I have some dear friends from Minnesota, and when I interact with them, I often think to myself that the Mid-West stereotype is true: they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I think the same can be said for Mari, who is today’s Living With Kids hostess. She and her husband live in a darling home in Minneapolis with a lot of vintage charm and a really cool playroom/loft space. And Mari has a lot of cool things to say too — about postpartum depression, intuitive healing and following your instincts to live an amazing life. Welcome, Mari! We’re so glad you’re here.

Hi there! My name is Mari (rhymes with sorry) and I live with my husband, Andy, and our two kids, Theo (almost 3) and Gwennie (almost 1), in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Andy and I are both originally from the Midwest but met while we were living in Colorado. We moved back to Minnesota a year ago to be closer to our families and bought this house four months ago. 

Andy is sweet, kind, smart, funny, handsome and endlessly supportive of all of my wild and crazy ideas. He grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and works as an electrical engineer. We had a whirlwind romance and got married just over a year after we started dating. People thought we were crazy, but it was the right choice for us.

I tend to question a lot of our cultural norms, like a specified time people should date before marriage (clearly). Life is better when you do what works for you.

Our son, Theo, is quite the anomaly on my side of the family in that he is the only boy in a sea of women. I have three older sisters (no brothers) and seven nieces (no nephews). He is loving, affectionate, energetic and has the sweetest dimples of all time. My favorite phrases of his at the moment include: “I’d LOVE to!” (even when he’s referring to something mundane, like wiping up a mess with a paper towel); “No thanks. I’m busy. Maybe tonight,” (even if it’s already nighttime); and his correct usage of the word “smidgeon.”  

Our daughter, Gwennie, is a 10-month-old (mostly) bald little pile of love and curiosity. She is full of laughs, smiles, and waves. She is snuggly and LOVES it when she’s under the impression she’s doing what everyone else is. If Theo and I are coloring, she is thrilled to join in by holding crayons in her chubby little hands and stuffing them into her mouth. She’ll be walking before we know it. 

I am a mostly-stay-at-home mom with a number of side gigs. I work part-time as a childbirth educator, doula, and intuitive healer. More on that later.

We live in urban Southwest Minneapolis in a 1940s Cape Cod-style home. We have the sweetest neighbors. Since we moved in, various people have brought us freshly baked cookies and homemade salsas, invited us to their neighborhood parties and book clubs, and shoveled our walk. One neighbor even offered detailed instructions on how to find the best cheese at our grocery store: stand in the middle of the cheese case, then stick out your right hand at eye level. I tried this method the next day and it worked perfectly to locate the most delicious triple-cream brie.

  

We had a much more difficult house search than I had anticipated. We started a year ago, went under contract on and then backed out of two houses while living with my parents, moved into a rental, and then closed on this house in August — all while I was pregnant and early postpartum. (Side note: I do not recommend this timing.)

I had seen the house online and couldn’t stop looking at it, even though it was a little above our price range. When the price dropped slightly I told my realtor, who is also my cousin, “I feel like a little part of me might die if I don’t see this house.” We viewed it that night and immediately submitted an offer.

It is full of light and charm, and most importantly, when I first walked into the living room, I could imagine my kids running in year after year on Christmas morning, presents piled all around, with a tree glowing in the corner. It was as if the house already held our memories and traditions, and in that moment, it gave me a little sneak peek

Aside from the house itself, the neighborhood reminded me of the one I grew up in, mainly because in the winter it has its own skating rink! My kids are a little too young to enjoy this feature, but I can’t wait to skate with them soon. We can walk to a cute, local grocery store (the one with the cheese!), a yoga studio, a coffee shop, the library, the elementary and middle schools, and a number of parks and restaurants. We are also just a few blocks from a fantastic bike path system that takes you all over Minneapolis, including around the chain of city lakes we are known for. 

One of the best things about Minnesotans is their level of heartiness. The temperatures have been consistently below zero or in the single digits here for the last few weeks, but you wouldn’t guess it by the amount of activity in the neighborhood. People still walk their dogs and pick up groceries, and kids go to school and play outside. There is a lot of grumbling about it and slightly more bundling, but that’s about the only lifestyle change. My sisters live in more mild climates now and their kids’ schools will get cancelled for things like a “threat of snow,” which makes us all laugh our heads off. 

