If you really care about life...


Monday, March 12, 2018

Here are some things (other than posting pro-life memes on social media) that you can do to help support new mothers. Let’s start off with the quick reminder that the number 1 reason women list as why they are choosing to abort a pregnancy is NOT “I don’t believe in the sanctity of life.” It’s actually about money. It’s about not having the resources or support to support a(nother) baby. If you want fewer abortions happening, we have to address the systemic issues that contribute to abortion. In my opinion, it comes down to supporting women and mothers. So please keep preaching about the importance of life. But UNLESS you are willing to do any or all of the following, just shut up and sit down:

  • Offer to adopt the pregnant mother's baby (if willing to do this, you must agree to the following as well):
  • Pay for all of the mother and baby's medical bills
  • Drive her to all her prenatal appointments
  • Pick up her prescriptions
  • Help her obtain public assistance in the form of WIC and food stamps (or more if needed)
  • Offer to cover the cost of her groceries and any other needs related to her pregnancy like a new maternity wardrobe.
  • Help her get a restraining order from her abusive boyfriend
  • Offer her a safe place to live
  • Convince her employer to NOT discriminate against her because she is pregnant
    • If that doesn't work, offer her a job
  • Convince her employer to give her *at least* 6 weeks of paid leave after childbirth in order to heal from PUSHING A HUMAN BEING OUT OF HER BODY. IT HURTS LIKE HELL AND YOU BLEED OUT OF YOUR VAGINA FOR *WEEKS* BECAUSE YOU HAVE AN INTERNAL WOUND THE SIZE OF A FOOTBALL. Plus she might want to get to know her baby and learn how to breastfeed.
  • Pay for a doula of her choice to attend to her emotional needs during and after labor. 
  • Get qualified lactation support for her if that is her choice.
  • If you are in a position of power, ensure that your company has paid leave for new mothers and fathers. (Dads need to be home supporting mom and baby too!)
If you aren't willing to do any of those things, I've got another list for you, pick any:
  • Shut up and sit down.
  • Lobby for paid sick and family leave at your local city council.
  • Call your state and Congressional representatives and tell them you demand paid family leave or you will find a candidate for the upcoming midterms that does support it.
  • Call your state and Congressional representatives and tell them you demand maternal mortality quality review boards or you will find a candidate for the upcoming midterms that does support it.
  • Call your Congressional representatives and tell them you demand universal healthcare or you will find a candidate for the upcoming midterms that does support it.
Feminists and others who actually care about women and babies, what have I left out?

Motherhood is all I can do


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Disclaimer/reminder: My choices are not a judgment of your choices.

On a quick sailing trip last summer, I learned a lot about motherhood in a single moment. We launched the boat, all 3 kids and both adults in life jackets, into a small lake. Our boat is small but roomy enough (it has a small cabin) for our family. This was our third time out, first time at this lake. I was getting excited to learn more about sailing and help Nate with raising the sails and maybe even steering. We have a small motor to get us going if needed. We motored out a ways to raise the sails. We gave the boys some food to keep them occupied in the cabin and I set the baby down at my feet so she could toddle over to Nate who was steering while I started raising the sails. Everything quickly fell apart. The baby was screaming to nurse because she was scared in these new surroundings, the boys were fighting and climbing out of the cabin. The wind was blowing the sail all over the place, the boom fell and almost hit Riah and Nate in the face. Nate and I are both screaming at the boys. I'm yelling, "I can figure this out!" It was all very stressful. I wanted to show Nate that I did care about this, that I wanted to learn.

Well, I did not figure it out. We pulled the sails down and all took a breather.

I suddenly felt like a mother trying to go back to work after having a baby. You want to prove to yourself (and perhaps the world) that you can handle this. What's different about my little experience and mothers going back to work postpartum is that going back to work is a necessity. When really, it shouldn't be. You should be allowed to "just" be a mom. To "just" hold that baby a little longer. To "just" engage with your older children and reduce conflict. Being fully present as a mom takes all you have. Your whole heart, your whole mind and certainly both your arms. It seems absurd to make a mother go to work when she is clearly so needed by her children. As absurd as I was trying to raise a sail while everyone was screaming and the wind was blowing. At least while they are little, our children do not want or need anything but their loving parents. We are their world, their guiding North Star. And so we should make them ours. We can "have it all" when we realize they are the "all" that we need.

