Four years ago — have we seriously been touring your wonderful homes since then?! — Rochelle showed us around her Harvard home, and it was dreamy. Think books and twinkly lights and more books and a burgeoning garden. Much has changed over the years, and Rochelle reached out to see if I’d be interested in seeing her family home’s evolution of sorts. My answer was yes, accompanied by many exclamation points.
Of course, there are less toys, different seating configurations, one less dining room, a flourishing garden and probably way more books. I for sure wanted an update on their lives today. If you’d like, you can peek in on her previous tour. Just be sure to come back quickly. It’s worth it!
Welcome back, Rochelle!
We are four plus one. Our plus one is an English Bull Terror (think Spuds McKenzie or the the Target dog) with excellent comedic timing who either thinks he is human or that we are all dogs. I can’t tell. Either way, the playing field is level according to him and he has gone from being a newbie puppy the last time I was a guest here to full fledged member of the family. Then from littlest to biggest, there is Isaac (ten), Meredith (13), me, and my husband Rob. We live in Harvard, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.
Since we last appeared on Design Mom, everyone has grown so much! We have a teenager now and the toys and the trappings of little kids have all but disappeared from our daily lives. I feel like everything has sped up and I want nothing more than the pace to slow down. But I don’t see that happening — I think it goes with the territory.
I’ve gone from one publishing project to the next to the next. In the fall of 2014 my first solo book was published. It’s called Cultivating Garden Style and I poured my years of experience as a garden designer into it. My goal was to help readers identify and translate their own personal style into a beautiful garden without having to hire a designer and the result is a pretty epic book. Over 1000 images and 23 chapters!
I also launched a print publication at the same time with a super successful indiegogo campaign that is called PITH + VIGOR. Its tagline is Inspiration for people with dirt under their nails. But I think it is really a lot more than that; it is a constantly evolving publishing platform that appeals to anyone who is thoughtful and curious about gardening and the environment, but who also love art and illustration and design.
I love that I have the freedom to experiment and explore and I enjoy trying out new things and collaborating on interesting stories and ideas. We are currently working on the sixth issue which will be out later this year.
We’ve simplified in some ways. We no longer keep chickens, and our beloved cat passed earlier this year, and new kittens seem like too much at the moment…but soon, I think. The streamlining of pets has helped as we travel more, and are generally out and about more. On the flip side, though, I love that the kids are able to do some of the things that I once felt so overwhelmed by, like school supply shopping (THE. WORST. MOTHERHOOD. TASK. EVER. IMO.).
My daughter takes great joy in online shopping for school supplies, organizing it all, making sure her color scheme is intact – she will surely be a designer of some sort, someday — so all I have to do is enter the credit card number. She loves it and she is so much more organized than I am about it. Whew…that is really something to be so grateful for.
Our home has changed along with us. There is the simplifying, of course. I love having less, needing less, and the breathing room that comes with paring down to things that are real necessities. It is a constant practice to reduce, clear out, and minimize. But the busier we are the more I feel like our home needs to be simple so that we can maintain some balance.
We’ve also upgraded here and there. Stuff just wears out, and with older kids and fewer pets, and I felt more confident to invest in some new things. Like a nice sofa, and a new kitchen table and chairs, among others.
We did away with having a formal dining room and converted it to an office/study sort of room that my husband also uses for a music room. I honestly don’t know why we waited for so long to do that. We NEVER used the dining room. Somehow the large table and chairs were really hard to get past, but once we got rid of them and had a blank slate it was obvious what we needed.
It is honestly like we added on an addition — but without all the construction. It is so cozy in there and the house has a nice flow, too.
I really love the dining room that became the study. It just solved so many problems and it is now is so useful. But also the living room bookshelves make me so happy. I am a true book lover and while I feel like minimalism is my mantra everywhere else, I can never have enough books.
The other thing we really love, though, is the patio. We can’t use it for at least half the year, but it is just so nice when we can, and we are so proud of the fact that we laid the cobbles and built the pergola all by ourselves — a huge project that took years! I wish that could be a place that I could spend time all year.
Every time we’ve made a change, everyone has unanimously embraced the change and generally agreed it was way past due. I’m a rearrange the furniture just for the sake of something new and interesting sort of person, and lately moving has been on our minds. We are thinking to relocate back to Europe again, so change is something we talk about a lot and they are used to it. I feel like travel and a healthy sense of adventure has helped our kids to feel less attached to things and able to let them go when the time comes. As we think about moving, we are all pretty good with the question “Would it be worth it to move this object to Europe?” and if that answer is no, then why keep it now?
I feel so unqualified to give parenting advice. Who am I to give parenting advice? What to say? I have no idea what I am doing most of the time.
But here is one story that comes to mind…Two summers ago we spent a month in Belgium and rented an apartment in Brugge for the whole time. We frequented a great bakery every morning for breakfast and at some point during the trip my then 11 year old daughter wanted to go get the pastries by herself. It was a couple blocks away, and she wanted to take her bike.
I let her go, worrying the whole 15 minutes she was gone, and I have this picture I took from the second story window as she rode away on the bike. She was so confident and proud. I was terrified.
I don’t think I will ever look at that photo without getting a little teary.
We’ve had some pretty spectacular weather events over the last 12 years. Like an ice storm that caused us to be without power for nine days, snow that all but buried the whole house two winters ago, with the plow pile at the end of the driveway towering over 20 feet tall. When you are a kid, these things are pure magic and seem to already be favorite memories. For me, they are more like PTSD causing incidents! But I love seeing it through their eyes.
I love that between my father, my husband, and my son there is an ongoing treehouse project that will like never be fully completed.
I love that we have two oak trees in the back yard that have supported a series of hammocks over the years. I swear we could have Disneyland in the back yard and they’d all end up in the hammock. Hammocks are also pure kid magic that I know they will remember fondly.
I love that both of my kids are a little bit introverted. I love that they want to spend time with us or quietly at home as much as they do with friends — if not more, sometimes. But I haven’t always felt that way. I’ve sometimes worried that they weren’t having enough playdates or that they didn’t have enough friends. The older they get the more I realize how silly these feelings were and how completely fine they are.
I wish someone had told me — and I had listened sooner! — that I should take more videos of our lives and that I should write down more things that happen on a daily basis. Even now, I don’t do it enough but I am always so appreciative of those times in the past when I have.
It all seems so fleeting and I forget so many things I wish I could remember. Facebook’s memories is one of my favorite things because they make this sort of thing easy, but I often struggle with the side effects of sharing little things and things about my kids on social media. I kind of don’t always want to. Playing with privacy settings and sometimes keeping something totally to myself has helped.
It was so nice to have you back, Rochelle! I feel like that one sentence of yours could probably help a lot of us with editing our belongings: “Would it be worth it to move this object to Europe?” Even if we’re not planning on heading to Europe any time soon, or moving at all, a variation of this thought — Would I save it in a fire? Would I be relieved if it suddenly disappeared? — could help us look at our stuff with a more exacting eye, don’t you think?
And that goes, too, for the dining room. Do you have one? Do you use it? Have you ever thought that space would be even more life-changing if it was a totally different room? What would you do if you could transform your dining room? What would it become?
(Also, Rochelle, I’ve got to see that photo of your daughter pedaling away!)
P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.