Monday, June 23, 2014

Cutting the Dreads: a difficult decision and a step-by-step process

I started this post last summer, but somehow the majority of it was accidentally deleted, so I got discouraged and hadn't finished it until now.

Several months ago, my husband, daughter, and I went to Minnesota to visit family. Before coming home, we made a special trip north to visit the great-grandparents and get the haircut. I have been putting off this blog post, mostly because I am still having trouble with the idea that the dreads are gone for good, but also because I have just been so busy lately.

The decision to cut the dreads was not an easy one, especially for me. I had never known my husband before dreads. When I met him, he told me that he wanted to grow his dreads out until he could get them back into a ponytail, at least. Initially, I wasn't attached to the dreads. I thought about running my fingers through his silky soft hair, instead of spending hours weaving loose hairs into the coarse ropes. Over the course of the next three years, I became accustomed to seeing him with dreads and I became rather fond of his hair. If you know me, you know that am not one to make drastic changes without careful consideration, and this was no exception. In March, my husband made some off-hand comment to introduce the idea...something like, "How long are you thinking we'll keep the dreads?" I remember being somewhat shocked. "Um, you said you thought we'd keep them until you could get them into a ponytail, and then you said you wanted to have them until our kids could remember you with dreads. Have you changed your mind?" He thought for a few minutes and said, "I don't know. I think I am over it...but obviously I am not going to make a decision like that without you on board."

He went on to say that he missed scratching his head and wearing baseball caps. He missed being able to fit into helmets properly for snowmobiling and snowboarding. He didn't like how long it was taking to dry dreadlocks after a shower, which was a problem since his occupation includes plowing snow. I said I would think about it. It took a few months before I decided that it was going to be okay with me if he wanted to be done with the dreads. I still had doubts when we made plans with his cousin, who agreed to cut them, and as we drove to her salon, my stomach was in knots. We left the baby with family, since I thought it might be traumatic to see the dreads being cut and falling on the floor. Who knows what a 1-year-old might think? Oh, and the majority of the family didn't know that he was even considering losing the dreads, so it was a surprise for them!

Here is my handsome husband, ready for his haircut. After verifying that we were sure that cutting the dreads was what we wanted to do, she started cutting them off, one by one, from the back. She offered to let me cut a few, but I really didn't want to. I admit it, I was cringing. Seeing them fall to the floor was difficult for me, but there was no turning back at that point. Rumor has it that if you want to keep post-dread hair long(ish), you can cut the dreads to about four inches and comb it out with conditioner, but we wanted his hair short, so we didn't try that method.

Pretty soon, there were 87 dreads on the floor, and only two to go. All over his head, there were little tufts of hair sticking up. Having never seen my husband without dreads, I was suddenly very apprehensive. This was NOT what I had pictured.

She started combing out the tufts, one by one. His hair looked scraggly and coarse, not silky and smooth, as he had assured me it would be. She washed it out, and it started to look a little better. He looked totally different. Somehow, cutting the dreads seemed to make him look a lot younger, in my opinion. She started cutting his hair as only a professional can, talking and laughing the whole time. I am so glad that she was the one to cut them off. She washed one more time before she styled his hair on his drastically different new hairdo.

There were some pretty great reactions to his new look, but my favorite came from our daughter. This was her face as he walked through the door. She didn't know what to think. It took her maybe three seconds before she said, "Daddy!" and after that, she was fine. 

I do enjoy being able to run my fingers through his hair, and not having them rub up against the side of my face at night when they end up on my pillow. 

I also miss them. When I see pictures, I get all nostalgic. But hey, I get to practice giving boy haircuts now. This is the video tutorial I used to learn how to cut his hair. 

I know some people were curious about hair after dreads, so I hope that the pictures helped you visualize the process. It has been almost a year now since the cutting of the dreadlocks, and he has no plans of having dreads again. On a side note, I found that people were very honest after the dreads were gone. Some admitted to hating them, and some said that they missed them. It is interesting to me how strong opinions about dreads can be. Then again, I hated them before I met my husband, I grew attached to him in the dreads, and now I miss them when they are gone. That is just the way life goes, isn't it?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Planning our tiny house with a growing family in mind

Last year, I wrote a semi-vague post about our decision to downsize and simplify. What I didn't mention then was our decision to start planning to build a tiny house. If you aren't familiar with the tiny house movement, I suggest you google it because there is enough information out there to warrant entire blogs. Technically, a tiny house is any living space that is less than 400 square feet. Generally, the floor space of a typical tiny house is much smaller than that. Many tiny houses are built on trailer frames with wheels and are designed to be sustainable and portable.

Most of the tiny houses that I have read about online are owned by single people or couples. I have only found a small handful of tiny house families with more than one child. We are pregnant with our second child and intend to have more, so building our tiny house requires some unique forethought.

When planning and building a tiny house, sacrifices must be made. Downsizing belongings, appliances, appliance size, plumbing, electronics, floor space, door and window sizes, conveniences, and head space are some common sacrifices. Downsizing belongings is the easiest place to start, but it has proven to be quite difficult. I remember exactly how much I paid for each picture frame and casserole dish, and yard sale prices often feel like highway robbery. One thing I have done to cope with this is to tell myself that these items won't fit into the tiny house anyway, so if we can't sell them for something, we will have get rid of them by other means. Getting anything money-wise is better than nothing, right?

