Living With Kids: Liz Young

November 5, 2013

By Gabrielle.

This home tour feels a little romantic to me. It’s got all the makings of a perfect story. There’s the storyteller herself, the serendipitous discovery of the perfect forever home after a series of inspiring wanderings, a painful separation of lovers, an in-house bakery and creative studio (which basically translates – to me, at least! – to a 24-hour access to gorgeous cakes and big ideas), and lots and lots of bikes. I’m not sure the bicycles add anything to the story, but they sure add fun to the Young family’s afternoons! We all want our homes to work for our families, but the Young house truly works with them. And after a lovely glimpse of this home, I think it deserves a raise. Friends, please meet the Young family and their delightful home. I just know you’re going to fall in love!

Q: Please introduce us to the family.

A: Our current crew is Tommy (2), Moses (5), me, and Ryan. Here’s a quick character rundown: Tommy has an imaginary baby gorilla he carries in the palm of his hand, rolls him in the dirt, feeds him Chicken Tikka Masala, and naps him in silky blankets when he’s cranky. Moses is a collector, digger, woods runner, bike racer, number counter, word lover, sleeper, and justice seeker. He also buzzes his hair and wants to be a soldier like his dad. Ryan was a soldier, but now he drives a big truck, fixes hospital equipment, entertains us with spontaneous song, loves his motorcycle, and adores the rest of us.

When I was little, I wore a pin on my coat that said, “Upwardly Mobile.” Apparently, I couldn’t get enough of cartwheels and hanging upside down. I still love flipping things around as a creative philosophy, now, more than my body! And I love being outside, writing stories, driving in the sun, and making a meal while the boys are shooting Nerf guns and running commando.

Q: You’ve had a few interesting homes pre-kids, and you currently live in a pretty swell home in Cincinnati. Tell us what made you love each of your homes, but why this one takes the cake!

A: Our first two homes were night and day! We went from a shoebox, furnished, flea-ridden apartment in Virginia (where Ryan was stationed for six months with the Army), to a sprawling home in Italy with marble floors and oversized doors and persimmon trees dropping fruit at our front door. The contrast left us reeling. I can’t say I loved anything about the Virginia apartment, other than the woods around it and the man inside it, but in Italy I fell in LOVE with splendor and squalor.

Our home was co-habited by a multigenerational Italian family – we each had our own large floor of the home – and we shared a driveway, a gate, fat ducks, and wine. For four years we rented this home, while Ryan did his first military assignment in Vicenza, Italy, and then we hopped back to Chicago so I could go to art school. Our home there was another shoebox, attic apartment where we bumped our heads a lot (we’re both really tall), and tried to grow orchids (fail), and ate a lot of Dunkin Donuts on a small bed while our eccentric landlord refurbished street signs on the floor below us. We had at least eight bicycles stacked into that apartment – some beautiful racing bikes and lots of rickety granny bikes we brought back from Italy – so when I picture Home Three, it’s got a lot of wheels.

Ryan found our current home in Cincinnati, and when I first walked through the aqua front door, I cried. The seller was inside, an elderly artist, and she asked what I thought of her mid-century house. I said, incredulously, “I don’t know what to say…other than I feel like I’m back in Carmel, California.” With a surprised look, the seller handed me a glass of Chardonnay and responded, “But that’s exactly where I’m headed…Carmel.” Lovely, lovely fate. And then, when you bring your new babies into a home, it cements it as the best place ever.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: Cincinnati is the cat’s meow. It’s small enough to feel manageable for a girl who’s terrible with directions, but it’s progressive and getting wonderfully confident in itself. Fantastic new restaurants, cool stores, the whole gamut of schools, and farmsteads. We’re also a city who’s doing something revolutionary to fight poverty with a place called CityLink Center. So, there’s a heartbeat in this city that’s very sacrificial and others-centered.

But the hands-down win is that most of our family is here. My sister and her family of seven are actually our neighbors, so it’s a circus of bike and stroller rides up and down the street, porch parties, driveway games. My grandmother lived next door to her sister, and my other two sisters are also neighbors to each other, so we’re all just repeating a fun cycle started by Marie and Ethel.

Q: You work from your home, too! Your bakery/studio sounds like a dream come true.

A: Our dreams are made of sketchbooks and fondants, although it’s totally chaotic and exhausting at times. Last year, after lots of pro/con lists, we realized this house could really work FOR us. We have a kitchen that’s suited for an in-home bakery, and lots of open space for my writing and creative pursuits. We don’t want a brick-and-mortar store, yet, because our kids are little and we’re kind of homebodies. So now, as Haven, we’re doing things like baking big cakes, styling photo shoots, and producing small books – all the while getting to work with kindred, creative friends.

