Filed under: baby

small space living with two kids

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Back in May, I wrote about our ideas on how we planned to incorporate two kiddos in our small house. Now that we’re 3+ months into this dual kid routine, I thought it would be fun to stop by and update everyone on how we’re faring.

For the most part, we’re all cohabitating surprisingly well. I took these photos this weekend (and apologies on the quality, our DSLR died while we were in the hospital with Lillian (of course!) and it has not been replaced yet) and hopefully they have that “sorta cleaned up but definitely didn’t stage anything” quality to them.

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We didn’t want to make any major changes to Avery’s room right before or after her sister arrived, so we waited till last week to convert her crib to a toddler bed and move the glider and ottoman downstairs. Although she’s been able to easily climb in and out of her crib for a while now, she’s been such a solid sleeper that we didn’t want to rock the boat. But then Christmas came and went and quite frankly – we needed more space for her toys (she had four different Christmases this year!). So by moving the glider out and converting the crib, we were able to keep a spot to read books together while also freeing up more play space. After her first nap in the new bed, I found about five books and a dozen more stuffed animals with her but hey – she slept! We keep her room pretty dark so maybe that’s helped but overall we were pleasantly surprised that the transition went as smoothly as it did.

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One thing that we also started doing in the past year is rotating out books. Each month I’d buy a few more and pretty soon it was out of control and too overwhelming for Avery. So I moved all the baby board books to storage and put the remaining half (mostly the books that I just needed a break from!) in the fauxdenza. Although we don’t have any checked out at the moment, we usually also have 10-12 library books in the rotation too. (Pro tip – I used to impulse buy popular children’s books but instead I now check them out from the library first. If the book is still a top pick when it is time to be returned, then we go ahead and buy it.)

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Before Lillian came, we added the two top drawers to the wardrobe and tried to purge as much as possible. We use the bottom three drawers for toys and the top two for pajamas (for both girls), blankets, sheets, sleep sacks, swaddles, burp clothes, etc. The hanging rod is getting a bit cramped for both girls, but there are some things that could get folded if needed. (Each girl also has two drawers a piece in the dresser.)

Also, my sisters got Avery and Lillian dolls from Hazel Village for Christmas. I hadn’t heard of the company before but am totally in love.

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For the first month or so after we brought Lillian home, we had a stack of swaddles, burp cloths, diapers and wipes in the living room with a makeshift changing pad on the dining room table. Now that we’re in more of a schedule and not constantly feeding and changing diapers, we were able to return the living space to what it looked like before. Well, except for that damn swing. But I don’t care because that thing is MAGICAL. Both Avery and Lillian have napped for hours at a time in it so therefore it stays. For a few more months at least. :)

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When we bought this coffee table, we raved about its hidden storage but little did we know it would one day be filled with art supplies! The coffee table actually spent some time in the carport (when Avery was learning to walk and for a while afterwards) but is now used mostly as a base for Duplo villages and a vessel for crayons, playdoh, paper and stickers. The unanticipated design feature is that the pop up “lids” are just tricky enough that Avery can’t open them by herself, making it the perfect spot to store things that you don’t want your toddler to have free reign over. :) (The dark blue part also opens up and is where we stash old 24″x36″ drawing sheets that Avery uses to draw or paint on.)

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Avery still uses the Stokke Tripp Trapp (it had a harness that we’ve since removed). I’m not sure yet what we’ll do once Lillian starts eating solids – we still have and love our Inglesina clip-on chair (in fact, Avery used it up till she was about 2!) and I just recently saw that they sell a snap-on tray which I WISH I WOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT before. So maybe we’ll just use that or maybe we’ll get another Tripp Trapp? We could transition Avery to a regular chair with a booster but I have yet to see an option that would fit well on the Eames fiberglass chairs. :) Although, if Lillian is as messy of an eater as her sister, I could also see myself getting the small IKEA highchair with detachable tray. Apparently they’re easy to hose off in the shower.

