Category Archives: Tiny House

General tiny house ideas

On Relationships

How do relationships fair in a tiny house?  I suppose it has a lot to do with if both parties are on board with the tiny house idea.  It doesn’t have to be for the same reason but all parties need to be vested or else things will get out of balance real fast.  When you ‘get’ to live in a tiny space you view everything a WHOLE LOT different than if you ‘have’ to live in a tiny space.  If you have to, you’re going to get a grudge.

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Either way relationships are work.  If one party is not on board with tiny I have no advise to bring them over (other than visiting a real life tiny house to get a real feel for the space first hand).  If not all parties are on board I will say don’t push for tiny, find a compromise… unless you’re looking for a reason to split ;-).  Houses, tiny or not, are just things.  Things are not as important as relationships.

If single and dating… I can say, before meeting James I had a few ‘first dates’ that I knew instantly were going nowhere.  If you bring up this idea of a tiny house and get a confused or disgusted stare back then that’s actually a GOOD thing, you don’t have to spend any more time going down that path with that person.  While awkward in the moment it streamlines dating!

As a couple this is our experience (James approved this):

James and I are two wildly independent people, who are stubborn as hell. Our relationship was in the beginning stages when I was halfway done with the house, after that honeymoon phase we bickered a lot. Then, unexpectedly (right at the one year mark) we found ourselves about to be parents (talk about a HUGE stress on a relationship). We nearly didn’t make it but because we were in such close proximity we had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment, sat down and had a very blunt and open discussion if it was worth it or not to go forward together. Both of us had an ‘absolutely’ attitude. So we figured out how to make it happen.

We decided to see a counselor, we both have a list that worked out to ‘if he/she could just not be an ass then it would be fine’. It took someone else telling us that ‘he/she is not being an ass, this is how they work through ‘x’, it’s not offensive, it’s a different personality type’ Once that got through to both of us we are able to stand back and appreciate the differences in one and other and not take them as personal attacks… always.

Relationships are HARD. tiny houses will help to either make or break them. It comes down to if you want it or not and if you are willing to put in the work that they absolutely DO take. No one can decide that for you but you BUT a tiny house will exasperate things and push hard on your nerves with one and other causing you to ‘get over’ it, one way or another. You can decide to get over the rough stuff and find a way to understand/deal with it or get over dealing with the rough stuff and walk away. One of those things WILL happen though.

In our case I am SO grateful that the tiny house made things come to a head like that, without it we would have likely spent MANY years ‘dealing’ with those issues by pushing space between us, we wouldn’t be able to show our kids (because we have two now) what a healthy relationship can look like and we certainly would not have gained the appreciation we now have for each other. We do still get on each others nerves from time to time because we are both stubborn children at times (hey, it happens with newborns and the wonderful nights of ‘sleep’ that come with them) but we are learning how to work through that together, because we decided to.  The house definitely spurred that on.

 

It’s Not About the [Tiny] House

This is the first thing I have ever been paid to write, published in the Salvation Army’s quarterly magazine, Caring.

Tiny houses are making lots of headlines these days, you see them everywhere it seems. After designing, building and occupying my own 196 s.f. home it’s funny how often I find myself explaining that it’s really not about the house, the house is just a possession. It’s all about the lifestyle it enables. Everyone has their own reasons to minimize and downsize, mine had to do with creating a lifestyle free of debt, full of learning and creating the flexibility to do what I want with my days, everyday.

There are a lot of uncertainties when you are considering a tiny home, legal issues, location issues, technical construction concerns, explaining to loved ones how you, a single person, let alone a couple or family, can exist in an area roughly equal to the size of the average American’s master bathroom.  It certainly won’t work for everyone and shouldn’t. But if it is right for you, it’s so worth the journey! To create your own home, with your own hands… there is nothing quite so challenging and so empowering.  

Creating your own tiny house is hard, it’s an act of deep introspection, it’s physically demanding, it’s emotionally taxing figuring out what YOU need and want from life. My home is a completely reactive tool specifically for myself and my family, there is no one size fits all when it comes to tiny homes.  Every tiny house is unique because every individual is unique. But living tiny is not about compromising anything. It is about examining what you want from life and making THAT happen for yourself. It’s doing without all of the excess so that the important parts of life can become central.

