Category: Everyday Life

The Perks of Living Small

The perks of living small

Yesterday I overhead a conversation between one of my kids and her friend:

“Wow, you have 4 kids in your family? Your house must be huuuuuuuge.”

Well, my dear one, you might be surprised to learn that it isn’t.

Well, I guess that isn’t 100% true. In one way it’s quite spacious– 1,100 square feet is average or above average compared to how most of the world lives. But according to the ever-expanding square footage of homes in America, we’re living small.

We all know the perks of living large: lots of space to run around, space to be unbothered, the ability to entertain large amounts of people at the same time, a home that always has an open bedroom.

But what are the perks of living small?

Some days small living feels cramped. When it’s below freezing AGAIN for the 30th day in a row and our kids are crawling up the walls, I want 2500 square feet to separate myself from the crazy. Lots of space to burn off energy sounds like, well, a lifeline from heaven.

BUT, most of the time I love that we can always hear one another no matter where we’re at in the house. A story coming from the big kids’ room, a cry of help from the bathroom, and giggles (or shouts of frustration, depended on the day) from the living room. Even when people are in different bedrooms or on different floors doing our own thing, I still feel like we’re together. Just through observation alone, I can stay pretty informed about what’s going on in my kids’ lives. 

Speaking of [not] doing our own things, the kids have this m.o. where they follow us (and each other) around. No one likes to be in their room by themselves, but instead everyone wants to hang out together. Most of the time it’s quite charming. The kids read on each others’ beds, leaning on one another and often times reading over someone else’s shoulder. When I try and sneak away to my bedroom when the kids are drawing or building with legos, it’s not 10 minutes before every kid has brought their toy or book or drawing pad into my bedroom to be with me. And while sometimes we drive each other batty, I think we all kinda like the togetherness that 1100 square feet brings.

The recent warm weather reminds me of the fact we don’t have a yard. On a beautiful sunny day, I want my kids to run free outside while I enjoy a little peace and quiet inside the house. I envy parents who can send their kids into a fenced back yard to play for the morning without thinking twice. A fenced back yard is like a huge playpen — and I long for this in my life.

On the flip side, not having our own outdoor space forces us out into the community on a regular basis. Today, we rode our bikes to the school park where we crashed an outdoor birthday party game of kickball and started an impromptu game of tag with a few other kids from the neighborhood. Because we don’t have our own personal slice of outdoors, small living helps us to meet people in our community (even when our introverted selves would rather stay home). 

Like many other apartments, we have an open plan, which is a fancy way of saying our living area, kitchen, and dining area are all just one big room. Truth be told, when we invite a few people over, our spacious-enough house suddenly shrinks and I feel sardined.

But we try not to let it stop us. One of our favorite memories is eating around our kitchen table with 16 friends for a Thanksgiving meal. While most of our American friends wouldn’t go for such a cramped way of eating, we find that many of our friends from other parts of the world don’t mind at all. Small living means we squish together, and in the process build a lot of memories. I don’t remember all my Thanksgiving meals, but I certainly remember that one.

Not only do we not have a ton of room for people, we also don’t have a ton of room for stuff. I can’t keep too much around that I’m not actually using, and there are times when I wish I hadn’t given a certain kitchen gadget to Goodwill.  We’ve given up our habit of perusing used bookstores for fun, because our already-big home library has hit its space limitations.

Living small means our hearts can’t get too attached to our stuff. We know that what we bring into our home is only ours for a time. Eventually it’ll find its way back out into another kid’s closet or a neighbor’s kitchen. Small spaces teach us to think carefully about our purchases and to regularly consider what we need to give away. In a world where I’m constantly being told that stuff will make me happy, this is certainly a perk.

The desire for more and for bigger will most likely continue to be a draw for most of us. No matter how much square footage we have, we tend to wish we just had a little more. And for our family, the secret to contentment lies not in pretending those perks of big living don’t exist, but instead to notice and appreciate the upsides of our limitations.

