January ABODE: Happy new year, baby!

 Rachel and Shawn Gerber have been excitedly planning a Baby Gender Reveal Party for their third child, who is due in a few months. “This is for sure our last child,” Rachel said. “We wanted to do something different. I knew I wanted it to be more of a surprise.”

(Photo by John Robinson)

How does this kind of party work? “We took a sealed envelope [from the ultrasound tech] to the bakery, and they’re making a cake. It’s either going to be pink or blue icing in the middle! My family is Skyping in from Pennsylvania and Indiana. I think it will be really fun.”
When asked what’s in his mommy’s belly, their son Connor (3), who seems to have some inside information, exclaims, “A baby. A baby girl!”

The Gerbers’ 1,600-square-foot townhouse near Riverview Park can sometimes feel a bit tight on space with two young sons (Connor’s brother Owen is 5) and two busy parents. Welcoming a new baby into their home will require a little bit of rearranging and creative thinking.

“Our current setup is just challenging, period,” says Rachel. “We don’t have a basement and we just have this little storage thing out here…Then there’s the whole plethora-of-toys situation. I’m up to my ears in toys and books and the artwork that they bring home from preschool.” Her solution? “You’ve got to find systems.”

One organizational method that Rachel uses is accordion folders, one for Connor and one for Owen, that contain mementos and artwork with a section for each year of their lives. “Those things that I come across that I know I want to save, I know where to [put] it,” she explains. “I don’t worry about organizing it or keeping it in order—I just dump it in.”

Another tactic that the Gerbers employ is to go through things regularly—taking inventory, and figuring out what they can get rid of. “Every three months I feel like it’s purge mode. That’s part of living in small spaces: You just have to go through things periodically.”

Knowing what to get rid of with another baby on the way has its own set of challenges, especially when the gender remains a surprise (at least until the reveal party). “Logistically, just talk about all of the boy clothes. If I don’t have to haul those out of storage and I can just give them away, [it’s] so much easier to do that before the child comes!”

It’s a common dilemma for parents of young children: how to keep the stuff under control and still maintain a balance of quality time with your family.

Rachel smiles knowingly, with one hand on her pregnant belly, “I heard it once said, that trying to keep a house clean with small children is like trying to brush your teeth while eating an Oreo. It just never works.”

She continues, “You can’t expect perfection, it’s just a matter of keeping things in whatever your balance is. Laundry is always there, dishes are always there, and I just have to continue to remind myself that it’s a good thing because I have people to care for.”

You can read more about Rachel’s perspective on parenting and life in general on her blog: www.everything-belongs.com.—Christy Baker

Art file
What to do with your preschooler’s third finger-painting this week? Take a cue from the Gerber family and use this simple yet stylish legal case from Staples ($12.99) to keep artwork and keepsakes organized. With 19 sections, you’ll have space for dozens of art projects and plenty of birthday cards.—C.B.

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