Living With Kids: Christine Chitnis

October 9, 2012

By Gabrielle.

Christine‘s main goal when decorating her home was that it would feel like a breath of fresh air every time she walked through the door. She nailed it. She’s a mom after our own hearts, learning to enjoy those early stay-at-home days with a toddler and new little one with overlapping nap times, while also yearning to find time to work again, too. Plus maybe a little DIY! It’s always a strange balance, savoring the baby years yet wondering if you’ll ever find the old you again, isn’t it? For now, let’s just take a deep breath of fresh air in as we enjoy this lovely home tour.

Q: Tell us all about the family who makes this house a home!

A: I’m Christine, a writer, wife, and mom to two little boys living in Providence, Rhode Island. My husband, Vijay, and I met when he came to Chicago (where I was living at the time) to visit his best childhood friend who just happened to be my boss. Six months later, we were married! To say we had a whirlwind relationship would be an understatement…but when you know, you know! We recently celebrated our five-year anniversary, and we both feel that our biggest accomplishment, besides having a loving marriage, is being the proud parents of Vijay, almost two years old, and Vikram, just two months old.

Q: How did this home become yours?

A: We moved to Providence about four and a half years ago when my husband received a wonderful job opportunity with his Alma mater, Brown University. I had never been to Providence — the first time I visited was to find a rental apartment. It was a hard transition, leaving behind good friends and my beloved city of Chicago, but I quickly grew to love Providence; it is a quirky college town situated in the tiny, but beautiful, state of Rhode Island. After six months of renting, we began looking for a home.

I knew I wanted to be near campus, but with a little distance from the fraternity parties and student life. We settled on our current neighborhood, which is walking distance to Brown and filled with an eclectic mix of students, professors, and young families. We can walk to parks, libraries, coffee shops, and the farmers market. We just love it.


When we first toured our now home, the decor was so outdated and old-fashioned, but beneath the surface, you could see the home had beautiful bones and had been lovingly kept. It was built in 1906, and many of the original features are still there — the light fixtures, restored kitchen cabinets, intricately carved doors, beautiful moldings, and the random stained glass window. I loved those old bones and unique touches immediately, and I could see how beautiful the space would be with new paint and colorful decor! We made a rather low offer since the house was a bit out of our price range, and we were shocked when they accepted. It was simply meant to be; this is a home that is deserving of a family that will adore it, and the old owners knew we would treat it with love.

In its 100+ year life, the home has only had four other owners. We love our house even more as we discover all the quirks that make it so unique and beautiful. We’ll be in this house for a long time, and I love the feeling that it is all ours and that it already holds so many special memories — like bringing both of the boys home from the hospital, hosting Vijay’s first birthday party, and my husband’s 40th birthday party. So many great times!

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? The boys are still young, but do you see it changing as their presence becomes bigger and bigger?

A: I love bright colors, and clutter-free spaces. I want my home to feel like a breath of fresh air when you walk through the door. I really try to live by the adage ”Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”


This has been harder to follow since the boys were born because people love to shower you with gifts when you have kids — and many of those gifts are kinda awful plastic toys! I keep a bin in our garage that I continually fill with things to donate to the Salvation Army. I refuse to keep things in my home that I find offensive, and I am working hard to keep the boys’ playroom full of simple, well-built toys that encourage imagination. Favorites include lots of good books, wooden building blocks, a wooden train set, and Vijay’s continually growing team of construction vehicles with which he is obsessed!

We are lucky enough to have a playroom just for the boys and their toys, and this means that toys stay in that room, and we keep the rest of the house pretty toy-free except for a basket of books and small toys in the living room, and favorite toys and books in the boys’ rooms. This makes clean-up time pretty painless for everyone, and the boys like having free reign of their playroom. I hope we can continue using our space in this way as the boys grow!

Q: What is your favorite space in your home? How do you spend your best moments there?

A: I love our master bedroom. It is a very simple and clean space, with big windows and beautiful light no matter what time of day. We love to snuggle up in bed as a family and read books in the morning and before bed each night. It’s my favorite time of day when all four of us are together. Also, little Vijay loves doing acrobats on the bed while I nurse his brother; its a great way to keep him occupied!


Q: What are your secrets for balancing working from home with a toddler and a new baby?

A: I am definitely still learning how to balance work and motherhood now that I have two little ones. It is not easy. I used to work during Vijay’s nap time — he is a power napper, giving me a solid three hours each afternoon. But now with the baby, those days of long naps are long gone! If I’m super lucky, the boys might overlap nap time by an hour, and that is hardly enough time to work. So right now, I’m giving myself a bit of maternity leave from my various writing projects. Once I get the baby on the same nap schedule as my toddler, I will be back at it! My other secret is a great babysitter when the need arises, and a husband who is willing to chip in to make my work a priority.