 

What a bus driver taught me on the way to the Women’s March on Madison

As we waited at the bus stop, a woman slowed her car to a stop, rolled down her window and shouted, “Hey! Are you going to the march?”

Jake and I had the three girls with us, and before either of us could respond, the girls happily told the lady we were. “Thank you!” she yelled. “I’m so proud of you all!”

A few minutes later, the bus turns onto the street and we were relieved. It was well overdue and we were nervous we weren’t going to make it in time. Then we saw that it was full. To the brim. The message flashing on the bus’ front sign “Drop offs only.”  My heart sank. There was no way we were getting downtown by car. The bus was our only option at that point.

As I was giving Jake the “what do we do now?” look, the bus driver stops, opens the door and yells- “Hey! Do you guys want to squeeze in?”

“Oh, uh, are you sure?”

“We are very full, but it breaks my heart to leave your girls out in the cold. We can make room. Come on in.” (more…)

Stitch Fix #3: The Leaves are Changing….

Alright, so before I start in on showing you all the goods from this Stitch Fix, I confess. This is not related to my #write31days them. at all. But, I’m using it as today’s post anyway, so whatever. Writing is writing, right? 🙂 If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click on my #blessed: ordinary days image in the sidebar to see what I’ve been writing about this month!

Now, onto the Fix.

For this month’s box, I requested one pair of skinny pants and the rest shirts. My stylist, Kayla, totally delivered.

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Lizzy Colorblock Striped Sweater

I had been pinning a lot of shirts that had 2 different designs on them, so I can see why Kayla picked this one for me. The sweater is super soft (and warm!) and the arms were only a tad bit too long.

Dayna Skinny Jean

Perfect pair of jeans AGAIN! We’re 3 for 3 in the jeans department! I have spent hours and hours of my life looking for jeans that fit me, and never have I found pairs that fit as well as these last 3. It’s amazing that a stylist who doesn’t even know me can use the measurements I gave her and get ones that fit like a glove. This alone makes Stitch Fix 100% worth it to me.

 

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Lodi Crew Neck Blouse

I asked Kayla to send me some petite shirts if she found them, and this is one of them. It fit really well, and while I still have a bit of a plaid hangover from the years 1994-1996, I told Kayla I was ready to experiment with some plaid after seeing my sister-in-law’s way cute stitch fix from earlier this summer. The shirt fit me SO WELL, but, it’s pretty thin, and Wisconsin winter is a-comin’. Sending it back.

Martina Slub Knit Open Cardigan

I have been searching high and low for cardigans that I like. I have a bunch of the shorter cardigans that button up, but I’m looking for open, longer cardigans with no buttons. This black one fits the bill, but I haven’t decided if I’m keeping it or not. It’s long, which I love, and soft, which I also love. But it might just a wee bit too big- the sleeves are super long. I wish it came in petite!

 

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Cotulla Button Back Sweater

Lastly, I had practically begged Kayla to send me something, anything(!), with patches on the elbows. I love, love this style and was so excited that she sent me a warm soft sweater in a great color with the patches AND bonus buttons down the back (I think I have a sweater liked this pinned to my Style board!). Sadly, it’s too big– the patches fall on my forearms. Why, oh why do my arms have to be so short? Sending it back reluctantly.

So that’s it, my friends! I just love how responsive my stylist has been to my requests, and she’s worked really hard to find things that match the styles of the board. Because I’m so short, I’m sure I make her job harder than normal :).

My next box comes in January (I do it 4x per year- one with each changing of the seasons). If you’d like to try Stitch Fix out in the meantime, feel free to use my referral link! 🙂 

 

How to Make Personalized Back-to-School Photos

Families around the country have been snapping pictures of their kids on the first day of school for years. 90% of these photos seem to happen on the home’s front stoop.

In our family, it’s no different. Fifteen minutes before departure time, we line the kids up and snap pictures of their sweet faces in front of our door.