Q: How do you separate work and home? 

A: Honestly, I don’t separate them too much. When we lived in Italy, I ended up working in the same office as Ryan, and one of the best things I learned is that when you can include your spouse in what you do and love, it’s just good, and simpler, and more meaningful. With Haven, a lot of the beauty comes from how much I get to share with Ryan and now the boys. Tommy goes on deliveries, we visit the screen printer as a family, Ryan helps me with big projects and is the constant sounding board. The less I compartmentalize work from home, even in my head, the more at peace I feel. (Of course, sometimes I have the desperate need for solitude, and I run for the hills.)

Q: When your husband was away for a year, how did your sense of home change without him in it?

A: Even the thought of that time makes my heart drop. Ryan was deployed for 17 months, I only saw him a couple times, and the shift was dramatic. Home changed significantly because I lived with my parents. I wanted the comfort of being with them in a home I knew well, which was salvation at the time. I stayed incredibly busy with grad school, writing a book, teaching, friends, and sisters. While Ryan was away, I wasn’t comfortable with solo downtime because I felt so unmoored without him. When Ryan came home, I was home again, too.

Q: Do you feel like you decorate with your kids’ needs in mind? Do your decor choices affect them in tangible ways?

A: Best design decision for our family to date: overhauled landscaping. Our house used to be cocooned by ridiculous amounts of ivy, overgrown trees, mismatched hardscaping, deer, and raccoon parades. It was a super long process, but scraping our yard clean, grading it for a nearly flat slope and laying down sod brought the biggest joy. We wanted space for baseball and bocce.

We also keep things uncluttered and pretty cheap. We don’t want to cringe every time our boys spill apple juice so staying a little shabby feels right. And the less you have, the less you have to put away at night! I also love keeping things in the home that I want to tell the boys stories about: photographs and ashtrays from their great-grandparents, old government chairs my dad salvaged, my mom’s button collection. I want them to always know their family is big and present and generous.

Q: What traditions and ideals do you hope your boys are learning in your home? What do you hope they carry with them always?

A: Imagination and love and togetherness. A few months ago, I gathered Mo and three of his young cousins together and we set out for an adventure. We were making believe that we were those resourceful and wonderful Boxcar Children and had to literally walk three miles to find food. So we heroically and dramatically trudged from our neighborhood out to the main roads, through strangers’ yards, alongside heavy traffic, until, finally, we found our destination: Wendy’s. After french fries and grand retellings of the walk, Ryan picked us up – two four-year-olds on a street hike starts to fall apart – but the spirit of imagination and love was so beautiful that I’d call it a near-perfect day. If our boys walk in and out of our home with those kinds of memories, I think we’ll be set.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? Has motherhood surprised you?

A: I remember a moment in grad school – I was sitting around a table with a bunch of brilliant creators and artists, and the professor asked what we all wanted in life. One by one, students shared these high ideas of art installations they’d build, plays they’d write, book tours they’d take. When my turn came, I opened my mouth to talk about writerly dreams…but instead, I confessed that all I wanted was to be a mom.

Living with kids is like having heaven and semi-hell all mixed together. It can be so hard in the grind of the day, but nothing – nothing – has been sweeter. When we’re all sitting on the counter in the kitchen making baby gorilla pancakes, or running laps around the couch, or singing funny prayers, I know there’s a part of my soul…the part that longs to be a caretaker, a lover, a provider, a teacher…that’s getting filled to the brim.

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

A: …that our mistakes don’t need to define us. I’m sure someone told me this, but I never accepted it until a few years ago. It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of guilt, performance, fear, approval-seeking. No freedom in that. I’m pretty sure the best stuff in life happens with forgiveness and sincerity. And espresso. And great cocktails. And Becky’s cake. Seriously, you’ve got to try one.

–-

See? I told you this was a good story. Thank you, Liz, for being such a wonderful storyteller. Best of luck to you on writing the rest of yours! (Also, this: “Living with kids is like having heaven and semi-hell all mixed together.” That made me giggle for a full minute, at least!)

Friends, do you ever dream of opening up a business inside your home? If money wasn’t an issue and the only factor was your dreams, what would that business be? (I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately! Send me your inspiration!)

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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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy November 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

If I opened up a business in my home, which I’ve thought about for years, through many botched career choices, it would be just making and selling whatever I feel good about doing at that moment. Sometimes granola, sometimes interior decorating consults, sometimes art.