Another tip! Don’t be afraid to bring along the baby when you have no other option. I did my entire book tour with newborn Vijay at my side or strapped to my chest. I was nursing him, so I couldn’t leave him behind, and newborns are actually quite portable seeing as they spend most of their time sleeping! I was never afraid to bring him along when I was writing or shooting articles, but I just gave my client fair warning, and made sure they were okay with it. As a work-at-home/stay-at-home mom, I just did what I had to do (within reason), and never apologized for it. Of course, this all ended when he became mobile! That’s when the great babysitter kicked in!

Q: What’s your design weakness?

A: My weakness is DIY projects. And it’s only a weakness in that I always think I’ll have time to do it myself, when maybe sometimes it would just be easier to buy something new! I used to have time to do things like re-upholstering furniture, stripping and painting pieces…things like that. Now that I have two little ones, I don’t always have that kind of time. I love re-purposing furniture off of Craigslist or from second-hand shops and flea markets, but I need to get better about not saddling myself with super time consuming projects. Luckily, now that Vik’s nursery is done, I don’t have any big decor projects in the works at the moment, although I am dreaming of converting our attic into a studio for my sewing, crafting, and writing!


Q: What do you think your design choices and home style are teaching your boys?

A: I hope I am teaching my boys to live simply, without the need for too much stuff. Instead of buying our own train table, we love to walk to the library to use theirs. It keeps it special, and gives us a fun activity to do together. I hope they will learn to focus on quality, rather than quantity when it comes to material possessions.


On the other hand, I could stand to loosen up a bit with my cleaning standards. I need to get better about accepting the messes that come along with having kids! I will say that having a big backyard is a blessing in that all our messy play can take place outside — play dough, finger paint, sandbox play, water play, bubbles, silly string! — without giving mom an anxiety attack!

Q: What is your favorite part about living with your own kids? What do you already miss?

A: I love their creativity and curiosity, and the way they see the world. Having kids has forced me to slow down and live in the moment. As a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, my days have a slower rhythm than before — hours spent at the park, playing with blocks, or reading books — and I have really come to enjoy that.

Although, this can sometimes mean that my days feel pretty monotonous…like Groundhog Day, but with swings and a slide! To break up the routine, we are a huge fan of fun day trips to nearby farms, beaches, parks, and cute towns. I already miss having my boys with me all day long to explore and enjoy. I know soon enough they will be in school, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting the weekend to spend quality time with them!

Q: What do you hope your boys remember about these days and their childhood home?

A: I hope to instill my boys with a sense of wonder and adventure, and a healthy appreciation for the great outdoors.

I hope that my boys always come home for their mama’s cooking; I make a mean batch of fully-loaded chocolate chip cookies, and a to-die-for berry crumble, if I do say so myself!

I hope my boys remember our home as warm and loving, with memories of boisterous family meals and lots of laughter. Also, being involved with a college community means we are always having students, professors, and families over for dinner, so I hope my boys remember their home as being full of interesting people, and that they remember their parents as always being open and welcoming.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: …that taking two young kids out to eat was so challenging. I would have gone out to breakfast every single morning before having kids!

—-

Yes, Christine! I think we would’ve all lingered a little longer over dinner had we realized how chaotic it would someday become! Thank you so much for your honesty throughout the tour…especially about those plastic toys; I’m sure there are so many moms out there right now in the middle of clean-up, muttering to themselves about giving them all away to charity!

Friends, what were your best tricks to really embrace those slow early days? How did you manage the monotony…and keep in mind all the magic that was happening, too?

P.S. — You can find all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

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A House Tour, and the Plastic Toy Debate | Christine Chitnis
August 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christy@SweetandSavoring October 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

As I fantasize about the not-too-distant future when I hope to have kids, it’s especially nice reading this series and seeing how different families manage their lives & households :)

I already know I’m going to be one of those picky moms like Christine who doesn’t want the “awful plastic toys”! Haha!

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2 Lucy Mitchell October 9, 2012 at 11:10 am

I love this house. I love the colours and that your little boys bedroom and playspaces are as beautiful as one for little girls. I think this is harder to do as there is so, so much stuff out there aimed at girls and not quite so much that is’nt pink and frilly. Well done!

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3 Jimmy October 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

I really like all the color and wood combinations. Very calming and reassuring.

Today is my first day as the lone stay-at-home parent of the house. My wife’s maternity leave ended yesterday, so here I am trying to figure out how to handle both kids for the first time on my own. I have to find time to do work soon, but for this next week or two it’s all troubleshooting the balance of two kids. I feel your pain on being torn between the two. Finances say I dont really have a choice in having to bring in a little extra here and there to make ends meet.