How to Make (easy) Amazing Back-to-School Photos

Each year, I like to add a little extra information to help me remember what they were into (and what they weren’t). For fun I even sometimes make one for my husband who is a PhD student ;). 

To create these great memories, I use the free online editing tool- PicMonkey.

1. I upload the photo by going to “edit” and then “computer.”

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2. After choosing the photo I want to edit, I’m ready to add some text. (more…)

What I’m Into {August 2016}

What I'm Into August 2016

Tomorrow is the beginning of a fresh school year.

This is a big year for us.

By 8:15a, all 4 kids will be out the door, headed to their learning spaces for the day. What in the world?! I knew this day would come someday. I dreaaaaamed of this day while changing diapers and cleaning mess (after mess after mess) and juggling playdates and tantrums and feeling the toll of pure exhaustion. I just didn’t know it was going to come so soon! While the oldest three will be in elementary school all day, the youngest Malloy will be attending an early childhood program where she will be able to extrovert to her hearts content.

What all this means is when I leave the house in the morning, it’s more or less going to look exactly the same way when I get home from work. Hallelujah! This means less cleaning and tidying when I get home, and more sitting on the couch snuggling, talking, and reading books at night.

Of course, this transition will mean more emotions, more feels, more neediness at night from kids who have been without their momma all day. So, now that I think about it, you should probably ask me again in 3 weeks how excited I am about this transition. (more…)

The Family Reading List {Summer 2016}

The Family Reading List

Welcome to the Family Reading List!

Each month I’ll be sharing a list of recommended books for kids. This carefully curated list will come straight from our bookshelves and will answer the question I get asked all the time- What are my kids reading and loving? I’ll not only feature one book from each kid’s list per month, but I’ll also give a short list of other books we highly recommend. Some of these books will be ones the kids read on their own. Others will be ones we listen to in the car or read aloud at night before bed.

I’m circling the kids into this series of fun monthly posts, and they’re already excited about sharing their recommendations. Who knows, they may even show up in some video recommendations in the future!

And of course, please feel free to leave book recommendations in the comments! We often find our next books to read through the recommendations of other families.

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What I’m Reading {Summer 2016}

What I'm Reading (summer)

For many readers, summer is the time to put a dent in the reading list. The pace of life is a bit slower, and who doesn’t love the opportunity to sit on the beach or lay in a hammock, enjoying the beautiful weather while taking in a good book?

This summer wasn’t really like that for me. I spent most of my days inside working. And my weekends were spent out and about with the family sans books.

Weirdly enough, TV-watching played a big part in my night-time routine, crowding out my normal reading rhythm. Between American Ninja Warrior, the Olympics, and re-watching Gilmore Girls, I found myself not having energy to read more than a chapter before lights out each night. BUT. But. but. In spite of Netflix trying to ruin my life, I did manage to get through a few books that I highly recommend. 


Evicted

Matthew Desmond

Evicted is a book that our city is reading and discussing this fall; author Matthew Desmond is an alum of the UW. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked this one up, but it didn’t take me long to get hooked into the stories of Scott and Arleen and several other families whose lives have been deeply affected by the ever-present reality of eviction. Desmond is a master storyteller- he helps readers to see the heartbreaking and surprisingly complex situations that many of these families who have been evicted have gone through. I don’t think I’ll ever think about poverty and housing the same. My recommendation, if you pick up this book, be sure to read through the About This Project portion at the end. Reading about how Matthew did the research, and also his ideas for helping to solve the housing crisis in America, is well worth the read.

 

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What I’m Into {July 2016}

What I'm Into July 2016

When I reflect back on this past month, I think “What I’m Into” can be summed up by one thing:

Gilmore Girls.

I’m in total fan girl mode. In order to be all caught up with my re-watch by the Gilmore Girl long-awaited-final-series-releasse, I need to watch 4 episodes a week. In case you’re considering a rewatch and want to start NOW, you’ll need to watch 9-10 episodes a week. I always knew my math degree would come in handy :).

