Demystifying Co-Housing

When I first moved to Portland, we found a townhouse in tight quarters – in-fill development in the heart of NE, right off of MLK Blvd.  We lived on a “woonerf”. Yes, a woonerf! It’s a shared street designed to:

allow drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and runners to share the same space, making the street much more welcoming and appealing for all. Instead of dividing a street with barriers like curbs, sidewalks and bike lanes, woonerfs open up the street and allow for every use simultaneously. Cars are forced to drive slowly—with traffic lights and stop signs nonexistent—ultimately allowing pedestrian and cyclists to rule the road.  

Read more here:

Our woonerf was serpentine in shape, so it had the added feature of a few turns to slow motor vehicles all the more.  It was a great introduction to Portland. Our street had the feel of a communal courtyard. I could even open my front door, holler across the way, and be heard by my neighbor, Cathmum.  We got on quite well: our kids were similar ages, our partners had similar work schedules and even played basketball together. Our two households had many family dinners: I could make one part, she’d make the other.  We could eat together and visit while kids bathed. We were lucky. It was happenchance: we found community in our housing situation, which was certainly helped by the woonerf design that stitched our households and lives more closely together.

Imagine setting out with the intention to find this very type of housing and community.  It exists: people who come together to form community, to support one another when they can, and to live their own lives independently in a lovely condominium community.  Recently, Cathmum and I had the chance to sit down and chat with Adesina Cameron, who moved to the Portland area from the San Francisco Bay Area where she lived next to Temescal Commons, a nearly 20-year-old community of 8 housing units and 23 residents.  Just outside of Portland, Adesina found Cascadia Commons, a community of 26 housing units across 14 buildings.  Here are som excerpts of our conversation:

So, what’s it like, aesthetically and technically and logistically, to live in this “co-housing community”?

At its most basic construct, the community is 100% like living in a condominium development.  Legally, Cascadia Commons is structured as a condominium. My condo is my condo. There really are no strict regulations or rules about our units: Inside of it, I can make improvements, changes to the layout, etc., just like any other condo.  It’s a really lovely development, so we have a waitlist of over 100 people hoping for the opportunity to buy a unit, which range from 1- and 2-bedroom flats to 2- and 3-bedroom townhomes.

We have a Homeowners Association (HOA) with a fee, that helps to cover our building and grounds maintenance. Our shared space includes a playground, a commercial kitchen, a library, a work-from-home office, a couple of guest units for visitors, and a yoga room.  These are amenities many of us would seek out at a condo development. We also have a community garden, and a small plot of our own land near our home that is shared with one other neighbor.

What brought you to explore co-housing?  What were you hoping to find?


We moved from Portland to the Bay Area in 2009.  When we left, Portland was still affordable. When we wanted to return in 2015 when my daughter was 10 months old, it felt unaffordable.  Condo units in some of the co-housing communities felt financially accessible.

I was moving to be near my mother, who was aging.  I was raising a young child, while working. My baby didn’t sleep, and I felt like my visions of “home” could not be actualized.  That old adage, “it takes a village” could not have felt more true and intense in that moment. I felt isolated with my care responsibilities.  I needed some support beyond my four walls. Back in the bay area, I lived near a co-housing community that seemed so vibrant and tightly knit. I sought this out when I moved back to Portland because I needed this intergenerational living where we could support each other when needed.  For me, I needed a ready-set community that I could join in my time of need. And, in return, I was also prepared to contribute to this community to support it, too, when my time came. It’s about give-and-take, ebb-and-flow. And, it’s really a beautiful thing.


Is co-housing best suited for extroverted and outgoing people?


Co-housing is full of introvert/extrovert couples.  My husband loves his privacy; he needs privacy. He comes and goes as he likes.  He doesn’t do stuff all the time with the rest of the community. I like to engage with the community, so I do get out there.  You really can be private if you want, you can have it at any level you want. It really is like living in a multi-unit community, whether condo, a townhome development, or an apartment complex: if you want to meet and get to know your neighbors, then you can!  If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.