The main drawbacks for us are rampant mosquitoes and ticks in the summer, too-long winters, and a distinct lack of mountains.

We loved living in Colorado SO much, especially the opportunities for skiing, hiking and biking in the Rockies. When we moved, we vowed to visit Colorado at least once a year and may move back some day. But for now, I choose seeing my parents on a regular basis. It just feels right. And while we don’t have mountains here by any stretch, Minnesotans tend to be pretty outdoorsy and enjoy lots of water sports in the summer and snow sports in the winter.

Property and income taxes are much higher in Minnesota than in many other states. However, the public schools are much better funded than in a lot of states, so you probably get what you pay for. The median home price in our neighborhood is $329,000. We paid more than that for our home, but ours is a bit larger than some at 2600 square feet, more recently remodeled, and has a three-car garage, which is unusual for city living. The neighborhoods in South Minneapolis tend to be highly sought after. I’ve heard stories of people stalking neighborhoods for sales before they go on the market or even buying homes right off advertisements on the Nextdoor App.

As for the house itself, we moved in, made things functional, and then it took us a few more months to do any decorating. I had a lot of different ideas about how we would use the various spaces. I thought the upstairs would be a private and romantic master suite, like it was staged when we first saw the house. Then Andy gently reminded me our kids are always with us and don’t sleep through the night, and we would get a lot more use out of the space if it were a playroom for now.

So I set out to build the world’s most awesome playroom, and while it’s not totally done, it’s getting there. I’d still like to add a more extensive art area and put some climbing holds over one of the sloped walls. I also made one corner of the playroom my own office, which I call the “woman’s lair,” the female counterpart to the trendy “man cave.” I don’t even try to get anything done while playing with my kids, but once they’re asleep I come back up to the lair and hammer out some serious work.

We’ve furnished our house mostly from Craigslist, Target, Ikea, and World Market. I love finding artwork and buying it directly from artists on Etsy. And a lot of the art on our walls are photos taken by my sister, Julia, who photographed our house for this post. I love being surrounded by books that have made a difference in my life. I also have some special pieces from my late grandparents: my grandpa’s Spanish dictionaries celebrate our joint love of the Spanish language and Latin America, and my grandma’s teapot reminds me of having breakfast with them at their home in Florida.

My first career was teaching in underserved public schools, which was, to put it mildly, not a good fit for my introverted personality. (Side note: If you are a classroom teacher, I bow to you.) During my tenure as a classroom teacher, I developed a mysterious illness that involved extreme fatigue, pain, and insomnia, among other symptoms. Two years after the onset, I was finally diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, and it took almost another full year before I felt like myself again.

Prior to my diagnosis, I worked with all kinds of traditional and alternative healers, one of which was an intuitive named Julie Cobb. I set up a reading with her over the phone and my experience with her can really only be described as profound. She essentially told me more about myself and in a deeper, more meaningful way than I had really ever experienced before. I didn’t open my mouth for 45 minutes; I just listened as she used energy as a tool to talk about my childhood and relationships, my health, my work, and my personality. All I could think was, “How is this possible? This is completely insane.”

When I hung up with her, even though I was still not well physically, I had a renewed sense of faith in something greater, something divine — something that I hadn’t felt in a while and had gotten lost in my early twenties during a couple of bad break-ups, travel and work in incredibly impoverished areas, and a difficult work life.

Within a year of that call, I was healthy again and dating Andy. I was still unhappy at work and had the realization that maybe I could do something similar to what Julie was doing. I started to take some classes with her and eventually took a year-long training on how to read energy.

My style has evolved into something a bit different. It’s a cross between intuitive reading and life coaching. I like to teach people how to trust their intuition as a way to work towards building the life of their dreams. It took me a long time to be open about the work I do, and even now I am cautious about how and when I share about it. I know it can be off-putting, upsetting, or even offensive to some people.