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For the first month or so, Lillian slept in a bassinet next to our bed. It was nice to have her close to me, but our bedroom is so compact that it also meant I didn’t have a nightstand during that time. And although I was feeling pretty positive about the bassinet the first go around, it’s not been as durable as I would have liked and even though it can be used as a lounger for older babies, neither girl seemed to love it so it’s back in the crawl space and will probably be sold at some point. Or maybe my feelings for it were just clouded by my COMPLETE LOVE of our mini crib. (Yes, that’s probably it.) We bought a used Bloom Alma mini crib from Craiglist and it has been fantastic. (In an interesting turn of events, the people we bought it from later became clients!) Even used it was still an investment, but I can say that we’ve been super pleased with the design and quality of construction so far. We haven’t had a need to fold and store it yet, but we do push it all around the house on a daily basis and the thing is solid.

Although I originally thought that we’d put the mini crib in my office/satellite nursery, we’ve found that it’s more convenient to keep it on the main floor. During the day we keep it at the foot of our bed (and she occasionally naps in there) and at night we roll it out into the dining room. Yeah, our 3-month old has been sleeping in the dining room for the last few months. And folks, it works. She’s far enough away that I don’t wake up to every little squeak, but close enough that I definitely hear the “I’m hungry!” cry. (And really, I’d hear that cry no matter where she was. It’s humorous to think that we actually used a monitor with Avery.) Eventually we’d like for both girls to share a room but it’s not going to happen until Lillian is consistently sleeping through the night. Even though Avery doesn’t wake up from small baby cries in the middle of the night, I think she would wake up if I was coming in and out of her room.

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The mini crib is also just a great place to put her down if say…I need to take a shower. My only hesitation with going the mini crib route was that it was a big investment for something that may not be used that long. Based on the reviews I’ve read, most kids tend to outgrow it by the time they’re 12 months and since she’s been in the 75th percentile thus far for length, we’ll be lucky to make it that far. So what’s our solution once that happens? Not sure yet – we have a few ideas, some of which would be the result of a complete reshuffling of spaces (more on that soon!) but bottom line is that I’m sure there is a solution that will work just fine. After all, we didn’t expect that her nursery would be that spot between the table and the pantry but it is and it works.

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The bathroom – not a lot of changes besides the addition of a step stool and tiny potty. We are not actively potty training yet, but started the propaganda several months ago. (The potty was purchased shortly after we found out we were having another girl. It was that purchase where I caved on the color pink.) And confession time – we hide the potty in the shower when we have client meetings at our house.

After searching for a aesthetically pleasing option, I found this step stool which is locally made in the Seattle area. Initially we wanted something that could fold up and be stored, but it really hasn’t been a big deal so far. Avery is still about a half-inch too short to fully reach the faucet handles, but I think it will serve us well for a long time (and it’s better than her using the toilet as a step stool!).

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The one thing I underestimated when designing our kitchen was the amount of space we’d need for baby/toddler paraphernalia. We now have an entire drawer in our island dedicated to plate, bowls, sippy cups, straw cups, bibs, place-mats, snack cups and who knows what else. Actually, I’m convinced that The Cup Conspiracy is the real problem here and if you’re a parent you know what I mean. Most cups are ok, but each one lacks in some department so you keep trying new cups hoping to find that perfect one (that doesn’t leak, mostly) but in actuality it DOES NOT EXIST. So then, you’re left with a drawer full of cups and broken dreams. Or something like that. The moral – I try hard to do my research and make smart decisions to limit the amount of STUFF we have but this one got away from me. (Fortunately, I’ve been a lazy pumper (for better or worse) this time around and so we’ve been able to avoid a lot of bottles.)

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Finally, here’s a few low-light photos of my office that I took today. Having the glider and a few other baby things down there definitely makes it feel cozy and is more practical since I typically have Lillian with me in the mornings. On the ledge is our surplus stash of baby board books that were recently retrieved from the crawl space. I know, I think I might have a problem. But with your first kid you just kinda acquire stuff over time and it isn’t until you bring it all back for #2 that you realize how ridiculous the situation is. I’ll probably go through and purge a lot of these books and then put half away until we grow bored with the others. I bought that Skip Hop activity gym to replace the more obnoxious Fisher-Price one we got for Avery but of course(?) babies have strong preferences and Lillian loves the Fisher-Price one. Sigh.