Tiny House Movement, Trend or Tradition?

There are a lot of people interested in tiny homes for all kinds of reasons, it’s pretty amazing how many demographics the idea transcends, empty nesters, college students, singles, couples, families, etc.  It just makes sense in some cases.  It is not a new concept though, historically houses were much smaller than today. While 200 s.f. may have been a bit on the extreme side of small it was not uncommon, even as a family home.  As an architectural designer, the reason I became involved in the built environment is that I don’t like the ‘bigger is better’ trend, I believe there are ways things can be done better and more sustainably, particularly on the residential level.  We as Americans cannot keep up this pace of using more, less effectively.  I have a personal desire to do more with less and teach that to my family and as many others who are interested.  

As technology has advanced, we are able to condition our buildings via a/c and furnaces, we can streamline the building process by grouping homes in subdivisions (assembly line style) and we have been able to provide more houses, cheap. Designs are done to the lowest common denominator, meaning what will MOST people want.  The shortcomings in reactive design are made up for by adding ‘bonus rooms’ and extra space that can be whatever the homeowner wants without actually considering what the homeowner wants. It’s great that this has made housing more accessible over time but all of that comes with upkeep costs which have also increased over time, heating, cooling, HOA fees, etc.  At this point there is a group of people reacting to this trend who want to do things differently.  They want to get back to reactive houses that cover human needs without being such a drain on time and finances.  They want to redefine what is important in life and be able to focus on that more intentionally.  Unfortunately codes don’t always allow for that.

Most areas require a minimum square footage of a house be maintained which is why most tiny houses you see are placed on wheels, this takes them out of the building department’s regulations and allows a loophole for smaller dwellings.  Even though the houses are on wheels it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to be moved often, most don’t move much at all.  The legal path of a tiny house classifies it as an RV but unlike RV’s they are built efficiently and for longevity.  They can be lived in in all four seasons which is tough in a standard RV.

An interesting thing about tiny homes is that they are not designed for ‘resale value’ like standard housing, but for living value, right now.  They are often designed specifically for the occupants and therefore less universally valuable.  They pay for themselves in savings very quickly and so can be a short term solution to fix financial issues but those who live tiny generally do for longer than anticipated.

When I started my own tiny house journey I took it as a challenge, I was committed to taking one years worth of rent payments, building a house so I could learn actual construction skills and the specifics about various ‘green technologies’ first hand, then live in it for two years so that it could pay for itself. I thought it would be a tough transition from my previous 2,400 s.f. home. I was so wrong. It streamlined my life, clarified my path, my important goals (like being debt free) very quickly became realities and excess complications drifted away. Though the path was extremely challenging, today (well past my two year goal) my priorities have shifted, my worries are few, my wants are minimal and every day I am able to enjoy the gifts given to me in life.  

What it’s like to live tiny, really?

My family and I have been living tiny for two and a half years at this point, our home was 196 s.f. until July 2015 when we added on a small child’s room, bringing our home to 232 s.f.  Currently our family consists of myself and my partner, James, our daughter, Hazel, our son, Miles and our dog, Denver.  When I designed the home it was designed for two adults and a dog with room for growth.  Once we had our daughter we didn’t feel the need to expand but with another one coming we felt the time was right to add a room so that we had separate nap areas for the kids.  The house is designed specifically for us and for that reason it functions very efficiently, with the new addition we foresee the home meeting all of our needs for at least another 3-4 years but it could be longer.  

When people ask me what it’s really like I am always at a loss for how to explain it.  For us it is just like living in a non-tiny house but with more free time and less upkeep.  We have everything we need and want, we just don’t have all the extra space that usually comes with traditional housing.  Living tiny is certainly not for everyone but James and I have always been pretty minimalistic.  We enjoy traveling, spending time outdoors and working on our hobbies.  What is different than a standard house is that our monthly expenses went from upwards of $4,000 a month to around $400, that provided us the opportunity to become debt free very quickly, both paying off student loans, car loans and credit debt.  Furthermore it has provided the ability to be selective about how we earn our income since we don’t need to earn as much.  We are able to work on only projects we love and spend more time being present with our family. I couldn’t dream of a better situation for our lives!

