your bladder and hold really still while he inserts the needle. Are you sure you want to do that?” I’ll admit, both of those things sounded near impossible at the moment, because just moving side to side or readjusting my position hurt and set off another contraction. I remember saying, “Hate to break it to both of you, but I’ve actually been peeing in the tub this entire time, so my bladder feels just fine.” I remember that made all of us, even me, smile.

And then, at the end of one contraction, I felt it really low and started pushing involuntarily. “I’m pushing. I feel like I’m pushing.” I remember saying. Apparently, Jesse jumped out of the tub and ran to the nurses station right outside the door and told them the baby was coming. Our nurse came back in, and helped me out of the tub which was a HUGE feat, since I was nearly having a contraction each and every step I tried to take. It was awful.

I remember not being able to bear the thought of laying down on the bed, even for a second. I was SURE I was pushing, until she checked me and said, “You’re at 7 cm! I’m going to call the midwife and tell her to drive on over here since you’re in transition!”.

I was SHOCKED and so internally dismayed, wondering how on EARTH I could only be at 7 cm???? JUST STARTING TRANSITION???? NO way.

But at the same time, I knew they were wrong. “But I’m PUSHING.” I said. “He’s coming NOW.” I remember feeling like no one believed me, and they probably thought that I was just feeling all of that pressure from being in transition. Not even Jesse realized that I really meant it. He knew it was imminent, but he didn’t realize that I meant NOW. NOW. NOW.

The very next contraction, just seconds after she declared me at 7 cm, was SUPER powerful, and I remember rolling quickly onto my side mid-contraction, almost involuntarily. At the end of the contraction, his head crowned!

I said again, “HE’S COMING NOW.” Everyone smiled and nodded, but I said again, “HE’S HERE.” My English teacher self was thinking, “I’M SAYING THIS IN THE PRESENT TENSE, PEOPLE!!!”

And then the nurse looked down, and said, “OHHH!” I could vaguely hear her call another nurse into the room to help her, and heard her saying something like, “This one’s coming a lot faster than we thought!”.

On the next push (I was still on my side), his head was mostly out. One more push, and his whole body was out! It happened SO fast, that Jesse, who was standing near my head and holding my hand, didn’t even realize it was happening so fast, and wasn’t even able to catch him! He caught Gregory, and couldn’t catch AJ because the cord was wrapped twice SUPER tight making it a bit of a tense situation, so we had really wanted him to catch this one. But it happened so fast, that he remembers looking down and Thomas was already here!

Thomas with Momma and Dadda

So, that’s how Thomas was born just 3 minutes after she declared me at just 7cm! (note to self: 3rd babies can come a lot faster!). Funny enough, the anesthesiologist still had not arrived for the epidural, haha! The midwife was still in her driveway back at home– they called her to come to the hospital, and then 3 minutes later called her back and said, “don’t rush, she already had the baby!”.

I love how quickly the nurses were able to bring him up to my chest– I remember actually reaching down and helping pull him up. Out of all three labors (including one at a birth center), this was the quickest the baby was brought to me.

Since there was no midwife or doctor there, they decided not to cut the cord or deliver the placenta for close to an HOUR, long after the cord had stopped pulsing, so he got ALL of that great last minute nutrition! I didn’t tear at all either like I did with my other two labors, but it was super uncomfortable waiting for the midwife to deliver the placenta! I remember being frustrated that I was still having pretty painful contractions, while trying to hold and enjoy my baby. On my chart, prior to labor, I had asked for pre-emptive pitocin in both IV and shot form, since I had hemorrhaged with AJ, but it turns out I was hardly bleeding, so they advised me not to.