But of course, a post about how much I love Gilmore Girls would be too much, so onto the other parts of my life.

June/July Highlights

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Extended Family. We live far from family and can feel the lonely that comes with that during certain seasons. One great thing about summer is the stretch of time to pack up in the van and head south. This summer was extra special because we all convened on my parents’ house. Believe it or not, this is the first time I met my youngest nephew (and it had been a long time since I’d seen the others!). This trip really couldn’t have gone smoother. The kids got along great. We had fun being tourists in a place we used to call home. We talked a ton and ate too much.

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Major league baseball. I grew up going to a baseball game each summer and up until this point, the kids had only gone to minor league games. When I found out that the Brewers were playing the Cardinals on St. Louis terf, it was the perfect time to go. Although the game almost got rained out, we had a blast. For the record, the Cardinals won!

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Tree Ciimbing. All summer the kids have raced to the tall climbing trees before their daily camp. If you look at the very top of the picture, you’ll see my two oldest kids. Each day they stretch themselves and climb a little bit higher. I think there’s some kind of spiritual journey lesson in that. I’m really proud of them for being brave and adventurous.

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Olbrich Gardens. I’m not really an outdoorsy person, but this place is magical to me. I love walking around and taking in all the beauty. Every since I was a small girl, I have loved willow trees. I would often daydream about reading under my own willow tree someday. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I’m still holding out hope. In the meantime, I can just come here whenever I want! The one above is a version of the willow called “scarlet curls”- oh la la!

Articles

Ideas for Women’s Ministry// Amy Simpson pushes women’s ministry outside of the box and encourages leaders to think harder about they whys behind the what… and then have the courage to do something different.

Mom Tiger Will Finally Lose Her S** on New Episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood// Please excuse the cursing in this post, and don’t let that stop you from reading this start to finish. I laughed. so. hard. And breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was not alone in this battle.

25 Books to Read when you feel like the world is falling apart// Great recommendations on this list.

10 Ways to Soulfully Slow Down// “If I’m going to understand the meaning of delight, the joy of savoring the goodness all around me, and if I’m going to discover what it means to enjoy God, I have to slow down. I have to create space and room for delight, for celebration, for my soul to find rest and exhale. To let out a long sigh of relief and find a safe place to come out of hiding, free from incessant doing, and fill up once again.”

Books I’m Reading

Evicted.  The Sin of Certainty. The Gifts of Imperfection. Daring Greatly.

Podcasts

The Road Back to You … life through the Enneagram has been so fun for me to listen to on my drive to and from work. The Enneagram has played a special part in my faith journey, and I’m loving the opportunity to learn about the different numbers through the interviews they’re doing. I’ve listened to the interviews with Shauna Niequest and Mike McHargue, and have a new appreciation for 7s and 9s. I can’t wait to hear more!

I’m coming back around to Seminary Dropout again and have been moved to tears with some of the last episodes. This one with Soong-Chan Rah was a much needed listen for me. It reminded me that lament is a vital spiritual practice. And success-centered triumphalism is not what I want my life to be about. I forget that a lot.

Also, the episode with Jessica Kelley was a good one. I hadn’t heard of her before this, but after this interview, I immediately emailed the publisher and asked for a review copy of her book. I’ll be digging in and sharing my thoughts this fall.

My last favorite was an interview with Katherine Willis Pershey about spiritual practices on The Simple Show (episode 26). If I could find space to read for a few days straight, I’m pretty sure I’d gather up the books she’s written and find myself a place of solitude. She has a new book about marriage coming out soon that I’ll also start to dig into soon. Review coming this fall!

My June/July Posts

Raising Globally-Minded Kids (without traveling around the world)

Stitch Fix #2: Summer Lovin’ 

The Kingdom Work of Being a Dad

Wonderland (A Coloring Book Review)

What are you loving this month?? 

{And as always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. 🙂 }