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!