Thomas on his birthday

When the midwife did arrive (she felt awful for not coming sooner! She was the newest midwife whom I was least familiar with, so she didn’t know how fast AJ’s labor had been and didn’t know to come sooner), she was very careful about being patient with the amniotic sac, since this is where all hell broke loose with AJ’s delivery. She did have to reach up and “scoop” large clumps out for close to 30 minutes, but since it wasn’t an emergency situation like it was with AJ’s birth, she was able to give me a break in between each round, which enabled me to gather my courage (note: it’s super painful to have this procedure done right after giving birth!!! Some people get an epidural post-delivery just to have it done!). At one point, I asked if there was some sort of pain medication they could give me while she kept scooping out amniotic sac pieces, so they put something in the IV that I absolutely hated, haha, because it made me so dizzy! They said it would feel like I’d just drunk two margaritas, and boy were they right 😉

Holding Thomas right before going home

So this is how our 7 pound 6 oz. Thomas was born at exactly 39 weeks! I absolutely loved the team at this hospital, and would hands down recommend them to anyone. My postpartum care was wonderful– we were both able to pick three course meals from a menu three times a day, and were even given a celebratory lobster dinner before discharge. The nurse knew I didn’t want the baby taken to the nursery, so when I did want sleep on one of the nights, they took him to the nurses station with a few other babies where they rocked him themselves. I had a lactation consultant come and check on me a few times (Thomas was a pro from the get-go though, so we didn’t need help), and then 3 days after we got home, they sent me a gorgeous embroidered minky blanket!

BlanketThe midwife I was most familiar with came and checked on me the next morning so that we could chat about delivery, and she recommended that Thomas be under the lights for a while due to his bilirubin level. When Thomas wouldn’t lie still under the lights without crying, the nurse came in a set him up with the lights on the side of the bed next to me so that I could nurse him the whole time (something he was more than happy about!).

Holding Thomas under the lights

Overall, I am so grateful for how well everything turned out. Jesse immediately said he thought this would be my favorite of all 3 births, and he was right 🙂 It happened at the perfect tine too, since Jesse had just finished his graduate classes (we finished writing one of his papers together right there in the hospital room with Baby Thomas on our laps!), and it was Finals week at his teaching job, so it was easy to get a sub. Right after that, he had 2 weeks off for Christmas Break, so he essentially got three weeks of paid paternity leave!

Welcome to the world, Thomas! Happy One Month Birthday!

Thomas leaving the hospital

 

 

 

Our Boston Babymoon

A little known fact about me– I LOVE to travel! I grew up in a family that liked to spend time, money and energy into various trips, despite the fact that we lived in CA (which means that there’s not a lot that’s central to it!). Besides the frequent trips to SoCal to see my grandparents or Minnesota to see other relatives, my first memory of a cross-country trip was in Kindergarten, where we spent a few weeks in Florida, visiting Disney world. Another time, we did a multi-week road trip caravan with two families who were close to us and saw many National Parks and historical landmarks. And then a few years later we all went for a few weeks to vacation in Georgia and the Carolinas.

And then in college, I managed to visit Europe not once, but TWICE. My university had a program where I could substitute 4 units in exchange for spending 3 weeks in Europe for roughly the same price– so, naturally, I begged my parents and they graciously decided to support me. I got to see Greece, Italy, the Mediterranean islands, England, Scotland and France!

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“Hugging” the tower of Pisa– something every tourist has gotta do, right??

So, naturally, when Jesse and I started dating, high up on my list of “compatibility questions” was whether or not he liked to travel as much as I did 😉 Turns out, he did! My family even put him to the test early on in our dating relationship by taking him on a family “just for fun” vacation to New York and Washington D.C.

Jesse and I, riding the NYC subway on our way to a Broadway play.

Jesse and I, riding the NYC subway in 2003 on our way to a Broadway play.

For our honeymoon, Jesse planned and paid for us to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 2 weeks!

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And then who can forget our infamous trip WITH SMALL KIDS all the way to South Africa last December for my brother’s wedding?

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So, when our 10 Year Anniversary rolled around, we knew that traveling was on the short list of things we wanted to do together. Unfortunately, August is a REALLY busy month for teachers, so we celebrated our actual anniversary with our getaway to Las Colinas, but set aside time in October for a longer trip.

