Living With Kids: Heather Craw

April 2, 2013

By Gabrielle.

I smiled all the way through Heather‘s tour, but especially so when I read her clean house philosophy: “Our house will become a mess every single day. I accept that. I feel like we’re succeeding if at least once a day, the house is as neat as I want it to be, and at least once a day it’s as crazy as they want it to be.” It’s a refreshing compromise, don’t you think? Everyone seems to win, at least for a few hours!

Friends, this is clearly a home where the children’s informal preferences have merged with the adults’ decidedly more formal leanings in every room, which must be a dream for the kids and make them feel like this is where they belong. Someday, the formal side may win out. Until then, I’m pretty sure no one minds being seated at the kids’ table! I really hope you enjoy the peek into Heather’s home as much as I did.

Q: Tell us about the neat family making this house a home!

A: Hi, I’m Heather. I’m a mom, blogger, and opera singer (by way of Russian literature and law school). I live in this house with my best friend Kent, a patent attorney who is much kinder and funnier than his job makes him sound. We’ve been married nine years and we have three little sugar plums. There’s my honey-love preschooler, Fluffy, and my twins, 21 month-old twin agents of anarchy, Salty and Peppers. I personally would love to use my kids’ real names, but I promised my husband long ago that I would use pseudonyms for them when posting on the internet.

When we bought this house, my style was very, very formal. Six years and three kids later, I’m down to very formal. I know what you’re thinking: “Ring the police! Children being raised by a formal mother! Bring in the governess to make them play clothes out of old curtains!” It’s not like that, really. I’ll admit, my house is a little high maintenance, and most days I’m okay with that. Our home is filled with special, beautiful things and people that I love and take care of.

Q: How did the house become yours?

A: We decided to buy our first house before we had kids, so our priorities were very different. Schools? Schmools. That seemed like a hundred years away. Yard? All that digging and caring? Forget about it. We figured we could put the baby I was gestating, oh, under the bathroom sink or something. Kids are small. How much room do they really need, right? Ha.

We found these townhouses which were within walking distance to the Metro, and we both loved the floor plan. We made offers on three different houses of the same plan before we got this one. That’s how we bought the house. But it became ours through years of decorating, and major renovations following two horrible floods, and basically putting five sets of fingerprints on everything in it. These days we’re re-evaluating that whole schools and yard thing, so I don’t know how long we’ll be here.

Q: How do you truly live with your kids on a daily basis?

A: Living with twin boys, the toys do seem to come alive and wash over the house during the day. Toys in our house are like spiders: you’re never more than eight feet away from one. Our house will become a mess every single day. I accept that. I feel like we’re succeeding if at least once a day, the house is as neat as I want it to be, and at least once a day it’s as crazy as they want it to be.

We have one or more toy bins in every room, so picking the house up is quite easy and fast. Generally, we pick it up before people come over, and we always put it back together before all the kids go to bed – so that for a few hours at night I can feel young and carefree!

My daughter gets a point for every time she helps me clean up or fetches things. When she reaches ten points she gets to pick a prize like a late night or a sleepover with me. She earns a LOT of prizes. I do put energy into protecting the boys from the house and vice versa, but I think it’s more useful in the long run to world-proof my children rather than completely child-proofing my house. They all know the meaning of “Don’t touch!” and “Dangerous!” even if they’ve had to learn the hard way.

Q: When does your home work best? And what is it missing, if anything?

A: Beyond the acoustics, the kitchen works well at meal times because the bar we installed allows us to use the breakfast nook as a kiddie kitchen. I enjoy cooking dinner while my little people bring me fresh baked imaginary treats from their kitchen. Of course if I take too long, they start trying to scale Mt. Mommy at the stove.

The living and dining room area is great for entertaining especially when we use the elevated dining room as a stage for music recitals or dramatic readings with my book club. And during all those months of nursing, having all the bedrooms and the laundry on the same level was essential. Laundry is already my housekeeping Achilles’ heel. If I had to schlep loads up and down stairs, I might just call the whole thing off.

On the flip side, decorating the rec room gave me fits. For a long time there, the play area screamed, “I cared about your sister several years ago, and now I’m tired.” It’s pretty small, and the grown-up seating area is open to the playroom. Cats and dogs living together! I wanted the whole room to cohere, but I didn’t want the seating area to be too juvenile or the play area to be un-fun. With some major DIY and some plastic cocktail forks from Target, I think we’ve finally arrived.

