It’s so fitting that I share Lauren with you on Valentine’s Day because she is absolutely filled with love for her life. Plus, I have a real soft spot in my heart for public school art teachers, don’t you?

And if I needed another reason to adore her, I found this on her blog’s About Me page: “If you are here looking for design services or home portrait watercolors, I no longer offer those things. Don’t worry; you’re not missing out! I truly couldn’t quite figure it out. I may have a designer’s mind, but there were parts of business running where I failed. My heart just isn’t there anymore, and someone else will certainly suit you better. I now only commit to projects that I’m passionate about, and let me tell you what a wonderful headspace to be in!” What a genuine statement. I love it.

Come and meet her. This is a super cute tour!

Hi everyone! I’m Lauren, and I’m so excited to be here with you. I’m a wife, a mom to two young boys, and a public school art teacher in Louisville, Kentucky with lots of side-projects. More on that later!

I met my husband Mike in my ninth grade study skills class. He was a grade older, and our relationship was only a smidge of a friendship at that time. He wore a neon green earring, was very smart and also little edgy, which I liked.

All throughout my school years, I failed many classes. Especially this particular year. I was always doodling, daydreaming, creating things in my head, and often distracted. At the end of my ninth grade year. I switched schools; the Math Science Technology program I was in at a public school wasn’t working for me.

Looking back, it was funny I was even in that program. I confused my love of science experiments, gooey things, and shark facts, with the idea I should be some sort of scientist.

I was always an artist at heart.

Years later, Facebook became a thing. I messaged Mike to see if he wanted to go to the movies. We saw Pulse (a 2006 Horror Movie) followed up by Steak-n-Shake. I didn’t make eye contact with him, because…umm…eye contact is terrifying.

A lot of people have special dates they remember like their first date or an official dating date. I don’t really remember those kinds of details, but what I do know is that Mike and I spent hours and hours on the phone while I was away at college. We sent packages, made special visits, and always made sure there was an adventure.

My favorite package was a giant box full of sharpies, pencils, blank notebooks, and a recipe book. The way to my heart right there.

We got married in 2011, and kids came soon after. Ari, who’s almost four, is our oldest. He tells me he wants his birthday party to be in his bedroom, and goldfish can be served for our guests. He always insists on two stories each night: a mystery, and a funny one. If it’s not funny enough, I need to try again, he says.

Max is our youngest, and will soon be one which blows my mind. He’s a silly easy-going guy. He sleeps with a little bunny, and my heart melts every single time I see him snuggling with it on the baby monitor.

Ari and Max are on the very brink of playing together. Some days they do, and others it’s a bit disastrous.

We live in the suburbs of east Louisville. There are lots of amenities nearby and yards to play in, and our home has plenty of square footage for us to run around in. Our home is 2,220 square feet purchased for $180,000. Our apartment lease was ending, I was pregnant with Ari, and we were ready for something bigger.

Honestly, I’d like less square footage with even higher end details. And actually, since I’m talking about dream home stuff, I’d love hardwood throughout our main rooms, old home charm with new home reliability, shaker-style kitchen cabinets, a finished basement, white brick exterior, and a sun room. Plus a million other things.

I can dream, right?

Blogging, for me, began as an outlet, stemming from my passion for interior decorating, thrifting, and writing. My first blog was called Garden Aesthetics where I blogged about garden inspired décor. It was short lived.

Then I started Dahl House Blog, which has had some name and directional changes along the way. It first changed to Dahl House Interiors when I thought I could turn design into a business. Finally it became The Dahl House, which feels exactly right.

The Dahl House encompasses stories from our home front, relative to budget-friendly interior design, organizing with kids, motherhood, kid art, and the occasional recipe.

All the changes may come across as finicky to you, but getting to a balanced and true place for myself and my readers has taken some trial and error. I once felt pressured to blog daily, but I now focus on what’s doable. I blog two to five times per month, and my readers are notified via my email list. My readers seem happy with fewer posts packed with a bigger punch. And my Facebook group and Instagram stream feel like mini blogs, which I love.

Blogging is a hard thing to figure out, as is attempting to start a business. At one point I left education to pursue interior design and home portrait watercolors, but it became overwhelming. My home portraits continued to sell out, and I typically had one or two online design clients at a time, but I realized quickly I wasn’t equipped for that life.

I was a distracted mother and spouse. My creativity felt drained because working for clients means…working for clients. I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy it more – maybe I didn’t price myself correctly. I also missed arts education and working with children of all socio-economic backgrounds. I felt off balance. Unfulfilled.

I gave up design work and returned to teaching. Finally and more recently, I gave up painting portraits of houses.

It is hard turning down money. But during those late nights when I’m eating Taco Bell on the couch with Mike watching Vanderpump Rules, I’m reminded that my choice was a good one. The truth is, I can’t do it all, and I’m now committed to only take on projects I’m passionate about.

I love community groups – online and in person – and I’m involved in a couple local women’s business groups. I’d love to join a bible study group, or maybe a scheduled monthly thing with just my sister. I can’t decide. And I really hope to find time to take a local ceramics class; I have in the past and loved it. This summer it’s happening! Hold me to it!