Originally, we had wondered if we could ever possibly make it back to Rio for our 10 year, but then the Zika virus happened, and we decided (decided?) to have our third baby. As our 10th anniversary drew closer and closer, we realized the list of vacation possibilities was rather small. Anything south of the US (where all the good Groupon deals were!) was at risk for Zika. Anything in TX was going to be too hot or involve hot springs, wine tasting, river rafting or horseback riding– all “perfect” for pregnancy, am I right? 😉 Colorado is within driving distance, but we worried about elevation and blood pressure, since I’m not used to it.

And then, a tragedy/mishap struck. On our way back from our trip to CA (where I said goodbye to my childhood home and helped my parents with their move to Dallas), the airline we used BROKE my nice Britax carseats to smithereens, despite the fact that we checked them at the gate. We actually tried to take them on the plane since they were FAA compatible and I had purchased seats for each of the boys, but they TOOK THEM from me as we were boarding. And then gave them back at the end of the flight…completely unusable (I think one half of one of the carseats was left on the plane somewhere– they were THAT broken!).

After a lengthy process, I not only received a $450 check from the airline to replace my carseats, but they also sent me a travel voucher. Although I was terribly upset with the airline for how they handled everything, a small part of me was curious about various flight prices during October, so I checked into what it would cost to fly to Boston to see my brother who works at MIT and lives in Providence, RI with his new wife Megan. The flights were $50 each way…unbeatable!! Add my voucher to that, and we bought the tickets on the spot. We didn’t even have babysitting yet, haha 😉

So that’s the story of how we wound up on a 3 day/2 night quick excursion to Boston! The boys stayed with my parents in Dallas, and we brought just two small backpacks with us on board.

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We arrived in Boston around lunchtime, and immediately took public transportation to the historic North End to get most of our history nerd on, right away.

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The oldest tavern in the US!

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Paul Revere’s house!

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31 weeks pregnant– good idea to walk 6 miles a day? In retrospect, not so much ;)

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It was just a beautiful beautiful Fall day– 65 and sunny, with a light breeze. All the leaves were changing, and it just SMELLED like Fall! Add that to the fact that the North End is known for some of the best Italian food in the US, with cute coffee shops tucked in everywhere (I ate SO MUCH great gluten free food!! Apple spiced donuts!!), and we were having a great time. We kept having to remind ourselves that it gets below 0 degrees and really cold to convince ourselves not to move there immediately (oh, that and the fact that the housing prices rival NYC).

In the evening, we walked down from the North End through Beacon Hill and Back Bay, two of the nicest parts of Boston (where many celebrities live). It’s no wonder–it was gorgeous! Boston Commons, the big park, is nicer than Central Park in NYC, in my opinion!

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Turns out, my feet were KILLING me by this point– my shoes which normally fit great (some of my most comfortable Clark boots!) were not made to accommodate swollen pregnancy ankles, haha! So, after a great dinner at a bar and grill (again, with amazing gluten free options! Seriously, Boston, well done!) we stopped by a store and bought me some Nikes. I started crying the moment I put them on– I was so grateful for the relief!!

Our cute historic hotel was right near Fenway park, which was appropriate since we were racing back to the hotel room for Jesse to watch the Dodger’s playoff game.

The next day, we checked out of our room and walked to the Starbucks nearby for breakfast and hot coffee. We then walked all around Fenway Park before heading down the street to see Boston University. Another quick thing about us– we are obsessed with visiting college campuses! 😉

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We walked across the river to MIT where we briefly met up with my brother, then continued walking through Cambridge towards Harvard, where we saw some of their illuminated manuscripts in the old library.

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After some more sight-seeing and coffee shop finding, we took the train all the way out to Providence, RI where my brother and his wife picked us up for dinner.

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We stayed overnight at their new house that they had just bought, before leaving on a plane back to Dallas the following afternoon! It was a quick but wonderful trip, and we were so happy to be able to spend some adventurous time together before Baby #3 makes his appearance in a few weeks 🙂

 

My Honest and Brutal Opinion of Network Marketing

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Ya’ll, this is one of the scariest posts I’ve ever had to write, which is because it’s really near and dear to my heart.