For this particular season of my life, I have chosen to end my career and educational pursuits to focus on my family. Being fully present and preparing to be the primary educator for them are big goals. I feel such peace in simplifying my goals to focus on them.

We did not sail that day. We set down our anchor and swam in the beautiful deep water. Just holding my baby and fully engaging with her in the simplest ways was the peace we needed.

Many women feel true fulfillment when working out of the home. I also find fulfillment in paid work that I am passionate about. Rising inflation, rising home prices, and our modern lifestyles require most households have two working partners. And too many women are forced to work low paying and unfulfilling jobs when they would rather be with their children. As I stated before, it is no secret that our children need us. It is time we acknowledge that from a policy standpoint. Having the choice to stay home with your children shouldn't only be an option for the rich and privileged.

So how can we help mothers who want to stay home with their young children? Here are some ideas that have been discussed and some that are used in other countries:

-Paid (even partially paid) family leave for a year or more after the birth of a child or adoption (more info)
-Universal basic income. More info on this from the BBC podcast, People Fixing the World
-Mothers at home receive pay for childcare the same as government subsidized childcare.
-Onsite daycare. Patagonia has been a champ at this for 30 years. (It makes sense financially too.)
-Increase the minimum wage and wages across the board (wages have been stagnant in the US for decades)  so couples feel less economic pressure to have both partners work away from home.
-Reduce housing costs for the same reasons as above
-Make college more affordable and eliminate predatory student loans.
-Normalize career breaks
-Improve job training and career entry support after a break in job history so mothers feel they will be able to successfully re-enter the workforce after a time at home.

I don't think any one of these is a silver bullet. And much of what is listed requires a cultural change. But if any generation can do it, our's can. I think a multi-faceted approach will have the best results. But any one of them would be a good start for the U.S.

"Mothers belong at home" is something I would never tell anyone because it reeks of sexism. But saying women belong with their children is something different. I've written about this some before in my post, "How to Really Help Families." Erica Komisar, a social worker and pyschoanalyst has been outspoken about this. I'm excited to read her book, "Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the Frist Three Years Matters."

I think this is actually an issue that conservatives and liberals can come together on. We all want to do what is best for our children. And giving women an actual choice on being home with her children is something liberals might agree with. I do worry about the way we sometimes are martyrs for motherhood. Because we want to be with them as much as possible, we forget our own needs. Since adding our third child to our family, I've realized just how mentally difficult it is to be a mother. I've had to take more breaks for alone time and self-care. Evolutionarily speaking, it is 100% normal and natural to keep your children close to home. But the way we live--away from extended family, in disjointed neighborhoods and one parent working miles and miles away from home every day--is 100% unnatural and not at all normal, evolutionarily speaking. We don't live in close-knit villages anymore. As much I want to run away to a commune and live off the land, we can't. We have to find ways to re-create the village for all families so each child is given what they deserve: a strong attachment.

What are your thoughts on this? I know this can be a tender subject for many. I genuinely want to know what you think. I strongly believe that each mother knows what is best for her family and will fight like mad to do that thing. Like I said at the beginning of this post, my choices are not a judgment of your choices. As a feminist, I believe that women should be the primary decision-makers of their lives. And as a maternal feminist, I believe mothers should be supported in real tangible ways to stay home with their children (if that is their choice), especially in the first year postpartum. My point is, right now, too many women do not have a choice. Can't wait to hear your thoughts...

Edited 3/12/18 to share some more thoughts. I really appreciated this article from the Washington Post: We need to change the conversation about moms and work to consider other perspectives. I loved this, "My decision honored generations of women who went before me. The fact is, the role of stay-at-home moms is often undervalued, not because it isn’t valuable work but because it is not a role traditionally held by men. The idea that women have been freed from the chains of full-time motherhood to pursue more meaningful work is sexism disguised as enlightenment, and it’s an insult to generations of women who dedicated their lives to full-time mothering and homemaking. I never want my children to see SAHMs as less interesting, intelligent or hard-working than other moms. Rather, I want my sons and my daughters to realize that stay-at-home parenting is as valuable and worthwhile as any paying career to which they could aspire."