I also teach local pop-up art classes, I write and illustrate design and motherhood content for local magazines, and I’m currently writing and illustrating my first children’s book. I’m investing my heart into the book, and using many parallels to my real life home and family. The publishing part? Well, I’ll somehow figure that out later! Ha.

The most rewarding thing to write about is a before and after room makeover. I live for that type of thing! It’s a reader favorite, as well. Seeing an ugly dysfunctional space transform is extremely satisfying.

I actually met one of my best friends online. I was planning some mommy/daughter local workshops and needed someone to supply the food in a unique and crafted way. I found Paige from My Modern Cookery through Instagram, and we instantly hit it off.

When I’m off work, we always go grab coffee and talk about our big dreams. She once made me the best vegetarian corn chowder I’ve ever had, and loved on my newborn so I could eat in peace and quiet.

I’m an elementary art teacher in the Louisville public school system. Prior to working at an elementary school – and that whole year where I quit to pursue a design biz – I taught three years at a middle school in downtown Louisville. Any outside work I do is done in the early morning, evenings, weekends, or my glorious summers off. My administration and faculty is extremely supportive of the arts, but we are a low-income school and have a tiny art budget.  We make it work!

Since you asked, Gabby: Betsy DeVos has me feeling a bit unsettled. If her resume included any bit of public school advocating or experience, I would feel more hopeful. But it doesn’t. I’d love a plan of action from her and a crystal-clear agenda.

I’m a product of public schools, and I’ve always hoped to send my children that route as well. The diversity, exceptional programming, and ample opportunity to prevail in your given interest field make public schools an extraordinary option. All free, mind you. How dare funding for these – and arts and humanities programs – be at stake? Have we not proven over and over again that the arts are a vital part of each community?

Private, religious, charter, and other types of schools are great, too. Having that choice as a parent is a great privilege, and there’s no wrong choice. There’s only what’s best for the family and child.

If you are a supporter of public schools and funding for the arts, make your support be known. Call the upper ups and voice your support. Call local schools and voice your support. Many schools struggle to find funding for art programs, so please consider donating time, money, and resources.

Do you know an artist? Arrange for them to be a guest speaker at a nearby school. Donate random meaningful odds and ends. A bag of beads, a container of thumb depressors, or a fresh set of paints will go far in an art classroom.

The artwork made by my kids is displayed all over our home. I often plan art activities that are intended for a specific area in our home. We adjust the color palette and scale to fit the needs of the space where it will live.

I hope my kids remember the ninja turtle houses we made from pillows and blankets. I hope they remember running around the backyard with toy lawnmowers, wind in our hair, sun on our skin.

I hope they remember my face in their faces tickling them ’til their laughter is too much to bear. I hope they remember bath time, and that small moment of post bath chill that comes right before a huge warm towel tight hug.

I hope they remember that Mike and I were affectionate, and that family hugs happened often. But I also hope they remember that not every day is sunshine and rainbows, and that other emotions happen, too.

I hope they forget that sometimes I yelled for no good reason, and that sometimes I gave them Lucky Charms for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that sometimes they didn’t bathe for three days, and that sometimes I use the iPad to catch myself a break.

My absolute favorite thing about living with my kids is experiencing life with them! They are my heart and soul, a true extension of my being while remaining complete individuals with their own interests and mind. It’s absolutely the most wonderful thing I’ve experienced and lived.

Mike and I rarely go to bed at the same time. Our family does not have glorious mornings of togetherness with fruit and toast on the table. In fact, the kids eat at school, and when possible, Mike and I switch days of who wakes up with them so the other person can sleep in a bit and mosey around. Those days feel so luxurious and needed.

We are apart quite often during the week due to work schedules, travel, and different activities we are involved in. This means sometimes all things on the home front fall on me, but I know Mike is working hard for us. Other times, it’s the other way around depending on my projects and workload. This felt so not-normal in the early years, especially after Ari.

We make the most of our time together, and do our family the way we want to do our family, which is all that matters. The evenings we do have together are for enjoying each other’s company, bedtime routines, and dinner. When the boys go to bed, we watch shows on the couch and talk. Our weekends as a family are chock-full of sofa snuggles, play, and adventures out and about.

I wish someone had told me that our version of normal will never coincide with anyone else’s version of normal. What the world tells you to do, what internet advice articles say, and what people in your own life may do, is all just a bunch of whatever.

Our family’s version of normal is the only normal I need to compare our lives to.

–-

I told you she was lovable! Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your space with us all! And also for this: “I hope they forget that sometimes I yelled for no good reason, and that sometimes I gave them Lucky Charms for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that sometimes they didn’t bathe for three days, and that sometimes I use the iPad to catch myself a break.” How many are raising hands right now?

Also, I mentioned it earlier, but it warrants another mention. I really admire Lauren’s honesty about what works and what doesn’t. When she described how she didn’t make it as an interior designer, I felt relief that someone was finally saying it’s okay to not be great at something, and that it’s all worth a try no matter if we succeed…or move on to another idea. Anyone else feel the same way after reading Lauren’s words? I’d love to hear your opinions and stories, as always!

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.


Credits: All photos taken by Lauren Dahl for Design Mom, except for the mudroom shots by Quinton Thomas.