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4 CMN October 9, 2012 at 11:50 am

Well, I don’t have any tricks for managing monotony or slow early days, but I just have to say… I LOVE the refreshing wall color choices! Absolutely stunning, Christine!

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5 sarah October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm

ah…i am about to be in Christine’s boat…little boy due in 4 weeks and big boy almost 3. i too, feel the need for the fresh air when you walk in the house…and we only have one basket of toys in the main living den…and all the rest upstairs. no play room yet, as each boy will have his own room til baby is 2. then we will put them together, and the other room will turn into a play room. i also love getting rid of whatever isn’t useful or memorable to me, and i’m constantly purging everything from clothes to toys to house things….
i think we are kindred spirits. :)

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6 Megan @meandwee October 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I’ve been a fan of Christine’s blog since before she had her kids. It’s been wonderful to watch all these changes happen for her. I’m still dealing with the monotony myself. My daughter is 3.5 and my son is almost 9 months. When I get really down or frustrated, I take time to make a list of my favorite little moments of the day. A smile, a hug, anything. Today I had a Snickers bar so that made it on my list. :) I try to photograph the little things and make little movies because one day this will all be a memory I’ll want back. Even if right now it seems overwhelming and mundane at the same time.
I keep track of everything on my blog/journal so I can reflect on where we’ve been and where I want to go. The other thing that helps is when my husband give me an evening off or a weekend day to myself where I go and do what I please. It helps me recharge for sure!

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7 Missi October 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Speaking of staying at home – do you have any Living with Kids editions that feature the male parent? I’m very curious to see something like that! (Thanks for adding your voice, Jimmy!)

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8 Jenna at Homeslice October 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I love what you said at the beginning- It’s always a strange balance, savoring the baby years yet wondering if you’ll ever find the old you again, isn’t it? – that’s totally my life right now :) glad to hear I’m not alone!

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9 christina October 10, 2012 at 3:49 am

I really like this house! It feels very homey to me but still stylish as well, which is a balance that’s really hard to achieve. And that hen house is too cute!

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10 Martha Frances October 10, 2012 at 3:50 am

What cozy colors throughout this beautiful home! My favorite feature strikes again. Taking photos and making little videos helped me enjoy the simple moments when my little guy was tiny and I was home all day.

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11 shalini October 10, 2012 at 6:38 am

Love the tour and the interview. Took me back to when we lived in Providence as a newly married couple…also close to Brown Univ.

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12 amy October 10, 2012 at 7:15 am

This was a wonderful “Living with Kids” segment. Such a beautiful home. One aspect marred the overall beauty of the segment for me, however. I couldn’t help but feel badly toward the people who gave offensive plastic toys to those beautiful babies. I get it – my parenting preferences fall squarely on the side of less is more and quality, simple toys. But this is a very public forum and gratitude that kids are lucky to be so loved that they were showered with gifts always plays better than disdain toward the gift. And, sometimes, those space-hogging, not-always-aesthetically-pleasing toys become the kids’ favorites…

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13 Min October 11, 2012 at 11:45 am

I kind of thought that too, but my biggest struggle is when those “awful” toys become the kids favorites. What do you do when your children don’t really have the same favorites as you do and when they don’t have the same definition of what constitutes clutter. My kids are big enough now to know and remember what was given them and what they want for their birthday and they have absolutely no desire to clean out the clutter from their room. They thrive with clutter! :-) And while they aren’t paying for this house they do live here too and should have at least a little bit of a say in what belongings they have in it and how they decorate. So, I end up in this constant battle with myself over what to get rid of and where to keep the things that just can’t be gotten rid of, whether or not I like them.

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14 amy October 10, 2012 at 7:16 am

…oops…should have said “feel badlyFOR the people (not TOWARD the people) who gave…

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15 sarah jane October 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm

What an AMAZING SPACE! Wow. Absolutely love it all. And it was a fun little surprise to see that Le Balloon print of mine….I love how it is framed! I adore this home. So perfectly lived in and fresh. Thank you!

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16 Kathy October 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

Where does the rug on the stairs come from? I have been looking for a striped stair runner!

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17 courtney October 11, 2012 at 8:08 am

Beautiful home. Lovely family. But, I too was slightly taken aback by the plastic toys comment. I work for a domestic violence shelter. A lot of our kids would love to have a toy, any toy, be it plastic, metal or wood. This writer is in the position to keep “non-offensive” toys out of her home, and she says she dontates, which is great…but perhaps the sentiment behind it could be softened a bit. I think we all should remember that not everyone lives this sort of lifestyle and we should be grateful for all that we have, plastic, wooden, whatever it may be.

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