Prioritizing the postpartum period and the early years of our children is linked to our we view breastfeeding as well. If we truly believe breastfeeding is what all children need and deserve, wouldn't we do more than toss a breast pump in the mother's general direction? This article from Slate by Zuzan Boehmova does a great job of explaining why our current system of providing breast pumps is not enough. She offers some suggestions as well.

Screen-free(ish) kids


Friday, February 2, 2018

This isn't meant to be advice, just an explanation of what's working for our family right now. I'm sure things will change and we will adjust as time goes on. Right now and for the past year, this has been working really well for us.

Screen-free(ish) kids 100% entertained by watching baked potatoes cook :D

Screens in our home:
My iPhone
Nate's iPhone
Desktop computer
Mini DVD player

Friday Night Movie Night
So about a year and a half ago, we changed our family rules on screens and it has been going really well. Up until then, we had a couple alphabet apps for them and allowed a show or two just about every day. But every time it was time to turn it off, we had a complete meltdown on our hands. Can't remember what or who inspired it, but we started a weekly movie night and deleted all the kid apps. No shows, movies, Netflix or apps for the kids all week. This has been marvelous for our family. They look forward to movie night and no longer beg to watch a show. Meltdowns and tantrums have decreased. Their imaginative play has increased. They don't reach for my phone when they are bored when we are out and about. Instead, they play together. They make up games. And the boys know to bring a book when we leave for errands. 

Full disclosure
We are not super strict about this. A couple times a week I might turn on Daniel Tiger or Octonauts for them while I shower. But because we have developed this great habit of limited screens over the past year, they are fine when it's time to turn it off. 

Last week in the airport and hotel room, they probably watched Empire Strikes Back like 5 times. Whatever. I don't have any guilt for that. The great thing was when we got home, they willingly put away the mini DVD player and were happy to be back to their Legos. 

Minnesota winters are long and cold. We have had movie night more than once a week lately and we still feel really good about that. Especially when its a nature documentary. The important thing is, we made limited screen time over the past several months very intentional.

And we definitely use my phone and the desktop to show them videos or other things that we are studying.

The TV
When we got married, we basically said we would never get a TV. We saw no need for it. Cable is a rip-off in our opinion. Streaming works great for us, no need for a giant screen. Well when we moved here, Nate's brother upgraded to a bigger TV and gave us this one. I kept it in the basement until recently. One day we will get a sectional or something for down there. But for now, it's comfier on the main floor to watch our weekly movie. And Planet Earth is so much better on a big screen :). But I'm a dumby and cannot figure out how to use the old xBox to stream things. So we are limited with the TV to when Nate is home, haha. Works for me!

Adult screen time
Seeing how well the kids do off screens reminds us how important it is for us to do the same. I think it's impossible to be completely screen free. It's how we communicate with family and other adults. But it's obvious to both of us how distracted we can be with our phones. I've been aware I've been using social media too much for a long time and finally started pulling back recently. I don't know if I'll go back to Instagram. I miss seeing updates from friends there, but I don't miss the endless scrolling and the fakery and coordinated/posed photos. (I'm guilty of that too!) Nate doesn't use social media but streams Netflix a lot on his phone when home. He's made efforts lately to slow down on that and he loves the results. Both of us are trying to be more intentional together about making personal changes. Next up is deleting FB off my phone and only using it 1-2x a day like the old days on the desktop. 

Looking back
This is more or less what my parents had us do growing up! We weren't allowed shows during the week. We did not have Gameboys or any gaming system. No computers or TVs in our rooms. We totally snuck cartoons, and later, MTV before mom got home from work but overall, I think mom and dad's guidelines for us had positive results.