So, does the community eat meals together every day?


When Cascadia Commons was created twenty years ago, almost all the residents ate together almost all the time.  Over time, as diets and schedules changed, participation dropped off. Maybe it was too much of a good thing?

Everyone, rightfully so, has their own rhythms.  Some of our community members like to eat at 6:30pm, but I’d starve if I had to eat at 6:30pm.  Plus, for those of us with young children, earlier is better since we have those early bedtimes.  It also has to be the right food, easy, nutritious, and crowd-pleasing.

Right now, we have about half of the community that participates in a meal plan twice a week.  The cost works out to be around five dollars a meal, which is a great deal. Sometimes, residents will just bring their dinner into our communal eating area to eat together.  Honestly, I love the experience of sharing in making and eating a meal together. It’s surprising we don’t do it more.


OK, so how can we learn more, experience more, and know more about what it is truly like to co-house?


This is a unique time for Portland.  We are hosting the national association of co-housing in a couple of weeks, from May 30th to June 2nd, 2019.  Community for the Health of It! – if you’re willing to invest in registration – will have some great speakers and topics to learn more about the world of co-housing.  But, there will be tons of free events too. Some great ones to check out include:

We are excited to see more families interested in joining our communities.  If you’re curious, come out and visit with us in a few weeks! See you all there –

GIVEAWAY – PJ Masks Live “Save the Day”

It’s time to be a hero! Join Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko – in an all new show, live on stage, and coming to a city near you – as they race into the night to save the day from triple trouble: Romeo, Night Ninja and Luna Girl!

PJ MASKS LIVE: is back with an all new super-heroic, live musical show, featuring the heroic trio from your favorite series: The PJ MASKS! Watch Catboy, Owlette and Gekko along with their new friend PJ Robot, as they try to save the day from the sneaky villains – Romeo, Night Ninja and Luna Girl! Fluttering Feathers! Leaping Lizards! What a CAT-tastrophe!

Leaping, flipping and climbing – live on stage! Complete with your favorite music and brand new songs you’ve never heard before! Don’t sleep through it – watch the PJ Masks save the day, live on stage!

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a Family 4-Pack for the show PJ Masks Live! Save the Day on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 2PM at Keller Auditorium. One random winner will be drawn on Sunday night January 27, 2019. Good luck!

Introducing our new contributor

We are always looking to improve and expand the voices we elevate here at urbanMamas. I met Renate many moons and a couple of lifetimes ago, and – thanks to social media – we’ve kept in touch. We recently reconnected in person a few months back, and I am so glad.

Mama to twins who she birthed with her soulmate partner by her side, she has worked her way through college and already had many careers in cosmetology and environmental science. Mamahood suits her swell; many days she spends engaged in her community contributing to LB Littles, tending to her urban garden of 4 raised beds out back, juggling twins, and baking artisan from-scratch gorgeous loaves at RenateBakes.

Renate brings energy, authenticity, eco-mindedness, and thoughtfulness. We are excited to welcome her to the urbanMamas family!

Welcome to 2019

(…a re-post of my thoughts on the morning of my most recent birthday in late 2018….)

I woke up early this morning with lots on my mind, like most mornings. Meditating before rising, I thought about my most recent journey around the sun, and I could not be more proud.

The past year has brought me great FOCUS. I make goals, write them down, adjust, and I know what is important to me. With such clarity, the other stuff just melts away. I’m particularly more focused than ever at work. Post-2016-election, I realized I needed to go deep with what has always been in my heart. My work has become truly my passion. I no longer back down when I’m shut down, like I used to. Recently, I cried thinking about the 20 years I have endured sexism and demoralization in my work, thinking I had “wasted” all that time. These past two decades have not been wasted, they just give me more focus, clarity, and determination than ever.