Sure there are moments or even days that it’s not all rainbows but living this lifestyle has allowed us to live with less stress and have the ability to slow down, view challenges as something we ‘get’ to do rather than something we ‘have’ to do.  That small change in perspective means a world of difference between a crowded kitchen being a frustration verses it becoming a fun dance. We relish in our families closeness, both literally and figuratively and wish the same happiness and simplicity for everyone.  

I Updated My eBook!

I updated my eBook!  If you already purchased it you’ve received an email to get the updated version, if you haven’t then you can purchase it HERE.

10 top new year resolutions

That was my goal by the end of the year… I am off by a couple days, better late than never though!   Well, that and getting my eCourses online (big ole check on that one!)

Looking forward…

I am pretty sure there is not a single parent of little irrational people who would describe their lives as organized and tidy… I describe mine as complete chaos SO… resolutions… I don’t think those are a good idea this year, my goal is to get all of my family members to 2017 in one piece preferably and I am going to let that be enough for me :).

I do have some rough goals though, and some that I would love feedback on eventually (they will probably make some other appearances on this site soon).  So, I am just going to put them out in space so there is a little sense of accountability.

  1. I plan to get my 5th and final eCourse online, as of now I have one about codes, construction, systems and design but I completely overlooked the entire financial side of the tiny house so I am putting together an eCourse on financials, how to save money for your build, ON your build, reclaiming, financing, insuring, things like that.  I am planning to hopefully get this done this month but it may go to mid February, we shall see, a lot depends on James’s schedule, and balancing kiddos.
  2. Second, I will be working on the design of our shipping container house.  10557333_760411284025928_6747355267989250031_nI am giving myself until April or so to get that worked out enough to hand off to James.  James is the details guy, I am the general ideas guy, makes us a good team. The base plan is to use 2 40′ long, high-boy shipping containers and arrange them to an ~640 s.f. home where each of our kiddos has their own space, we have ours and since we both work from home, our own office space.  There are a few other features to be included (like temporary expansion space so we can host some family events, with our BIG families), more on that in future posts though.
  3. We have tentative plans to head to Chicago for a bit in March to hang with family. We have two trips to Colorado this summer, one for the SketchUp BaseCamp in June and one for 12066026_1666044140305285_6393677784537308217_nThe Tiny House Jamboree in August (tickets JUST went on sale for that, it’s cheap, come join us!).
  4. I am putting deeper considerations into my kiddos education, it’s early still but I am a planner.  I never thought I would be a ‘home school’ type of person but right now we’re really exploring all of our options, home schooling, road schooling, unschooling, charter schools, international school, public school, they are all on the table (this is one I would really love to hear your first hand experience on, I will have other posts on this soon I am sure).
  5. The fall is when we should start talking to the city and trying to get our container house okayed, we have a few challenges facing us with that but I am hopeful we will be able to find a solution!

Lately James and I have both been noticing the tiny house feeling smaller.  I attribute it to Denver and Hazel, Hazel is at a phase where she doesn’t want to share anything with Denver except the foods she doesn’t want (which he is great with) but it means that she is constantly running around telling him ‘no’ and it’s driving him (and me) mad, he just wants to please her but she’s a small irrational person (who will not be pleased)!  Lately he has been hanging out with James at work and enjoying the break from her demands but I miss him at home! Hopefully this phase is over soon!

Other than that, we did pull Hazel out of daycare/’school’, we were catching way too many bugs and it was starting to effect Miles too, we figured we will at least wait until he is old enough to fight things off.  Honestly though, I missed having her around, it was great to get some one on one time with Miles, we made it mostly to three months with a lot of one on one but now mom has to be shared by both (mwahahaha!!).  It’s exhausting but fun also, now that the holidays are over I am excited to get back into some sort of routine!

Thanks for letting me hold myself accountable with this post! 😉  I hope you are doing very well and enjoying what is bound to be the best year yet!

Tiny House People Recap

Many of you know already about my Facebook group, Tiny House People, if you don’t get over there and join!   This month I started a newsletter for the group because it got so big and is so active sometimes people need to shut off notifications and miss good stuff.  I am sending one email a month (no more, I promise) with the highlight posts, builder call-outs and miscellaneous other stuff like helpful files and special deals for group members.