My main must-have in the next house is a big, fat playroom that is exclusively theirs. I hope it’s big enough for the moon bounce and ride-on train to stay out all the time.

Q: When was the first moment you fell in love with the house and knew it had to be yours? What still makes you swoon the most?

A: When I first walked into the living and family room area with the extra high ceilings and one wall open all the way to the cathedral ceilings on the floor above, I actually had to sing in front of the realtor. The acoustic was irresistible. I love singing in that room even while I’m feeding the kids lunch – even while I’m having to sing over my daughter’s protestations of “Too loud, Mom! TOO LOUD!”

My newest crush in the house is the playroom area, especially the sign that says “play nice.” Now that I have the sign, when the boys are tormenting each other, I can just point to the sign and…nothing happens. I have twins on the cusp of two, so “play nice” is what we strive for, but the forks are a wink that says, “Good luck with that.”

Living in the house, I’ve become most attached to my kids’ rooms. The Princess Room is the clear favorite of anyone with two X chromosomes. I love the feeling in there. The room is feminine and sweet without being cloying or oppressively over-pink. It is exactly the room that I would have wanted for myself as a girl. It’s probably the room I would want right now if my husband were decor-blind. My blood pressure settles down the moment I walk in.

And although I resisted my husband’s request for a themed nursery for the boys because I thought it would be too trite and precious, I love kicking back in the rocking recliner in the “Nautical Delight Room” as well. The boating theme reminds me of vacation even when the day has been anything but.

Q: Your home looks super orderly! What are your best tricks for keeping messes to a minimum?

A: One of the great thrills of my life was when my then three-year old daughter started loading her dishes. Not because anyone asked her to or showed her how, but because she saw that’s how this ship runs. The kids really do follow my lead. Little Peppers is more obsessive about housekeeping than I am. He compulsively closes the doors of bathrooms and closets and often refuses to leave for bed until he’s cleaned up all his cars. The first time he did this, I asked him to marry me.

I’ve been asked about organization enough that I wrote a three part series on my blog called Clean House. First – and least important for me – are organizational tricks like my obsession with back-of-door hanging organizers and the numbered toy bins. Numbering the bins instead of labeling is great because I don’t end up with a wall of bins that say Toys and Miscellaneous. Second and far more important is monitoring my storage-to-stuff ratio both by purchasing stuff deliberately and working storage into my design. For instance, the massive coffee table in the living room. And finally, and by far the most important, is that if I want a clean house, I have to clean it. A lot. It’s no less true than it is obvious.

My husband will tell you my biggest pet peeve in life is soaking. Soaking is a lie and a sham invented by lazy husbands and kids who hope you’ll clean the dish for them if they leave it in a pool of tepid soapy water for long enough. My dishes rules are simple, few, and utterly unyielding! All dirty dishes are immediately loaded, and the first person to open the dishwasher when it’s clean takes two minutes out of their lives to unload it right then and there. This style of living is not for everyone, but it absolutely works for us.

Q: Tell us about your blog. What are your hopes for it, and what does it add to your life?

A: Well, my blog is my fourth child so…I just want it to be happy. Whether it becomes a doctor or an interpretive dancer, I just want it to find its bliss. Seriously, the blog started as something to do in the dark days of bed-rest with my twin pregnancy, and now it’s a big part of who I am. I use it to talk through the things I care about like parenting, getting out with three kids, and beautifying my life.

It started out as a family blog, but after a while, people would come up and say, “I read your blog! I feel like we’re friends.” I’ve met some of the coolest people that way. I’m in the process of transitioning it into something that will pay for itself. It’s like trying to make your 20-something who lives at home get a job. My goal has always been for Put That On Your Blog to be a place where very different people can come for a thoughtful chat about the latest parenting research, maybe some ideas on entertaining and outings, and hopefully a few good laughs.

Q: What do you hope the decor you’ve chosen is teaching your children?

A: During the twins’ exciting climbing phase, the decor is teaching them “Don’t jump face first onto the carved Balinese furniture unless you want to look like you’ve been beaten with a cheese grater.”

I hope what they take from it eventually is that your environment should make you happy whether or not it’s super on-trend, and that you should surround yourself with things that are meaningful. I love living amid unique and tangible reminders of our travels and adventures. Like the furniture and art from Bali, the matrioshki from Ukraine, the statuettes from the Yucatan, and the Romeo and Juliet painting from our Shakespeare-inspired wedding. I even try to use fun things our families bring us from around the world like the bowl on the coffee table from Turkey and the little wooden animals from Brazil.