Standing next to me is my new co-worker, Christie, who flew all the way out from Denver, CO to see me this last weekend. Why? Because, 2.5 months after asking me to take a leap of faith, quit my online teaching job and join her in her Young Living Business, I’ve hit the rank of SILVER. For most of you, that title means nothing, and it shouldn’t. After all, it’s just a title, when all is said and done.

But what it means for our family is what matters. It means that in just 2.5 months of hard work, I am now making close to what Jesse did as a Fulltime teacher back in CA. It means that monthly, I will be able to pay for our after school activities, groceries, and even write a check with three zeroes on the end of it towards our student loan debt. It means that we will never need to put our kids in childcare in order for me to work. It means that someday quite soon, we will have all of our student loan debt gone. It means that for the first time, I am no longer terrified about maternity leave and what that will mean for our finances (for both of my other babies, I was back at work within 10 days of giving birth since we could not afford for me to miss a paycheck. Yikes.).

Let me be clear about something– this is not a post intended to sell you anything tangible. Ideas, maybe. Compassion, perhaps. Self-reflection, definitely. But it is not a mass spam letter to get you to “join my team”. That’s not how I work– anyone on our team can tell you that. 😉 Those who are meant to work with us will be led of their own volition, that, I am sure of.

In fact, this is the first time EVER that I have posted about my business on my personal page. This was intentional, because I know the stigma that surrounds MLMs. But I could not be silent about this, the way my God, OUR God, is blessing our family and the 90 (did I just type that?? NINETY!) other families who have joined me since July. (Update: in just the four months since writing this post, I have reached the rank of Gold and now have 500+ members and my paycheck has tripled!)

If I’m not asking you to “join” or buy something, what am I asking for?

Let me start with my fellow MLM peeps:

Please hear this with all the loving graciousness and affection in the world. I am one of you, but I am also not one of you. I am asking that you evaluate your marketing techniques and be honest about whether they are working. Spend some time in prayer and reflection, and ask your friends for honest feedback about whether they have ever felt bombarded, or if they’ve experienced the tragedy of feeling like just another sale. Perhaps you’ll find that they’ve even un-friended or un-followed you on Facebook. I’ve had three people this week alone say to my face that the only reason they were giving me and my product the time of day was because I’d never abused their friendship in this way. If you still want to post on your blog or your personal FB page (business pages are a different matter), please, for the love of all that is good, follow the 90/10 rule. Your friends care about your life first, and, if you’re blessed, your business second. They would rather unfollow you and boycott your product than get so bitter that they can no longer love you.

Study and hone your craft, because that’s what this business is! I’d love to give you our team’s reading list that would be applicable to many different companies. Train yourself. It will take unpaid hours and hours, yes. But it’s an investment in yourself and your business. And if it really feels like a lot of money and time, I can guarantee it’s a lot less than the four year degree or certification required to get most other jobs. We shouldn’t expect to succeed or have anyone take us seriously if we do not take our own business seriously enough to invest some serious time and effort into it. Don’t copy and paste your company’s graphics and promo ads– make your own with a $3 app. Buy your own web page for less than $10/month. Discover Instagram, take a class on effective Instagram marketing, and discover hashtags (aka, a WARM market, where people are actively searching for what you have to sell!). Don’t look for one or two rich people to be your “magic lottery ticket” to success– be prepared to work hard. Anyone who tells you that it’s easy is lying and you should RUN the other way. Don’t just find a product that you like– find a team that has been there, done that, and can get you to where you want to go. You should be able to have direct access (meaning– a phone call away) from someone who already has the title and rank you want. If they are “just a story” that you know through a friend of a friend of a friend, but you still really love the company or product, at least find another team because otherwise, it’s the blind leading the blind. Really. You will thank me. I can’t tell you how many girls have reached out to me who have been abandoned by their well meaning friend or sister that they signed up with out of obligation who no longer does the business, but now they’re stuck. It’s not fun.