Miscellaneous gear: not pictured, but there are few other items that are worth the space they take up. We received a Boppy lounger and used it often during the first few months. She’s starting to roll and outgrow it now but I’d say still worth it. (I’ve also heard you can just throw a blanket over a Boppy nursing pillow but maybe not as effective?) We also own the ubiquitous Bumbo and it’s small and light enough that it gets moved from room to room. The jumper that we bought for Avery just came out for the first time last week and is easily stored under the couch or in the coffee table when not in use. There’s really no great space in our house for the carseat, so we just keep it on the bench next to the TV. It’s only a matter of time before it stops coming inside so we’re ok with the temporary solution. The stroller situation, however, is less ideal. We bought a double tandem stroller which I really like but it is kind of a beast and the only place it seems to fit is in the car. That works fine most of the time unless we need the extra space and then it just goes in the house. We also still own our Chicco umbrella stroller (it’s great for travelling) but use it so infrequently that it lives in the basement. (Fun fact: I bought that particular stroller because it reclines all the way back and thought Avery could nap it in while we were out and about or traveling. Well, that didn’t happen so much but we did find that it was AWESOME to put Lillian in (fully reclined) during airport layovers.)

So that’s how we’re managing with two little ones. It’s usually a little chaotic (I snapped the photo below while trying to write this blog post, Avery managed to turn my office upside down in approximately 2.5 seconds), but in a good way. We know that Lillian is still a baby and that the true test is yet to come but we’re staying optimistic. Although there are certainly challenges with living small with little people (such as acoustical privacy and isolating messy activities), I’d say one major advantage is that Avery can have a lot of independence without us worrying that she’s getting into trouble (since we can always at least hear her). I remember having a conversation with other moms expecting their second about what their toddler would do while they breastfed and it’s been a total non-issue with us. Avery simply plays like she would if I was unloading the dishwasher or doing something else. And even though she can create a ridiculous mess in no time at all, limiting what we own in the first place makes it pretty easy to return things to order at the end of the day.

Phew, ok – what are your strategies for living small with kiddos? I want to know!

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Want to read our past posts on living small with a baby? Here’s one from when Avery was a newborn, when Avery was six months, and then a more thorough round-up right before she turned one.

Psst…we’re wrapping up schematic design on the garage/carport remodel and plan on sharing it here soon!

Lillian Gray

She’s here!

Lillian Gray Zerbey was born last Sunday night (9/21) and we are now a family of four! (Err…five, sorry Bailey.)

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I had a scheduled c-section with Avery because she was very.stubbornly.breech and really wanted to try for a VBAC this time around (especially since I had no labor signs with Avery, not even Braxton Hicks!). Fortunately, miss Lillian decided she was ready 3 days before her due date and everything went really well (besides that back labor…ouch!) and faster than I had mentally prepared for. She was born at almost the exact same time and nearly identical in weight and length to Avery. Her hair is a bit darker (more like Kyle’s is now) and slightly longer. Lillian’s birthday is two days after mine and four days before our anniversary. We’re still nibbling on leftovers from my birthday cake and joked that maybe we should just get a big sheet cake to celebrate the three events each year. (But in all seriousness, my step brother’s birthday is the 24th and my parents learned early on that one cake with two clowns on it was not cool. NOT COOL AT ALL.) :)

We’re settling in and adjusting to having a newborn again. (Although, second time around – so much easier. Which is good since, y’know…now we have two!) Avery and Bailey seem to be handling things well and are interested but not too interested in their little sister. My mom has also been here to help with the girls and make sure everyone is well fed, which has been a huge help!

Here we go again!

hello, september!

Hello! I meant to write this post a week or so ago and now we’re halfway through September!

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This month has been (and will continue to be!) one of transitions. It started with saying goodbye to our long-time nanny, who is getting married and moved out-of-state to be closer to her fiancé. It was harder on me than I expected – she had such a positive influence on Avery and was an important part of our work-life balance.

And just last week, Avery started a new preschool. It’s a big step, but one that we feel she is completely ready for. (And an excuse to finally use that backpack? Heck yeah!) It’s a different daily routine than we’re used to but so far, so good!

Oh, and we’re having a baby this month! I’m due next week! (Right between my birthday and our 9-year wedding anniversary!)

Speaking of births, when Avery was born our firm, Studio Zerbey, was just starting out. Two years later, we’re the busiest we’ve been and finding ourselves in another type of transition, one where most of our projects are either under construction or getting ready to break ground and we have a handful of new ones in the beginning phases of design. It’s not uncommon for even residential projects to take a couple of years from the first meeting through construction so we knew there’d be some lag time till we could start counting our built projects. Well, that time is now arriving and it’s exciting to see things take shape! (Updating our website is also on my list of things to do.)