Stuff can be hard to part with, especially when it is stuff that I will likely have to buy again later. For example, I have a Barbie doll that my parents gave me as a young teen. She is a Swedish Barbie in a traditional dirndl. I don't collect Barbies, but I never opened the box because I felt that I was too old to play with Barbies at the time. In researching what I could get for her, it seems that she sells for up to $20, on a good day, new in box. I have a two-year-old daughter who doesn't have any Barbies yet, but loves baby dolls and cherishes every moment that she is allowed to hold my American Girl Dolls. The dolls in the "pink aisles" at the store leave something to be desired. The heavy make-up and sexy outfits marketed to toddlers and young girls concern me. Should I sell the Swedish Barbie in the beautiful outfit and buy a scantily-clad Barbie doll at the store in a year or two, or should I stash the Barbie in our limited storage space and give it as a gift? My gut says to stash it for later, but my husband wants it to be put on Ebay. (For the time being, it is stashed. I can always get rid of it later.) I could write an entire post about my struggles with thinning out my books . . .

For a family of four or more, sacrificing appliances like washers and dryers can make a lot of extra work for everyone. I purchased a Wonderwash and Nina Soft Spin Dryer from The Laundry Alternative and tried using them for a few months before making a decision about a washer and dryer in the tiny house. The Wonderwash is a step up from a bucket washer, and has a nice crank on the side for manual washing. The tub can actually hold more laundry than I had anticipated, and it does a nice job. The spin dryer requires some forethought in that you can't wash your pants in the morning, run them through the spin dryer, and expect to wear them right away. I does get out more of the water than a regular washing machine's spin cycle. However, having a child in cloth diaper meant that I had to do two loads each day to stay on top of the laundry. If it piled up, it was very intimidating and my arms would get sore after about three loads. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to put a full-size washer and dryer into the tiny house, even if it meant
sacrificing something else. I really liked our front-loading washer and dryer that we used to have, so we plan on getting something similar, whether new or used. A single person or couple may be able to get away with using the Wonderwash and spin dryer or a laundromat, but my husband and I will be working full-time for the time being, and every minute that we can save laundry-wise is a minute that can be spent with the family.

Many tiny houses have cook tops and toaster ovens instead of regular full-sized ranges. Some people replace the stove with a microwave. With a growing family daily cooking and baking, this wasn't something I was willing to do. I want a gas stove and oven that can accommodate four pans on top at the same time and my regular baking pans in the oven. We could probably manage with an apartment-size range, but we recently acquired a full-size used gas stove/oven that fit all of our criteria, so we will use that. I'm not going to lie; I am excited! A lot of tiny houses use small dorm-size fridges or coolers instead of full-sized fridges, but again, that won't work well for us. The supermarket in town is pretty decent in terms of supplying us with the basic necessities, but unless I catch a good sale, I generally have to stock up on food when I am downriver. The closest big supermarket is nearly two hours away. We need to have sufficient fridge and freezer space to store a few weeks worth of food for our growing family. We also have a chest freezer which comes in handy when my husband provides us with venison or moose meat. The chest freezer isn't going to fit in the tiny house and will likely have to stay outside. A full-size fridge/freezer will be in the kitchen of our tiny house.

I spent a great deal of time this year researching toilets or all kinds. Composting toilets are pretty common in tiny houses because they can be as simple as a dressed-up five-gallon bucket. However, since we don't own the land we will be building on and won't have an adequate location for composting or using our "compost" in a flower garden, we are opting to hook a regular toilet into the town water and sewer. Eventually, on our own land, we will plan to have a well and septic system. Another popular option is an incinerating toilet, which I thought would be terrifying for potty-training-toddlers. We are not taking our house on the road and only intend to move it a few times, so it isn't necessary to have the house be super-portable. We are also putting a tub into the tiny house, because we do have little kids and they take baths. Heck, I may even take baths sometimes. We are opting for a lightweight acrylic 4.5' soaking tub. Our bathroom is luxuriously large, for a tiny house, but I think we will appreciate the elbow room during bath time and when we are potty training our children.

Electronics-wise, we got rid of our desktop computer and are using a laptop and ipad. We haven't had our printer hooked up since October and are trying to decide if it will make it into the tiny house. We have a 42" flat screen TV that we intend to mount on the wall in the living room and our DVD player is drying a slow and terrible death (it will eventually be replaced with a DVD/Blue Ray player, but we are limping it along until then).

We are definitely sacrificing floor space and head space in our 8' x 36' tiny house. It is a trade-off. If we didn't need a walk-in bedroom downstairs, we would have more living room space. Eventually, we may knock out the wall to the baby's room and expand our regular living space. We have tried to organize our tiny house to maximize the small floor space that we have. We have a galley kitchen and sliding doors for the bathroom and baby's room. We have incorporated a lot of windows and a high ceiling in the entryway to make the space feel larger. We will have a table, but benches instead of chairs. Our stairs will be steeper than normal stairs and will have storage space under them. Stairs are becoming increasingly popular over ladders in tiny houses, simply because they are easier to use. With little kids, we felt that stairs were a necessity. Our sleeping lofts will have 4.5'  from the floor to the peak of the barn-style roof. Our house has two sleeping lofts--one for my husband and me, and one for the kids. Their loft is bigger than ours, since they will likely be playing up there and storing some toys and clothes in that space as well. Ours will have some storage space and sleeping space, and that is probably about it.

We spent months planning our floor plan. It changed probably hundreds of times. We looked at thousands of pictures online, and watched numerous Youtube tiny house tours. Our primary goals with this tiny house are to be debt-free and living in our own space for 10-15 years, until we can buy our own land and build our farm. Every tiny house owner has different goals to consider and is willing to make different sacrifices. We are going to need a shed of some kind to hold things like skis, snowshoes, camping and climbing gear, bikes, seasonal clothing, tools, snowmobile helmets, and other similar items. We do so much outside that it would be senseless to get rid of that equipment.

As we build our tiny house, I will continue to update this blog with pictures and posts about the process. It has taken a lot of planning to get this far, and I am sure we haven't thought of everything!