Great advice on screens: "Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly together."via NPR
50 Ways to Unplug
Screentime recommendations for children

Baby Carrier Review Pt. 2


Monday, January 1, 2018

In 2015 I did a baby carrier review of every carrier I had used up until that point. Well, I'm still obsessed and have tried a few more since then so it's time for an update!

nursing in the wrap!
Solly Baby Wrap
I mentioned this one in my last post, but since I used it so much with Riah, it merits its own section. After getting dressed, I would just wrap it to have it ready. And just wore it like that for basically 3 months straight. It was perfect for us. My mom got me this pretty orange one too! These photos were made for Lactation Link. It was great for nursing too. By 3 or 4 months, she wasn't loving being in the wrap anymore. We switched to the Ergobaby 360 with her facing out and she was so happy about that! She had a phase where she really only wanted to face out. When she was old enough to ride on my back, she liked that too.

Ergobaby Performance Ventus
This is probably my favorite carrier. We have had it for about 2 years and I don't see me passing it along at any point. I love the tall panel, it allows it to be used well into toddlerhood. The mesh is of course great for summer and really anytime because let's face it, two bodies being pressed together and it gets hot any time of year! I highly recommend this one. But it's probably best once baby is a bit taller since the panel is so tall. You can, of course, use it from birth with an insert. I reach for this one the most.

Ergobaby Adapt
I borrowed this one from my local Babywearing International Group when Riah was a few months old. I really, really like this one. If you are going to get an Ergo, get this one. You can use it from birth without an insert. That makes such a difference! One less thing to carry around and much less hot. I was sad to have to give that one back when my month was up. It's very similar to the Original Ergo in all other ways and I definitely recommend it. These photos were made for Lactation Link too.

Fidella Ring Sling
I really wanted to like this! With 3 kids, all the buckles and straps of a SSC (soft structured carrier) was getting to be a bit much, I wanted something I could put Riah in really quickly. So I borrowed a super nice one from my BWI group again and I just didn't love it. Even though she was only a few weeks old and super light, it was still achey on that one shoulder. Sad. Some people really love ring slings though. That's why it's so nice to be able to try them out before you buy! Everyone is so different.

This is a great wrap for little babies and for moms who are overwhelmed with all the wrapping needed for a Solly or Moby. My sister passed her's down to me and I use it as a back-up and love recommending it. Wish I had a photo to share!

Fidella Fly Tai
After Riah grew out of my Solly Baby, I really wanted a pretty wrap again! I have been drooling over the Fly Tai for awhile and when they came out with this print, I snatched it up fast! Tying the ends in pretty ways was fun for a time but it's just not me. It really only made sense for me to tie it at home because I didn't want the long tails getting dirty out and about. And what's a pretty wrap if no one can see it? ;) Aaaaand I don't find it particularly comfy. I find myself unwrapping it and grabbing the Ventus. I could use some more practice with it. I think I will give it another chance. Also, the hood is really short. Bridger has to help me with it when Riah is on my back. I keep this one in hopes of another and final Parr baby :) And we have used it as a hammock under the kitchen table:)

Tula (Standard size)
I saw this one on a local classified listing and I just bought it kind of on a whim! Everyone says if you love Ergo and try a Tula, you will never go back to Ergo. I haven't been convinced of that yet. The straps are a bit wider and puffier but I really haven't noticed a huge difference. I still switch between this one and my Ventus the most. Also, the hood is really short. Bridger has to help me with it when Riah is on my back. I'm noticing a pattern here! I think Tula's new Free to Grow has a better hood. But Ergo has the best hoods! Nate pictured here with the Tula too but he prefers the Ergobaby Performance too.

Wish List:
The good news is I got everything I listed on my wish list last time...so maybe that will happen again ;) Riah is old enough now that I really don't need anymore but...

It would be great to have a soft-structured carrier that is really floppy and soft...like a wrap conversion! Not sure which one yet though...

And I still think they are beautiful, but my experience with the Fly Tai has taught me that I'm not one for a woven...yet! ;) But really, I need quick ups and the wovens just seem like too much work for me! However, I am really drooling over these traditional African wraps that Ms. Wright is selling.

Okay, last one. I have no use for them since I don't like wovens or ring slings, but Kantha Bae wraps just have me drooling all the time. Maybe I'll save up for one of her quilts!

What I'm Reading: Home Education Edition 1


I don't know when I started thinking about homes eduaction, but when we made the decision last summer, I know it had been on my mind for a few years. We are excited to continue our slow mornings, learn at our own pace and have the freedom to travel, play, run wild and follow the spark!