The past year has brought me great COURAGE. I am publishing and stating my goals – personal and professional. I hate to commit to goals for fear of failure. I have so many priorities in my life, that I’m never sure if I will allow myself the space to accomplish the goals, but – with the greater focus – I feel like I be brave and own my goals. I ran two 5Ks at a sub-7 pace this year. YES! That has been my goal, to break that 7-minute-mile barrier. This year, I’d like to do a real 5K or 10K race at sub 7s. This courage has also made me loud and proud. I have to say big things to big institutions, and I really have to dig deep to say what needs to be said, loud and clear.

This past year has brought me great HUMILITY. There are things that I have left undone. There have been failures, where I have had to readjust, reassess, reevaluate. I am far from immortal. I take suggestion and critique seriously. I am not too great to be wrong. Earlier this year, in my work, I had to really check my ego at the door to get some things done the right way. I am also listening more – in the communities where I work – and I am accepting of my limitations, privilege and elitism. I always want to grow. There is always better.

This is long, but I want all of you to know that you have your part in making me who I am. I love hearing from you, seeing you all in various cities, keeping in touch, sharing bottles of wine. The best is having my own family – especially my one-and-only – always here to lift me up, support me, and watch me grow.

Thank you, everyone! And, now, back to work!

NO WINE: the glass is neither half-empty nor half-full

At the end of a long day, working either inside the home or out, managing schedules, laundry, meals, emotions, tantrums, relationships, and more, we all deserve a treat.  Back in the day, it was Calgon.  “Calgon: take me away!”  My mom’s treat was watching Dynasty in peace and quiet….  while folding a mountain of laundry.

For me, it has long been a glass (or two or three) of wine.  It is a true treat: fancy and frivolous.  I know many mamas without even a moment to rest, let alone enjoy a glass of an expensive beverage.

Well: this is me.  This is my treat.  It dulls the crazy, it fills me up, and it readies me for my catch-up time with the older kids or my husband.  When one glass turns into two or three, I usually resort to konking out on the couch from the chaos of the day-to-day circus that is our household.  In the morning, I wake up to all the things I forgot to do, or just didn’t do because I was too busy enjoying my treats.  I might even feel “dehydrated”, not really at 100% to conquer another day of juggling jobs or kids, meals or errands.  When my dear friend finally bit the bullet and said: “I’m not drinking anymore”, I paused and thought: “That makes a lot of sense!”

At the same time it didn’t.  For as much as we sacrifice, we all deserve a splurge.  Right?

When the splurge has side-effects that keep me from coming back at 100%, I thought long and hard about it.  And, I followed in suit.  I knew in my heart of hearts, it might be good for me too.

The week I decided to stop mid-week treats, a friend texted me from the new local bar.  “Come out and have a drink with us; it’s my sister’s birthday!”  I agreed.  I came over in my pajamas, and I watched the group drink some mescal mojitos.  I actually also ordered one, but I noticed that I didn’t really want it!

The next day, a friend told me to come over.  He wanted to give me some maps for our summer vacation.  I took the kids and we dropped by, just after dinner.  They were finishing their dinner wine, and he said, “Come on!  I’ll pour you some wine.”  I let him, and I watched the huge pour of pinot grigio sit there and go from cold and crisp to warm and soggy.  I just didn’t want it.

At a work networking event that I co-hosted with another woman, my co-host asked me “you’re not drinking?”.  As unusual as it seemed, for me especially, I said, “Hm.  I guess I’m not!”  I was going to, but I just didn’t feel like it!

Increasingly, I am finding more ways to unwind in the evening, mostly I’m spending that time goofing off with the kids, rough-housing, playing monopoly.  Somehow, this has redirected my energy to where it wanted to go all along.  I feel great, happy, content.  And, lucky for me, I can still enjoy my treats when I want – every so often during the week, and usually over the weekend.  Right now, I’m just enjoying how I can control how much control my splurges have over me.

DailyOM: something to kick me in the booty

I’m a forty-something partnered professional with 2 girls and 2 boys.  It’s a busy life.  I also like to think I’m a fit mama.  I squeeze in my running and push-ups.  Yet, somehow, I feel out-of-shape.  Maybe I need more sleep, more water, more coffee, more mediation, more wine, more miles, more push-ups.  Or, maybe I just need something different.