And finally, with all of these transitions, it’s nice to know there are things that haven’t changed – like our basement. Yeah, I know. We intended to finish the bathroom and laundry room by now but work got too busy. Kyle’s been chipping away on it here and there and we’re almost ready to get our plumbing and electrical inspections but it just can’t be a priority right now. And that’s ok. The washer and dryer are functional, we have another bathroom, we’ll survive (sorry, Mom).

But we have to get it done soon, because we’re starting to seriously scheme about the garage/carport.

a new rug for the nursery

We made a small update in the nursery several months ago, but I just realized we never shared it here on the blog!

Anyhow, new rug!

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The old rug was an off-white chevron rug from West Elm. There was a lot to love about it, but over time Bailey’s nails would snag the knotted design and it started looking pretty worn and dingy. I suppose I could have had it cleaned but decided to swap it out for something more functional instead.

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It’s no secret that we have a special place in our hearts for Flor carpet tiles (we now have them in Kyle’s office, my office, our bedroom and our mudroom). I started my hunt for a new rug by looking at various single-piece area rugs but couldn’t find anything that was quite the right color, size or price. Plus, I didn’t like the idea of having to have it professionally cleaned in the event of a major spill or accident. So, back to Flor. Since this is a kid’s space we wanted something a bit playful but not too “busy” as it would be highly visible from the rest of our house. I’d seen a couple of examples in their catalog of custom designs using triangular tiles (cut along the diagonal from full squares) and thought this might have some potential. (I know, triangles! We’re crazy!)

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We ordered several samples and ended up with the Made You Look line as it was a good balance between price, color options and texture. We sketched out a loose design (enough to order the right amount of tiles) and had Flor custom cut the colored tiles (totally worth the added $3/cut to get it precise) but didn’t decide on the final design till we put everything together. In theory, we could rearrange the tiles if we got bored with the current pattern, but so far so good.

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Best of all, the surface is much more conducive to playing on so we feel like we instantly gained a new play space for Avery.

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In our frenzy to finish the bedroom a few months ago, Kyle also made a valence for the smaller window in the nursery. (In the bedroom we used maple, but decided to stick with fir here.) It’s a small detail but hides the exposed hardware of the IKEA roller shade.

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We’re about a month away (+/-) from welcoming baby #2 and since we’re expecting another girl there hasn’t been much that we need to do to prep for her arrival. I’ve been making space in both the wardrobe and dresser for itty bitty baby clothes and diapers but the overall look and layout of the room will stay as-is for now. We still have plans to eventually set-up a makeshift nursery in my office downstairs (which will involve moving the glider down there and setting up the mini-crib that we purchased awhile back) but aren’t in a hurry since the space will first be used as a guest room by visiting family (and baby will sleep in our room).

Small space multitasking for the win!

making room for #2

As soon as we found out we were expecting baby #2, I started thinking about exactly how we were going to fit another small human in our house. There’s not an obvious solution (like an extra room!), but people live in much tighter living situations with two kiddos so I feel confident we can come up with something that will work for us.

Last week, we learned that we are having another girl(!), so we thought we’d go ahead and post about our current ideas. Gender doesn’t really make a difference for our immediate spatial needs, but it is fun to scheme about long-term plans for growing in our house. In fact, the ultrasound technician may have been a little perplexed as Kyle and I excitedly chatted about doing a “someday” addition with a sleeping loft for the girls. (Girls!) But for now, the focus is making it work without adding on. Like we did with Avery, the new baby will sleep in our room for the first few months. Avery actually slept better in her crib (meaning we slept better!) so we might try making the transition even sooner this time depending on what feels right.

As for where the baby will go – the options really come down to Avery’s room or the downstairs bedroom/office.

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As a reminder, here’s the current layout of Avery’s room (above). It’s a decent size room, but with the two big sliding doors we really only have three walls to work with. This limits layout options and makes it largely impossible to add a second full-size crib (and I’m not sure that’s the best solution anyway). Spatial logistics aside, I think our biggest goal will be to encourage sleep which will translate to being flexible. Since we don’t know how their schedules will mesh (I’ve heard some kids sleep better apart and some together) we don’t want to back ourselves into a single solution. (Also, the distance from our room to either space is about the same, so that isn’t really a factor for us.)