I've read loads of books and articles, listened to lots of books and podcasts and throughout all this have slowly created our educational philosophy. This will guide our educational endeavors as we go along. Nate and I also created a family vision that will guide our choices as well. In case others are interested or are on a similar path, below I am cataloging various resources that have informed us so far.

Just like when I wanted to do something else a little off the mainstream (natural birth), I feel like I needed to immerse myself in stories of successful families and learn how others do it. I needed research and facts too. When preparing for Colden's birth, I parked myself in front of the birth/motherhood/parenting section at the library until I had all the info I needed. This process has been much similar. More stories and whole lot more books!

My favorite homeschool resources so far:

Wild + Free. This is an online community that supports families who home educate. Their recent Facebook Live was a great primer for their philosophy. I subscribed and received their monthly bundles for a year. My favorite part was getting access to their audio interviews and conference talks. I would listen at night while cleaning up and I felt like I had a kitchen full of veteran homeschool moms cheering me on! Now they post parts of their interviews on their free podcast. This past fall I found myself searching for more resources and I realized I had a giant shelf of resources from their bundles that I had not really touched! So I stopped my subscription and am going through all those resources now and finding some great treasures.

The Peaceful Preschool: We used this last year with a small preschool co-op and we liked it. And I still use some things from it. I really like the resources at the beginning for parents like how to create a family vision and more.
Exploring Nature with Children: This is a fabulous resource and we are using it loosely this year. I think it will be a cornerstone for us going forward.

These I have read and loved! I have highlighted, scribbled lots of notes and really come to find where our hearts are when it comes to home education and our lifestyle in general. Full disclosure, I haven't completed some of these because I tend to read/listen to 4-5 books at a time but I have read enough and gleaned enough from them to feel comfortable recommending them to you.

The Unhurried Homeschooler by Durenda Wilson
The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond & Dorothy Moore
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Samson
Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Grotto
Your Child's Growing Mind by Jane Healy

Up next list. I've always got a big stack of books ready to read next.
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille
Awakening Children's Minds by Laura Berk
The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik
There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk
The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori
Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore
Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget by Jennifer Pepito

Other articles and resources in my Homeschool and Homeschool Facts boards.

What helped you most when making the decision to homeschool?

A list of things we do not buy & why


Thursday, December 28, 2017

In the past few years, our family has tried to become more environmentally conscious. We all want to do more to make this planet livable for our children and grandchildren. And that often means doing LESS. Less driving, less travel, less meat, etc. And it also means buying less.

So many of today's goods are disposable. While I'm not so concerned about the number of products going to landfills, because I believe the U.S. has great waste programs that keep waste collected and not in water, I am concerned about items that never make it to garbage receptacles and flow into storm drains and our waterways. We've all seen the photos of beaches and ocean covered and filled with plastic pollution. What I am most concerned about is the amount of energy (fossil fuels) used in the creation and distribution of disposable items. Other consumables come with a tremendous amount of waste in their wrappers and so forth. So here is a list of items that we do not buy (or try not to!) and what we have replaced them with. I have ZERO judgments on what any of you do, everyone is on a different journey. I hope you find a few new ideas to try out from this list. Please comment on ones you do that I haven't listed! 

