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There are times I can read people’s minds.  Like when I first tell someone that we live in a 20 foot yurt with no running water, and the look on their face says what their voice won’t:

You have a baby, what are you thinking? 

But when we are questioned about our home, I think of our friends outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, who raised two kids in a 24 foot yurt for six years.  I think of the man we bought our first yurt from who raised his two girls, in the same size yurt we have, for 12 years.  I think of all the ways it is and has been completely do-able.

And it has been do-able.  So today we celebrate.

Waylon turns 9 months old today.  9 months.  How did that happen?  From a floppy newborn to a crawling wanna-be toddler with four teeth, he has challenged me and loved me and taught me how to discover the world all over again.  He has made me think “this is so great, let’s have 5 babies!” and “how could I ever have another baby?  He is the best one–how could any baby be better?”

So for all of you who wonder what are we thinking, here are a few tips on yurt-living with a baby (and two dogs):

1. Time your baby’s arrival in the mid-late summer.  This is important for a few reasons: aside from having abundant fresh food, the outdoors becomes a large second room.  Sometimes Papa or Mama need some space, so It’s helpful to have a second room when adjusting to life with a new baby.  This timing also means that by the time baby is crawling and/or walking, the winter has (hopefully) passed and they, too can explore in the large second room.

2.  Organize.  We have a lofted bed, which until I entered my “nesting” phase was a catch-all of random stuff.  At the beginning of my third trimester, I spent a night hunched under the bed, pulling everything out, getting rid of junk and re-organizing the space.  All of the sudden, we had two more usable shelves, a space for baby clothes, and knew where all our camping supplies were.

3.  Get the dogs used to sleeping on the floor.  The dogs, who had taken our lofted bed as permission for sleeping on the futon, had a hard time with this.  The futon is so much cushier!  But when my belly got too big and I was up too often to pee in the middle of the night, we opened the futon up into a bed and took it over again.  It took a week or two, but eventually Nobee and Pebble got used to their dog bed in the newly organized space under the loft.

4.  Begin Elimination Communication early.  Just as babies can tell us when they’re hungry or tired, they also have cues to tell us when they need to pee and poop.  When Waylon was three months, we began paying attention to his rhythms and putting him on a potty when he made a certain face and began to squirm.  We’ve missed a few times, but for the last six months Waylon has pooped in the potty, making cloth diapering MUCH easier (remember: no running water).

5.  When baby becomes mobile, be okay with non-traditional toys.  Dog bowls, spoons, salad dressing bottles–anything Waylon can reach, he plays with…okay, not anything, I do redirect him when he gets too close to the pantry or the stove.  But it’s really hard to “baby proof” a yurt since there’s already a limited amount of space to put things, and it’s amazing how happy he is banging the dog bowls around.

Finally, be flexible.  Though this goes for all parents, not just those living in a yurt.  There are times my patience is tested, when I’m tired and hungry myself, times when it’s hard to remember to breathe.  Those are the times we utilize our second room.  Fresh air calms Mama, Papa and Baby, and gives us the space to be flexible again.  In that way, perhaps it’s easier parenting in a yurt–the expanse of outside is only a door away.