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If you’d like to sign up for the monthly newsletter do it HERE (I won’t be posting them all here :).

Because this is the first one though, here is was this month’s recap looked like:

Decembers Tiny House People – Top Posts

Picked by me because of the conversations they generated, I consider them the ‘highlights’.

Builder call-outs

We have so many great builders in group, sometimes we all need a little extra words of encouragement.  For me those comments on my blog made all the difference in the world in those rough patches of the build!  My hope with this section is that when you have a moment to spare you can check out these builders and leave a comment on their blogs or send some thoughts of encouragement!  This month I want to draw your attention to:Builder Callouts!

Just starting:

In the middle:

  • I’ll admit, Robert and Samantha (website) are behind one of my very favorite builds currently going, SHEDsistance (facebook).  They are both total sweeties, Robert is an architect, Samantha a pediatric nurse, they are one big adventure story, wrapped in a love story, fitting in a tiny house with sleek design and fancy details.  I always love their updates and time-laps videos (that is just one of many), their build is WELL worth checking out!  Robert is a talented designer very willing to share his nitty gritty details, so there is lots to learn (check out their wall assembly for something completely different!) and lots of encouraging things to say!

Full Time Living:

  • Korie and Alex (website) and their Tiny House in the Big Yard (Facebook) strike my fancy because they are living tiny with their adorable munchkin, Abel, who is just a tad younger than my Miles. I love looking to them to see their own baby solutions for tiny living (LOVE the adorable pictures!).  I also love that they cut out a lot of the building stuff and bought their tiny home, pre-made, it’s a cool perspective to follow along with fixing issues on a house you didn’t make yourself.

I also gave away a seat in all of my eCourses to a group member, if you’d like to join I have a special for a couple more days.  When you use the code ‘Happy2016’ you can join for $9.00.

Codes and Foundations – http://bit.ly/1kqOA6g

Construction – http://bit.ly/1kqOBap

Systems and utilities – http://bit.ly/1Jeh1jM

Custom Design – http://bit.ly/1MFxDvq

Again, if you are interested in this monthly group recap sign up HERE.

Happy Holidays!

xmasmmHappy Holidays!  I just wanted to post a very quick note of appreciation to all of you who follow this blog, I am inspired by you every day even if I have been less active than normal (new babes will keep your hands full!).  I have had a great year due in large part to you, thank you for your support!  I hope you have the merriest of holiday seasons and a great 2016!

 

PS – Starting now, for 5 days only, you can get a great deal on a big bundle package of every Tiny House Magazine published, 36 in total. Each issues is about 60-110 pages of tiny house goodness, if you haven’t seen it before I STRONGLY suggest you pick up an issue or 36! :)  To buy them all would be about $170 bucks normally but for five days you can get them for $49, HERE.  So, if in need of a gift for the tiny house lover or yourself, this is a great one that takes up 0 square feet!

THM

Babies in a Tiny House Part 2 – My Minimalist Baby Needs List

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My two turkeys!

Needs before baby comes home are very few.  MOST things can be bought after kiddo is home and making certain demands, I wish I would have known that but if you don’t get ‘things’ you feel utterly unprepared… So on round one I got way more things than needed

Here is my experience after two kids

What you need before baby comes home:

  • A car seat, this is the one I went with but there are seemingly endless possibilities.  We got this one for safety rating, price and weight.  There are lots of factors that go into it though, choose one that is right for you.  We didn’t want a heavy one because both James and I have broken our backs, turns out even a light one is pretty heavy to pack around… come to find out (like many baby items) its not actually best to keep them in their car seat, it’s not a great position, doesn’t help their core muscles develop and can be a hard position for their air ways.  You do what you have to do as a parent but we rarely leave the kiddos in their car seat, even if (and especially if) they are napping.
  • Some diapers.  You’ll probably get a pack of the right size from the hospital but you can have a pack of newborn and a pack of size 1’s ready at home, in case they are on the big side. (if you’re making a diaper cake for a baby shower start at a size bigger than NB, everyone gives nb size and my babies were only in nb for a week, size 1, 2 and even 3’s are great for new babes, they will eventually be in them!)
  • Something for them to wear, or 3-4 somethings (may be hospital provided). We had newborn sizes which fit for a whole week (I have big babies…) we then had to switch to 0-3 month.  At 2 months Miles is already in 6 month clothes and will probably have them outgrown in the next month… Kids grow fast, this is where you look at your family history and decide if maybe preemie is a good size to start, or if you should just start at 0-3 month… I had a stack of gift newborn clothes with both kiddos that I took back for larger sizes right away.
  • Some swaddles, 2-3 (may be hospital provided).  Depending on the time of year they are little you may want more or less and they may be heavier or lighter weight.  Both my kids hated being swaddled but they are still handy to have around as blankets (or towels ;-))
  • Some boobs (If nursing isn’t your thing the hospital will most likely have some different formulas to try. Each type has it’s own thing, probably don’t stock up pre-baby.  What you decided to start with will be determined by your baby and any hiccups (literally and figuratively) they may have.  Same boat for bottles, they will give you some to start if you go this way then you can decide to change if needed to something else (lower flow, shallower latch, whatever) based on a reaction to your babe.)