Items we do not buy and what we do instead
  • Bottled water--we have clean water coming through our home in several locations. Why would we buy water that was sourced irresponsibly and packaged in materials that are harmful to the Earth? (Can you tell this is a moral issue for me? ha!)
  • Napkins--cloth napkins
  • Paper towels--I still somehow have a couple rolls hanging around but I haven't bought them. I think Nate sneaks them in the house, ha! Washcloths do everything paper towels can. We use newspapers to wash windows and mirrors. 
  • Disposable cutlery--when we go on picnics, we pack our normal cutlery and bring it home. 
  • Paper plates & cups--We have a dishwasher, no need for paper plates or cups.
  • Plastic wrap--we use Beeswrap instead. Love it!
  • Fancy cleaning products--We clean with a water+vinegar+lavender combo for the kitchen. Ajax for the toilets and deep-cleaning the sink. We get a big jug of something strong once or twice a year that we dilute for the floors. That's pretty much it!
  • Ziploc bags--I still haven't figured out how to 100% get rid of these because I use them to store prepared chicken breasts in the freezer but we have cut down our use of them by probably 80%. I use reusable snack containers for snacks rather than plastic bags.
  • Granola bars--We make a few batches every week for snacks and quick breakfasts.
  • Fruit snacks--We eat real fruit. Packaged snacks are saved for long plane rides!
  • Applesauce--got lucky and we have an apple tree in our backyard so I canned a bunch of applesauce. We will buy it when we run out but it was nice to can so much!
  • Popsicles--we have a popsicle mold we pour juice in to.
  • Breakfast granola--We make this as well and it's soooo good!
  • Cooking spray--We use old fashioned olive oil or butter and for cookie sheets a sil-pat mat.
  • Tampons and pads--I use a menstrual cup. I'm getting the hang of it so I still use a pantiliner for back up. Learn more about menstrual cups here.
  • Fancy fragrances/lotions/soaps/shampoos--The 5 of us all the same shampoo/conditioner, bar of soap and lotion. In the last few years, body sprays have not been my friend so I avoid them now. I'd like to switch to a shampoo bar. Any suggestions?
  • Fabric softener--we have 3 wool balls in the dryer
  • Shaving cream--unnecessary for me. Nate has a can that lasts him like year because he is fully bearded :)
  • Make-up--don't wear it anymore except for mascara sometimes.

Other ways we cut down on waste:
  • Using cloth bags at the grocery store. This has got to be the easiest green choice to make. You probably already have cloth bags sitting around at home. They make grocery trips so much easier too! Ya know, they actually carry your groceries and don't rip! We use small cloth bags for produce and bulk bin foods as well as big bags at the end of our trip. A common question I've had is what do you use for small garbage liners without plastic bags? I can't say we don't have any plastic bags in our house because sometimes we forget the cloth bags when we go out so we use those.  And I also found some small "plastic" bags made from corn. 
  • Re-filling honey and maple syrup in bulk. At our Whole Foods Co-op, we can bring the same container back again and again to re-fill honey, maple syrup, olive oil, peanut butter and more.
  • Eating whole foods. Pre-packaged items aren't usually all that good for us anyway, so why would they be good for the planet?
  • Buying second-hand whenever possible.
  • Purchasing food from the farmers market or a CSA whenever possible.
Other ideas for cutting down on waste:
  • My friend Maria carries stainless steel cutlery and small travel dishes with her so she can use those instead of paper products at events with food.
  • When travelling, bring a large jug of water to re-fill your water bottles. In the summertime, we do this but freeze the big bottle first so we have cold water after hikes :)
  • Don't eat fast food. We totally eat fast food. But we definitely go less since moving here. (No Chikfila! So sad!) But cutting back even one fast food meal cuts back on so much waste!
  • And probably the best thing we can do is to stop buying cheap products like fast fashion that last only a season. Buying fewer, more quality items will make such a difference.
I challenge you to take one or more of these ideas and apply them to your family this week. You can do it! What did I miss? What is your favorite way to cut down on waste?

How we came to purchase our 1st home


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Photo by Miranda Lavender

This is not meant to be an advice article, we are complete newbies at home buying so this post is more about chronicling how we got here!

We have been toying with home ownership for about 4.5 years! After we graduated, Nate did not have a real job for a few months so we stayed with family. That was an incredible blessing and I hope to pay it forward in the future for our children or another young family. When he got his job, we got a realtor and almost bought a condo. But I just couldn't let myself buy something with no outdoor space for Bridger (he was a baby at the time). Luckily, we came across our rental and lived there for 4 years! With rent + utilities totaling $850/month, our little junky house couldn't be beat! But the catch was, the land had been re-zoned for high-density housing and could be sold at any time to developers.

Photo by Cate Johnson

So because of that, we continued to toy with the idea of buying. Sometime in 2014 we shopped around but with a budget of $150,000...the houses were so terrible that we put that idea quickly out of mind. (I'm talking about homes with 6 ft ceilings, dirt basement floors all on teeny lots.)