I also hope my decor shows my kids how worshipfully I adore them. I care about art, so I never thought I’d be one of those people who puts up family pictures instead of paintings. We do have some interesting pieces, but as you can see, my house is covered with pictures of my babies. They’re the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and there’s nothing I’d rather look at.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you about it all? And what do you already miss?

A: I’m going to cheat and give two favorites. The first is sneaking into the nursery to snuggle the sleeping boys at 11:00 pm after I’ve recovered enough from the day to get the baby munchies again. Second is rediscovering the magic and joy of childhood – maybe the childhood I never had – through my daughter’s eyes.

My maternal instinct switch was firmly in the off position until I turned 29, so I’ve been most surprised by how much I love being a mom. I would never have guessed it can be so exhilarating.

I already dearly miss the baby girl clothes! I miss them almost enough to have another baby.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: All silliness and irony aside,  I wish someone had told me – or been able to convince me – how much I would love having kids. Maybe then I would have started sooner, and possibly had one more. I also desperately wish someone hadn’t told me I could get by in Disneyland without bringing my own twin stroller.

—-

Such an enjoyable read, Heather! Who knew soaking was a pet peeve? I get it now. I really do. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and smile-inducing answers.

Friends, do you ever experience that moment that occurs two or three hours after the most prolonged bedtime rituals? When you want to go back for a do-over and snuggle like you wish you had when it counted? We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Tonight, let’s all vow to take our sweet time with our sweet ones, no matter how old they may be!

P.S. — Take a peek at 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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{ 2 trackbacks }

Living With Kids on Design Mom | Put That On Your Blog
April 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm
Clean House Part IV: Many Right Ways | Put That On Your Blog
April 8, 2013 at 9:41 am

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jamie April 2, 2013 at 10:32 am

I always learn so much from this series–and not just about how to make a house work with kids in it. The Living With Kids posts are always so lovely and insightful and make me want to go buy a couple more baskets for our toys and then settle down and just LOVE my kids for a bit. Thank you for the ever-fresh reminders.

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2 Azra April 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

Jamie, I feel the same way. I am going to clean the toys right this minute. :)

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3 Maria B April 2, 2013 at 11:25 am

Baby munchies!! That pretty much sums it up perfectly! Sometimes if we’ve had a particularly stressful evening I get to feeling guilty a couple hours after they’ve finally gone to sleep and I head up to hold them for a few minutes each. They never wake up but always seem aware that they’re in my arms and they look so content and happy. It always makes me a little teary. My 4.5 year old is getting especially big and independent right now. Sometimes those snuggles I steal in the middle of the night are all I get in a day…I relish every single second.

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4 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Yes indeed, Maria (Heather here). No matter how tired I am, I try to make myself go in and snuggle them before I hit my bed. During the day it’s hard not to sometimes wish they were older, but when they’re toasty and sleep-heavy in your arms at night, you realize just how fleeting and precious this age is.

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5 Maria B April 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I just realized I wrote “get to feeling…” Haha. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

;)

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6 Carla April 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

These comments remind me of the fabulous Robert Munsch book “Love you Forever”
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
http://robertmunsch.com/book/love-you-forever

The book never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

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7 Catherine Vargas April 2, 2013 at 11:32 am

Lovely pictures :)

http://www.vindiebaby.com
Vintage Inspired Girls

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8 Maria B April 2, 2013 at 11:37 am

Those dresses are gorgeous!

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9 Nicole April 2, 2013 at 11:34 am

What a great attitude! With a very active 3-year old boy (and less activity, but messy 30-something husband) I always feel I’m picking up/putting away/cleaning something. But she’s right, if the house is not a mess at least once a day then you’re probably missing out on some fun!

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10 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I feel the same, (Heather here), especially about the husband. We’re currently in the middle of a two week staycation, and I’m wondering why I can’t get that time of day when everything is as tidy as I want it to be!

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11 Christina April 2, 2013 at 11:38 am

Oh how I enjoyed this series! What a great writer – so articulate and colorful. She gives such an image and is so darn witty. Thanks for this mini retreat in my afternoon!

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12 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Thanks, Christina! Your kind words brought a little tear to my eye!

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13 Cheltz April 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

This was cute, very cute! And your kids ARE beautiful!

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14 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Thanks, Cheltz!