So, two options:

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Share a room – We’re big fans of room-sharing (we both shared with our younger siblings until we were teenagers) and I think this will definitely be the plan once the girls are a bit older. But until then, we will go with the setup that is best for sleep. This layout is cozy to say the least but I think it could work. The changes would actually be pretty minor and include:

Storage: the existing IKEA wardrobe and dresser have enough room to accommodate another kiddo for a while so I’m not too worried about that. There is some purging that can happen and we can replace the laundry basket (that currently sits on a shelf in the wardrobe) with a narrow hamper that sits between the dresser and wardrobe. I’ll probably remove another shelf and add two more drawers above the ones we already have. (I recently saw that IKEA no longer carries the plastic Pax drawers – I was bummed until I saw the replacement. Pretty!) The plywood toy/book storage boxes would still fit in this scenario but it would be tight.

Second crib: There’s really not enough room for a second full-size crib and I don’t think Avery will be ready to transition from hers anytime soon. (She has made no attempts to escape, so we’re not pushing it!) I tried rearranging to see if Avery’s crib could go somewhere else and free up more space, but it is in a good spot now as she can’t reach any switches or window shades/curtains. As a temporary solution, a mini crib makes sense. I think I would be completely sold on this idea if the one I wanted wasn’t so dang expensive. From what I’ve read, the reviews are mostly positive with the exception of just how long the crib can be used for (some babies outgrow it by 12 months and others can last until two). I think if we got at least a year out of it then Avery would be ready to transition to a “big girl” bed and baby #2 could move into the regular crib. I also feel confident that we could easily resell it on Craigslist and recoup some of the costs. Of course, the more pragmatic and logical side of me says to just use the Pack ‘n Play that we already own. It is bigger in size (somewhere between a mini crib and regular crib) but could probably fit. (It would be more cumbersome to move up and down the stairs, but I’ve done it before.) That said, it just feels too temporary to be a 12-month+ solution. #2 is already getting all the hand-me-downs from Avery so my less frugal and design-focused side says that we can afford to splurge on a few new items.

But I digress…

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Set up a satellite nursery in my office – If we find that it works better to have the girls in separate rooms, then the downstairs bedroom will become a guest bedroom/office/nursery. I’d have to do some purging and organizing (it still looks more or less like this, just messier), but I think we could make this work too. Because the space is already serving dual purposes, we keep all of our shared resources in Kyle’s office so I don’t actually have that much stuff. The desk and sofa bed would stay, leaving us enough room for a mini crib (or Pack ‘n Play, I guess…), the glider and the IKEA cart that’s already in the space. We would still keep most of the baby clothes and supplies in Avery’s room, but store extra diapers/wipes/clothes/etc. in the cart. We could also set-up a makeshift changing station on the chaise portion of the couch. Although we expect to use this room for visiting family after baby arrives, she would be in our room at the time so I think the overlap could work. And if we had guests later, we could just move the mini crib to our room or another part of the house. (I’m building a good argument for the mini crib, right?)

I admit that having a PC in a nursery is not very soothing (for baby or me!) but I think there are strategies to reduce the techy vibe. This setup could also work well during my “maternity leave”. As of now, I’m planning on working a reduced schedule after baby comes and as I get into the groove of having a newborn again. We would still have our regular nanny come to watch Avery during those first three months, leaving me more time to focus on #2 and work. With Avery, although my schedule was a little sporadic I was able to do quite a bit while she slept so maybe there’s something to be said about the two of us being holed up together in the downstairs room.

The good thing about these two options is that really, we can do both. We’ll probably start with the satellite nursery and go with that until we’re ready for the girls to share. Once Avery’s in a bigger bed and #2 is in a full-size crib, we’ll have to readjust again. At that point though, I think we’ll have a better idea of our long-term office plans (we’re still toying with the idea of remodeling the garage into a shop/office space). If we end up doing that, then the downstairs room could become a dedicated second bedroom or we convert that to a sleeping room for both girls and use the upstairs nursery as a play area. And if we eventually outgrow that, then we’ll do a small addition off the back of the house – a large family room of sorts with a third bathroom and sleeping loft above.

Anyone else out there making it work in a small house with two kiddos? Anyone used the Bloom Alma crib? We’d love to know what has worked (and what hasn’t!). I realize that the success of either scenario will depend on the kiddo and that one week may be completely different from another, so another reason we’re trying to stay as nimble as possible.