We even toyed with the idea of a tiny house. But like many tiny home enthusiasts have found, finding a place to park it is no easy task. The point of a tiny home is to park it on a beautiful piece of land so you can spend most of your time outside. But as much as we loved Utah, land prices were enormous! So this idea didn't last.

We continued to save and dream of a house all our own on a little property. In the meantime, we enjoyed the little rental and the big lot it sat on! We had a great neighborhood and friends close by. But with each addition to our family, that 800 sq ft got smaller and smaller! And the fact that it could sell to developers at any time hung over our heads. We never really felt settled.

Photo by Cate Johnson

As we dreamed of what we wanted in a future home, we realized how hard it would be to find in Utah. Every several months, Nate would spend a lot of time applying for jobs elsewhere. In fall 2015, he got a job offer in Maine but we ended up turning it down. Our rental was finally sold to developers and we wondered when we would need to move out.

The following fall (2016), we joined a rural housing development grant program. In Utah, it was known as Self Help Homes. Basically, you put in a bunch of sweat equity and get a new home at a smaller price. We were excited for a while but the lot was TINY and after getting a better idea of what was required (30 hours of work each week at specific times), we weren't feeling it anymore! And we realized, we don't even want to live in Utah...why would we sacrifice months and pay for this house if we don't want to really be here?! So we pulled out.

Anyway, the months went by. Nate had a job interview in Washington. Then he applied for a job in the Twin Cities. When neither of those worked out, we decided that we ought to try settling down in Utah once and for all. It felt good to make a decision on that! It helped that we were out tromping in the snow at Rock Canyon on a beautiful Utah winter day. So we got preapproved again (this time for more money, lol) and started shopping. Haley Ostler was so helpful for this! We even put an offer on a home in Provo. After we didn't get that one, nothing really felt right. A home would check all our boxes (or most of them!) but we couldn’t say yes. During this time, I found the Duluth job opening and Nate applied!

Saying yes to this job was so easy. We had been hoping for a change for years. We loved Utah and tried to appreciate each unique part of it but it never felt like home. We needed green. We needed water! We needed more space. And cheaper housing options!! (The homes we were looking at in Utah were $220-230k and the same kind of--or better--homes in Duluth were $160-190k). Some really cool things fell together for us. My midwife had spent a lot of time last year jumping through hoops for us and we were reimbursed for the majority of the cost of Riah’s birth! And we got a GIANT tax return. We were able to put that money away for a down payment. (In Utah, we had to apply for down payment assistance.)

So when Nate got to Duluth, he went to look at a home outside of Duluth in a rural area. The realtor was really pushy and it even though it was the first house he had seen, she told him to put an offer on it or there would probably be a bidding war. We had no idea what the market was like and decided to go ahead with the offer. When I saw it, I loved the land! Tons of space for letting the kids grow up wild. Wasn’t excited about the house at all. It had potential but needed some work. And with it being on a small river, the fear of a flood was very real. After the inspection, we decided to pull out. It had so many issues!! And it was at the top of our budget anyway.

Once we got a little settled in Duluth, I realized how much I liked being in town and we both liked being closer to Lake Superior. So we decided since this is our first home, trading in lots of land for being in town and close to Superior was a good deal. Getting a house way out in the country in a brand new place seemed really isolating. Anyway, we got a new realtor (we loved Liz!) and she took us to dozens of homes. We got close to offers on a couple others but weird maintenance things came up. The search was stressful but also fun! I loved going to see homes!

Photos by Miranda Lavender
We are so glad we found this home! It's super close to the Lake, in a nice neighborhood, no work is needed and it's beautiful! Despite it being on a city lot, we feel like we have a pretty good amount of space and we feel like we are still living by the majority of our values with big trails and parks are within walking distance. We can also walk to just about everything we really need (except our church is like 10 miles away). A grocery store, doctor, dentist, bakery and more are within a mile. We feel supremely lucky. In 7-10 years, we can think about a new place with land but for now, we are so excited to be settled into our first home!!

All photos minus the Utah home ones are by Miranda Lavender. We loved having her do our family photos at home!!

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