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15 Lindsey April 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thank you for the reminder. My laundry is sitting down in our shared laundry room and the Swiss neighbors will have a freak out if I don’t keep it moving along! ;)

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16 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm

My laundry is…a giant work in progress. :)

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17 Lisa April 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I feel the same about soaking. Only occasionally is a soak actually required!

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18 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Totally. I have been known to say, “There are only a few legitimate soaks per year…and this is not one of them.”

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19 Jillian in Italy April 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I love Heather’s sense of humor. This interview made me giggle, contemplate several aspects of being a parent and ferociously nod in agreement about the soaking.

Being a fellow mother of twins (and a 3rd child as well) I know how difficult it is during those early years to keep up the constant child surveillance and have time to keep a tidy and organised house.

Love that comment about scaling Mount Mommy during dinner prep time. I’ve definitely been there (with all three).

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20 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Thanks so much, Jillian! Ah, yes, the surveillance, the constant surveillance. The CIA and FBI combined have nothing on the mothers of young twins.

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21 Summer April 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Loved this one! Good to know about the kids thing too – I’m 30 and just now do they seem slightly less than horrible, so it’s been on my mind. ;)

I do have to disagree with the soaking thing though! I think that’s what control freaks (that’s a compliment, I swear!) think of laid back people! I soak, and I live alone – I know no one’s cleaning up after me – but after making rice krispy treats, you better believe there will be some soaking! ;)

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22 Heather Craw April 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Yeah, my soaking peeve is only 9 years old (ha). Before that, I was known to leave dishes in the sink in law school until they molded over, came to life and terrorized the city. Also, if you live alone, then you’re not soaking to try to shuffle off dish duty onto someone else (like I probably was onto my grad school roommate), so soak away!

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23 Jessica April 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm

What beautiful spaces! Very inspirational.

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24 Shannon { A Mom's Year } April 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Oh my gosh, this made me laugh out loud: “I can just point to the sign and…nothing happens.”

And the part about sneaking in to snuggle is so wonderful. I haven’t done that in a long time, but I always take one last peek at my four right before I go to bed. Even the teen and tween look like their old baby selves when they’re asleep. :)

Really lovely home and family–thank you for sharing your story.

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25 Lena April 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Love the color organization! Especially the forks! What a great idea!

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26 Kirsten April 3, 2013 at 12:36 am

What a rollicking good read about clever, loving organization and parenting. Thank you, thank you for sharing your lovely home and ideas.

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27 Heather Craw April 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Thanks, Kirsten!

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28 Rebecca April 3, 2013 at 7:35 am

Heather’s writing is hilarious and compelled me to leave a comment for the first time. I love her house as well and think it looks a lot like how I’d decorate my rooms if I was more motivated. ;) Thanks for this home tour! Now I’m off to read her blog…

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29 Heather Craw April 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I’m so flattered you liked it, Rebecca. Thanks!

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30 Rita Santos April 3, 2013 at 7:51 am

Hi Gabrielle! My husband and I are buying our first home and I just love this series because it always gives me so much inspiration on how to design a home that is both functional and beautiful for adults and kids- our little boy will be 3 in August :). Could you tell me more about the painting in the 3rd photo down? It is just beautiful!

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31 Heather Craw April 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Hi, Rita. The painting is Romeo and Juliet by Sir Frank Dicksee. We had it printed as a giclee and framed through an online vendor for our wedding. I’m not sure whom we used because it was 10 years ago. So delighted you like it!

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32 Rita Santos April 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Thank you for the response, Heather! Your home is just lovely!

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33 CeeBee April 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

I am late to reading this, but had to write because I, too, LOVE Heather’s writing and personality, and house – gosh! Those kid rooms and the mesh of colors/patterns in the TV room are amazing!

When we got married, my husband tried the “soaking” routine constantly, until finally I had to regulate! I told him that leaving dirty dishes in the sink, whether they are “soaking” or not, is like going to the bathroom and not flushing! Thankfully, he now agrees and is great at washing dishes immediately. Love that I’m not the only “anti-soaker!”

This was very enjoyable – thank you!!

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34 Heather Craw April 3, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Thanks so much, CeeBee. Going to the bathroom without flushing is a great analogy. I’m definitely going to use that next time!

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35 Grace April 5, 2013 at 6:24 pm

When I was little my mom would leave the toys out because if we put them away I wouldn’t play with them as much.

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36 Kellie Anderson July 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for sharing all the picture of you beautiful home love a lot of your ideas too!!!

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37 graphique bourse July 22, 2014 at 2:45 pm

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