That’s it.  ALL the rest can be decided post babe.  It’s a good idea to have a safe place for them to lay down too (safe from hazards like pets, siblings and sleeping parents) but you’ll probably be their bed mostly for a while :).

Of all the things I bought (and it was a relatively small list) there are only two other things I would suggest using because I’ve been SO grateful to have them at times:

  • A baby carrier/wrap– You can go down this rabbit hole as far as you like (and like tiny houses it IS a rabbit hole!)  I always got really overwhelmed with all of the options and wraps, some people get really into it (there are some great facebook groups for baby wearing).  I didn’t want to spend a ton for something made in China and shipped across the world, nor did I want to spend a ton for a wrap that I don’t appreciate (read: feel like I can make on my own) so my solution was a home-made ring sling similar to THIS.  You can buy some rings HERE for cheap, pick up about 2.5 yards of some fabric (mine was a whole 3 dollars) and make your own.  For less than 10 bucks I made something that sells for a LOT more.  Sure it isn’t as pretty as some but man, that thing has paid dividends in how much use it gets, especially with two.  I don’t know how parents parent more than one kid without a baby wrap of some kind, I couldn’t do it!
  • A car seat mirror like THIS.  This one came because they are rear facing, I remember Hazel was about a week old and I was driving home solo from my first trip to the grocery store post baby.  I couldn’t see her but she was making weird noises (as newborns do).  I could not tell if she was choking or what.  A short ten minute drive turned into 25 stressful minutes.  I pulled over 6 times to check on her because heaven forbid something was happening and I didn’t stop!  She was fine of course but as soon as I got home I ordered a mirror.  It’s more fun to be able to see them anyway but it’s a safety thing too!

Things people seem to always have on their list which can actually be bad for babes:

  • Crib bumpers are not actually recommended because they cause more issues than they help. They do look cute but can be a suffocation hazard. If your kiddo has issues getting stuck in the crib rails they make mesh breathable bumpers, certainly not a need but if you find you want them you can get them later
  • Car seat accessories.  Car seats are safety devices, they are engineered to save your kiddo in case of a crash.  Anything you put on them or in them becomes a projectile in case of use.  Any blankies you tie in or under the straps make the straps further from your babe and make your babe a potential projectile.  Experts suggest you take things like coats off when strapping your kiddo in correctly and not use any objects in your car seat that aren’t manufactured and okayed for your specific car seat. Also, make the buckles snug and located correctly, I often see pictures on Facebook of babes strapped incorrectly (and that is a tough spot, do you tell them and be ‘that mom’ or do you hold your tongue… awkward… and unsafe.)  Some drives we wish we had some piece of entertainment (every rush hour we accidentally get caught in) but ultimately we have little in the car seat with Hazel and Miles, maybe a stuffed animal or a glove these days, one of Hazel’s favored toys… :)
  • Jumpers/bouncers/rockers, mom’s do what we need to do, baby ‘stuff’ is not inherently bad, use it sparingly though… and if you can design your life to where you don’t need it, more power to you!  But moms need showers, and to fix food, etc., like I mentioned in part 1, these items are designed for parent convenience, not baby development, they are often not great to leave babe in for extended periods of time.   I choose to skip them all together.