And please, PLEASE– do your research about the company you joined or are planning on joining. Look up their rating on BBB. Do they have a “three month deadline” before they strip your discount? Ask yourself why. Do they have a sales quota? Ask yourself why. How long has the company been in business? Newer companies will sell themselves as “the next exciting thing” and tell you to jump in on the ground level, but when I was researching, longevity mattered since I wanted stability (I knew from the start that I wanted my income to support my family– I didn’t want a risk with high reward, I wanted a sure bet with a high reward) . Read the fine print about the ratio of sellers to product users. Are people using the product just because they sell it and need their own testimony? Or are they loyal product users, regardless of whether they sell? If you can’t believe in your own company, deep down, no one else will. And you won’t like who you are, at the end of the day.

To everyone else:
I am asking you to be kind to the next direct sales person who comes “knocking” at your door. If you want them to deal politely with you and treat you as a friend would, demonstrate the same. Don’t ignore them, shut them out or unfriend them, even if they deserve it 😉 . Tell them gently but honestly if their marketing strategies are really turning you off, and walk with them as they use that feedback to GROW and succeed. Encourage them whenever possible, because direct sales is a business made of lonely stretches and hard nights of self doubt and self loathing. Most direct sales people never make it past the all too common 3 month honeymoon period for this very reason, which is a shame considering most of the ones brave enough to try it are the ones who could really really use the money and financial freedom.

And, whenever possible, support their business. Americans love anonymity and that sense of control, which is why online shopping is so huge. However, when you buy the same product from Amazon or Target or Costco instead of from a friend, you haven’t avoided paying someone commission– you’ve simply given it to a stranger somewhere at a corporate office, instead of investing in your friend who is working their tail off. When you buy from your friend, you are also paying to support some 5 year old’s soccer team, some 4 year old’s ballet lessons, or some family’s crippling student loan debt. You aren’t being “sold”– you’re telling your friend that you believe in him or her. Yes, it’s the opposite of anonymous online shopping, it’s actually a little thing called community (sometimes called “shopping local”) that as a society, we’ve stopped caring much about. If you feel like boycotting your friend just for trying to make money from home, because you are looking down on it as a “lesser” occupation, or because they didn’t follow the career path that you did, it might be time to examine your own bias, pride and motivations (and, to be consistent, start boycotting every company that ever sends an ad your way! Make a list of everything on your Facebook side bar, for starters!). You will never know the ins and outs of someone’s private circumstances and why they’ve been unable to find work elsewhere, or what convictions led them to decide that a traditional 9 to 5 was not the right move for their family.

Network Marketing, Direct Sales, Multi-level Marketing– whatever you want to call it– is not going away. (Side note: “Pyramid Schemes” are illegal and do not exist for long, believe me, so do not proceed in ignorance and slap this label on your friend’s company).  It used to be the case that getting a college degree guaranteed steady work and benefits SOMEWHERE. But the economy has changed. Job security of the employer variety no longer exists the way it did. Just ask any teacher and they will give you horror story after horror story of being let go at the last minute, or kept on as part time in order to be denied benefits in these tough economic times. Network Marketing is here to stay, so learn how to love, tolerate, and provide feedback to those of us who have chosen a way out of the rat race.

I’m going to come full circle and finish with talking about what a blessing these girls on my team have been to my life these past few months. Christie, this mom of 2 standing next to me, started the business in May and now makes an average NURSE’s salary– consistently over $5,000/month. She and her husband are missionaries in CO, and are now able to minimize the dire need for financial donations and pledges to support their family. I feel so blessed to know that every PENNY I put into my business also goes to support their labor of love in reaching others for the gospel. Can I say that about when I spend money at Target? Walmart? Amazon?

And to the girls on my team, who I talk to day in and out– I am so humbled and grateful and moved to tears by all of you. Your hard work and caring spirits have provided me with a sisterhood, something that is rare in “stay at home mom” land 😉 What other job exists where I get to HAND PICK the people I want to be working with, day in and out? I will never be worthy of you all, and I mean that!