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2 nora November 5, 2013 at 11:15 am

I would love to see a compilation of “I wish someone had told me…” answers.
Somedays they put a lump in my throat, others make me say “yeah!”, others have me thinking long into the day while dinner simmers on the stove. What an insightful closing for your Living With Kids interviews.

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3 Amy Hackworth November 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Ooo, yes. This would be very interesting.

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4 Lisa November 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I agree! That would be a great post. :)

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5 Rachel November 5, 2013 at 11:25 am

This post was so beautiful – thanks for sharing! Is there any, any, any way that Liz could share where she got her gray sectional sofa? I think it looks like the Ikea one we’re scoping, but I’d love to know. I adore how it looks in her space! Thanks for any help here (here’s hoping!)…

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6 Liz November 5, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Rachel! Yes, IKEA! And the fabulous part is that you can WASH the covers (on delicate, and no dry).

Enjoy :)

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7 Rachel November 6, 2013 at 10:29 am

Thanks so much Liz! Fabulous – love to hear that the couch I’ve been eying up works in real life. The washable part is a definite bonus! Thanks again!

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8 Laura November 5, 2013 at 11:56 am

What an amazing home! Makes me miss living in the Midwest!

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9 Lisa Taylor Whitley November 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Beautiful home! The kitchen is amazing!

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10 Miggy November 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

OK so as soon as I saw the front of this house, I KNEW it was in Cincinnati. Some of my favorite home tours have been homes in Cincy and since we lived there for 2 years (and may move back) I love seeing these beautiful houses. This is one of my favorites…I love it.

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11 sarah November 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

this home is lovely…physically and spiritually.
if i could open a business, it would be to be an interior designer for sure….that is definitely a dream of mine.

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12 Amy Hackworth November 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Wow–love at first sight! The exterior of your home took my breath away! And the interior is also beyond lovely. Thanks for sharing!

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13 Liz November 5, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Amy, thank you!!

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14 Jessica @ Little Nesting Doll November 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm

What a gorgeous home! My husband was deployed with the Army too, and I too lived with my parents and our newborn daughter when he was gone, and I love the sentiment she expresses about being unmoored while her husband was gone. So well-put. I was the same way, and then wherever we were together after that was home enough. :)

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15 Liz November 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Jessica: I’m so happy that you and your own family are back together again after a deployment. (If you’d like, I’d happily send you a copy of the book, on-the-house. Just email me your street address to lizbellyoung@gmail.com.)

All the Best!
LBY

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16 Claire {The Half-Hearted Housewife} November 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

@Jessica- I, too, lived with my parents and a newborn (and a two year old) during a 15 month deployment. In the years since, I still feel grateful for time we get to be together (thankfully my husband’s current Army job has him home all the time, no more field exercises/deployments/etc) and I love what you said about “wherever we were together after that was home enough” because it is so true. We don’t really care where we are, as along as we can all be there together.

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17 Kristi Marsh November 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I’m on Cincinnati too!! Love the home! Gorgeous!

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18 emily November 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

stunning home. i read the interview and then explored her website, and then looked at all the pictures again. such a story of struggle and hope…and such a happy ending.

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19 Caitlin November 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm

What a great tour this was! I loved this one! If I could someday start a business, I think I’d open a playhouse theater. I’m a sucker for stories – it’s why I’m a novelist – and plays were a huge part of my life growing up. I miss the stage and I’d love to get involved in other aspects of putting on a show. Like costumes! Oh how I love costumes!

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20 Emily November 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I’m not a mama yet but I’m the same way when asked what the greatest thing I want to do with my life is. I want to be a mama to sweet babies and nourish the part of my soul that yearns to help them grow.

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21 Sandy November 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm

This home tour is classy and cool all at once. I love the plants along the window and all the natural light!

Would you mind sharing where you found the black and white Venice print on the mantle? Thanks a bunch :)

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22 Liz November 6, 2013 at 3:47 am

http://www.fab.com. If I remember right, it was about $30.

:) LBY

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23 Sandy November 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Thank you!

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24 Libby November 6, 2013 at 1:44 am

Really beautiful tour. I love midcentury homes and this one looks like it’s been updated in all the best ways. Having recently moved abroad with my family I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of “home,” too. While we were very attached to our house back in the States, we really believed that it’s the sense of togetherness and sharing memories that makes a home. It’s not always easy, but we’re testing the theory anyway!

