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! The mattress and the blanket occupied most of the space, and unlike what’s written in most blanket reviews, this one certainly occupied more than it should have.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! Auto News Center offers garage makeover ideas whether it be due to clutter or you simply want something new.

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.


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