If you are a first time parent reading this, it’s hard not to stress, I certainly did, but you will have time once they get here to get whatever you may be lacking, in the middle of it it actually goes nice and slow in my experience, it’s in hindsight that it seems so dang fast!

If you are reading this in prep for a baby shower you’re attending and I just shot down all your gift ideas here are a couple things that would be sweet.

  • If your target is going to cloth diaper check out some cloth diapering services.  It can be pretty reasonably cost to get a year subscription, they come a couple times a week, pick up dirty diapers and drop off clean ones.  They are all over the country and you’ll be supporting your local economy while giving a HUGE break to the momma to be!
  • A gift card to something like SnapFish or Zazzle so momma can make a cool memory book for babe’s first birthday.
  • Clothes size 6, 9, 12+ months, there is a huge abundance of people bringing itty bitty clothes (because all things tiny are adorable!) but right around 9 months it all drops off and you have to start shelling out the bills.  Even if no one gifts the bitty clothes, worst case, momma will have to go grab them but mommas usually WANT to shop for those ones, it’s once that ‘cute’ wears off that the shopping gets dull, get THOSE sizes for her :).
  • Seasonal personalized items, Christmas ornaments, valentines day frames, etc. with the new family members name (or a gift card for something like that) are fun and will be a reminder through time.
  • Your love and support and KIND WORDS.  This is a WAY under rated gift!

Maybe that brings back some of the fun I stole away! :)

For more of my thoughts on parenting in a tiny house/being a minimalist parent I have a couple more posts worth looking at…

Babies in a Tiny House Part 1 – Where Do You Put All The Stuff

My thoughts to the ‘your kids will be embarrassed’ and such critics… (coming soon)

Lastly, If tiny houses are your thing but you don’t know where to start or how to build check out the eCourses I made HERE.  Better yet, for the next two days get the tiny house bundle including parts 1 and 2 of the ecourses plus LOTS more!

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Merry Christmas!

Family Update November 2015

Our little monkeys are doing great!  Just a quick update…

Miles is growing like a weed, he put on 4.5 pounds in his first month (that’s a lot!).  He’s rocking the double chin and loves tummy time.  He’s about as different from his sister right now as two kids can be.  He gets over stimulated easily by bright lights and loud noises (like his mom and dad).  He gets cold much easier than his sister ever did.  He’s very calm and chill most of the time, he rarely cries at all!  I think he is actually a better sleeper than Hazel was and she has been a ‘sleep through the night’ girl from the day we brought her home.  My biggest worry is that he is too calm and too quiet.  Yeah, I made it this far through two kids without any awful horror stories, I am the mom others want to slap.  I make no apologies but I count my lucky stars! :)  I still think he looks more like my side of the family but certain features (nose and lips) are definitely from his dad.  He is adored by all. :)

Miss independent, I mean Hazel is a star at ‘school’.  She still does daycare, half days four days a week.  We started at twice a week but once Miles was born bumped it up to four because she LOVES is and it was barely any more, cost-wise.  AND it means I get that much more one on one time with Mister (Miles’s nickname).   We both (James and I) feel a little guilty that Hazel got so much one on one and Miles is forced to share, so the half days is a good compromise and Hazel comes back ready to show us everything she’s learned.   She knows a ton of sign language which we’ve never taught her.  She knows a bunch of kiddo songs, LOVES Five Little Monkeys and is the best dancer in class! :)  She tries every word we say out now and is starting to use sentences, short ones like ‘shoe help please’.  She said thank you to our waitress, all by herself when she brought out our food.  Proud moment!  She absolutely loves her brother even if she has to share attention… she seems to be very understanding when I can’t snuggle her because I have to feed Miles… hopefully that continues.

Denver dog is loving our new couch, that seems to be the highlight of his world these days :).  He hangs out with James during the day since James is mostly working from home,it makes it easier on me so there is no growling and waking up the babies with his dream barks and when the mailman comes by…

Pretty much we are all hunkering down for the winter and getting ready to put up the Christmas tree… oh, and Thanksgiving :).  We did recently build a bigger couch for the tiny house, it’s not as pretty as the other but it’s comfy, I can throw some pillows on it and snuggle up with the kiddos.  It’s a good move for winter! $65 well worth it so far!  And Denver likes it, he can spread out better :). I hope you all have the happiest of holidays!