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25 Megan Smith November 6, 2013 at 8:16 am

Love the home, but love the story more! The quote about heaven and semi-hell is so apt and true for everyone who has little kids. I love her laid back approach to the home and not to have millions of “things” filling it. I would love to have an interior design business and work out of my home. I’m never sure I’m on the right career path, and not that I think being self-employed would be easier, but would be more fitting for our family, if only to have a little bit more flexibility and not have a company claim my time from 7:30-5:30. Awesome post!

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26 annie November 6, 2013 at 11:57 am

I always love your “Living with Kids” posts…but this one, and I always say this, but this one’s my fave! I just ordered her book. The hard copy…I’m old school when it comes to reading, unless there’s an audio version, then I make an exception! LOVE this house!!

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27 Tamsin November 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I think this might be my favorite “Living with Kids” yet. So much of what Liz had to say rang true for me, and it was all phrased in such a delightful way! It’s not often you feel like you’ve found a friend (or at least someone you wish was your friend!) in a blog post, but Liz has me kind of wishing I was on that street in Cincinnatti too.

I especially loved this:

“Living with kids is like having heaven and semi-hell all mixed together. It can be so hard in the grind of the day, but nothing – nothing – has been sweeter. When we’re all sitting on the counter in the kitchen making baby gorilla pancakes, or running laps around the couch, or singing funny prayers, I know there’s a part of my soul…the part that longs to be a caretaker, a lover, a provider, a teacher…that’s getting filled to the brim.”

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28 Rea November 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Awww what a lovely story! I wanna have a bookshop at home! :) I love this line: our mistakes don’t have to define us.

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29 Matt Castleman November 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Inspiring. Love this story—love this family.

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30 Carol November 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

Love your house and story!!! My daughter lives in Cincy and we love it! Would you share what area you are near. We may be in the market for a house there.

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31 Liz November 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi, Carol! Sure, happy to share. We live in Madeira, but a little on the outskirts. Good luck with your own house search, and thanks for the sweet notes.

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32 Jen November 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Liz, your home is beautiful, and way to go on making Cincinnati a brighter place. :)

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33 Liz November 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thanks, Jen :) We LOVE Cincinnati.

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34 Rebekah November 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm

We would have a small, in-home Montessori school. My total dream.

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35 Carrie November 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Would you mind sharing some information about the other couch – the one in the 4th picture from the top?

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36 Liz November 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Well, it is OLD—my parent’s couch :) I took off the back pillows, added some fresh ones, and put a quilt (the yellow pattern you see) over the back and seat. It’s a Target quilt: Dwell Studio.

L

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37 Kalani November 8, 2013 at 12:41 am

Ah when Liz said her heart drops every time she thinks of their military deployment my heart dropped too. I know that feeling too well and have a feeling it will never go away. My husband returned not long ago from a year in the war zone. Just the other day he found a small box that needed to be put away. When I asked him what it was he said it was a tracking device in case they got shot down in the mountains, then stopped short of finishing his sentence. Teary eyed all I could say was, “Thank you…for coming home.” Oh what an experience that deployment business is! As for parenting, having received the flu from our little girl and having her home sick for the past two days sick but still bursting with chattering, bouncy energy, I could also absolutely relate to the joy/hell of parenting. Lol. Thanks for another fantastic Living With Kids. I will be looking at/reading this over and over again to take it all in.

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38 Liz November 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Wow, Kalani. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. It is good to be a “united front” with other women who have experienced similar things. I wish you the best in your life.

LBY

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39 Madhavi November 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

My dream kitchen has always been a white kitchen. And then I saw your kitchen. I’m so in love and so confused now. It is absolutely gorgeous and a lovely contrast to the lighter painted living space.

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40 Karen November 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I generally don’t read the “Living with Kids” posts because, well, I don’t have kids. Sometimes I browse the photos but I rarely read them. This one caught my eye. It was the exterior of the house, for sure – just my style. Something looks familiar and inviting. It took me a few days to get back to it but I’m so glad I made a point of reading it.

Cincinnati! I lived there for 18 years (before moving to SF eight years ago). To this day I refer to Cincinnati as “home” (even though I was born and raised in Michigan and northern Indiana). I’m constantly extolling the virtues of Cincinnati to anyone who glances at me. :-) I imagine them wondering why I’m on CA. (I followed my family.)

Thanks for this peek into Liz’s life. It looks warm and comfortable and if I were still in Cincinnati, I would want to visit.

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41 Patty February 16, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Really enjoyed getting a peek into your beautiful home and especially reading your thoughts about motherhood. Thanks for sharing, Liz!

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