At the turn of the clock this year, my eldest made a New Year’s Resolution: eat better and work out every day.  This 17-year old has been an athlete all her life (mostly running cross-country/track and basketball), and we always commented that her days of eating cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were numbered.  Always svelte, she looked healthy, but we all knew that she wasn’t.

Five months later, she makes most of her food: lean meats, veggie wraps, protein smoothies, occasional snacks on graham crackers.  She is constantly tracking input (which I realize can go overboard).  She is also constantly tracking output (which I also realize can go overboard).  But, my point is: from watching her, I’ve been reminded that diversity is good, strength-training is necessary, and input matters.

OK.  So, what adjustments can I make in my life?  I eat pretty well.  I guess I could drink more water and less coffee or wine.  << that’s not too convincing >>  I could run less and do more strength training.  Run less, and do more strength training.

Where do I begin?  Well: I crumbed to being bombarded by all sorts of ads on social media and I bought a class from DailyOM.  There were promises of inspiration, strength, centeredness, and self-control.  Sure!  I’ll sign up.  I contributed a mere $10 (I know, I know), and I bought Fit and Fierce over 40.

The course is a daily dose of 20-minute hits of warm-up, exercise, and cool-down.  There is a daily inspiration.  I love the idea, but I cannot find the commitment.  I signed up 2 weeks ago and I should be on lesson #15.  I’m only on #5!  I commit to the course maybe once every other day or every three days.  GAAHHHHHH!!!!  I want to do it, consecutive, like it’s supposed to be done.

Well: I’m only human.  And, I’m also a busy mama with many needs to manage.  And, I know you are too.  I’m going to finish this course, on my own time (and, to DailyOM’s credit, they do say participants can complete it on their own time).  And, in a few more lessons, I’ll come back and share more about how it went for me.  Wish me luck.

PHOTO CRED: another urbanMamas co-foundress, circa 2015, babymoon with the mamas, yoga on the beach.

Not all flowers & cheer on Mother’s Day

I went to the supermarket late Saturday night to replenish the coffee.  If I was going to have breakfast in bed the next morning, I certainly wanted some coffee to go with it.  (Full disclosure: I’m sure someone would have replenished the coffee, I just happened to be out near a supermarket that night.)

At the market, I noticed foil balloons of different kinds – “Happy Mother’s Day!” There were also full bunches of bouquets for sale near the cash register.

Mother’s Day is a great day for us mamas.  Our families celebrate us for all that we sacrifice and contribute.  We enjoy treats like: breakfast in bed, gifts, flowers, chocolate, spa time, massages, pedicures, mimosas!  YES: Give it to me!

It can also be a dark day for some of us.  Some of us no longer have a mama to call our own, and some of us can’t even remember the day we had a mama of our own to celebrate.  Maybe we were raised by other men and women who we came to call “mama”.  They were our nurturers, caretakers, and mothers, even if they weren’t our biological mamas.  Sometimes, we are sad on this day, thinking about all those mother’s out there and how their children grew up forever graced with their presence.  The day sometimes makes us feel like we’ve been missing out all this time.

Some of us have life through the horror of burying our own children.  Young or old, this experience is haunting and life-altering, and these feelings will never go away.  Mother’s Day is a day we remember our children and babies: moments of what had been, moments passed, moments no longer, moments that will never be.  Mother’s Day is not all cheer.

Some of us might still have a mama out there, but we are estranged.  We no longer talk.  We haven’t talked in weeks, months, years.  We have history we cannot overlook.  There are reasons we are apart, never to be together again, never to celebrate a Mother’s Day with flowers or balloons again.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate all of you: we all came from a mama, whether she is still here or not.  We enjoy all the balloons and bubbly, and we recognize that not all of us share the cheer and celebration on this day.

It’s about the moments, not the milestones

I think about missing milestones, not being “there” for those moments. This week, my boy went skiing for the first time without us (he nailed it, of course; he’s a natural). Today, my biggest girl is touring a possible college campus for next year with her dad.  I had to stay back to shuffle the others to their activities, but – oh! – how I wish I was there.  In June, I have to miss my younger girls promotion ceremony, which commemorates her transition from 8th grade to high school (it’s a work thing; my heart is aching because I have to miss. I hate it.).

I come back to a feeling – a pretty strong bond – I share with the kids. At least: I believe we have that bond. Even though I miss things (i.e. events), my eldest comes home excitedly and says “oh my goodness I have so many things to show/tell you.” My second girl sends photos to me from when she is hanging with friends. My Big Boy, while I’m nursing the Li’l Boy to sleep in the bed underneath, will peer over the bunk bed rail and say “mama, can we talk?” And he’ll proceed to tell me about his dream from the other night or thoughts from the day.

So, I guess we’re still tight. Even though I miss events. We still have our moments.

And…. we’re back

Dear everyone:

After several years of fits and starts, we are here again to serve you.  Staying true to our goals, we want urbanMamas to be your resource.  We used to come here to talk about babies, feeding, nursing, sleeping, vaccinating, all of it.  Search the archives – we’ve discussed a lot over the years.  I think we first started in the fall of 2004.  That’s over a dozen years ago when I had a newborn and a 3-year old.

Now, my oldest is heading to college.  My youngest is a toddler.  And, I have a couple of kids in between: an energetic boy in 2nd grade and a middle school girl that is so …. middle school.

I’ll share stories more in coming posts.  I have lots of them!  In the meantime: please reach out.  I’d love to hear from you.  Want to post?  Have an idea?  Want to help run an event?  I’m still here listening – urbanMamas at gmail dot com.  Be in touch, come back, engage.  Thank you for everything!

Creative Preschool and Child Care Now Enrolling

We would like to invite you to our Open House at our Happy Valley School! 
Where: CMLC Happy Valley at 12771 SE Sunnyside Rd. Clackamas, OR 97015
When: Tuesday, February 27th 
Time: 5:30-7pm

Creative Minds Learning Centers locally operates seven eco-friendly certified preschools and learning centers in Sellwood, Woodstock, Westmoreland, Gateway, Broadway, Happy Valley, and Tualatin areas. We provide care and curriculum for infants as young as 3 months through Private Kindergarten (age 6). Our programs are specialized to the age group and developmental level of the children enrolled, and we employ professionally trained teachers with specialty in the age group that they work with.

We are offering some very competitive Early Spring Specials at our Tualatin and Happy Valley Schools! Your family could be eligible for up to $150 of tuition savings per month. Space is extremely limited. Please call for more information today! 

*For a sneak peek video of our CMLC kiddos in action, check out A Day in the Life at Creative Minds!

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A typical day at Creative Minds includes an art project from our Reggio-inspired art program, circle time, play time, a story from the Creative Curriculum, Every Day Counts (for kindergarten preparedness!), weekly Sign Language and Spanish, more play time, and supplemental enrichment programs including Dance, Yoga, and Creative Movement. We also are sure to include outdoor activities, and most classes spend time outside both in the morning and in the afternoon! We incorporate science, math, and music into our daily curriculum, and help all students learn valuable inter-personal skills. Each classroom teacher presents our curriculum to the students in an age-appropriate way, encouraging development, exploration, and independence. Call today to see if your family can take advantage of our limited time enrollment specials! 

Our goal is to enrich the children's lives with creative arts and accredited curricula, while keeping the parent's needs in mind! We provide an all-organic, vegetarian menu that can be altered based on your family's and child's needs! We have been serving families in the Portland area since 1997! Come see what has kept us a high end provider for 20 years! 

Phone: (503) 252-0004 ext. 0


**Do you have a love of children? Ever considered working with kids? Apply to join our dynamic team today! Visit our website for a full list of the available positions!**