But luckily most people respond in an overwhelmingly positive way. I get a lot of interesting questions, and people pull me aside to tell stories about times they had “psychic” experiences, by which I mean anything pertaining to the psyche or circumstances that can’t really be explained by life as we understand it.

I do this work from a deeply genuine place of believing that we all deserve to feel good and that our intuition is the guide we need to live in alignment with our highest and truest selves. This work is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have a gift that has helped people, and living that truth always seems to be the right thing for me.

I get nervous before every reading. What if it doesn’t work this time? What if nothing I say resonates? But I am quickly put at ease when they start to have some serious light bulb moments based on my reading.

I really struggled entering motherhood. I always thought I wanted to stay home with my kids full-time while they were young, and while I have appreciated a lot of things about staying home with them, I don’t feel like the best version of myself when I am with them constantly. I knew I didn’t want to go back to classroom teaching after Theo was born but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for work instead.

Theo’s birth went in an unexpected direction, which ended up altering my professional path, as well. Due to complications, I endured a long induction, hours of pushing and ultimately, 60 hours later, a c-section. Then there were more complications, a few breastfeeding hiccups, and some intense feelings of confusion, disappointment, shame, and guilt over the whole experience.

I had hired a doula, and her emotional support through it all actually inspired me to take a doula training course six months after Theo was born. I started to attend births soon after. I cried so hard after witnessing that first family’s labor and birth. It was powerful and raw and divine. I was hooked. The on-call life of a doula is pretty challenging when you have to arrange last-minute childcare, so right now I mostly teach childbirth education classes and take a handful of doula clients a year.

Gwennie’s birth could not have been more different from Theo’s. My labor was under five hours, I pushed three times, and when she flew out onto the bed, it was so surprising that no one even caught her. Gwennie’s was the birth of my dreams. But when she was just a few weeks old, I started to suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety.

It took all the courage I had to say those three little words, “I need help.” But once I did, my tribe rallied around me to get me the counseling and medication I needed. I am feeling much more like myself and have become passionate about de-stigmatizing maternal mental health. It was Gabrielle’s own mental health post that made me feel less ashamed about seeking the help I needed. I try to be open about this experience in case it could help other moms recognize they need help too.

Finding meaningful work has been an important part of my journey into motherhood, but I also find I sometimes attach too much of my own worth and value to my work. Although classroom teaching was a bad fit for me, I still derived a strong sense of identity from it, and when I first stopped, I felt lost. It was important for me to feel like I still had worth and value no matter how much I was working.

Now that I interact so often with women in this phase of life, I see the theme of worth over and over again. We seem to culturally attach so much value not only to whether we work or not, but also to how we gave birth, whether we breastfed and for how long, and how quickly we lost the baby weight. None of that is to say we shouldn’t strive for the things we want in life, but that is something entirely different from only feeling like you have worth or value because of what you do, rather than who you are.

One of my greatest parenting challenges has been exploring the roles my husband and I both have in our family, and how they are or are not bound by traditional gender roles. Sometimes I feel down when I feel like I’m a 1950s housewife despite my master’s degree. And other times, I glean so much satisfaction from managing our home life. Sometimes (a lot of times?) my husband does WAY more household chores than I do. This is all a work in progress, but it’s something that is on my mind almost constantly as I raise both a boy and a girl during these most interesting political times.

I hope when they are adults there are many more options in terms of paid maternity and paternity leave and flexibility within the workplace, so they can create what feels like the right balance of work and family for themselves. If we could wave a magic wand, Andy would be able to spend more time with the kids, and I would spend more time working. We might get there down the road.

I hope my kids feel love, encouragement, and validation when they think back on their childhoods. I hope they forget my failed attempts at making them home-cooked meals and how stir-crazy we got on long, boring days inside while I spent too much time scrolling through Instagram.

When they are grown (or even in just a few years), I will miss snuggling them and kissing their perfectly soft, round cheeks. I will miss how awesome and hilarious they think I am right now, their love and affection for each other, their tiny voices, and their uproarious laughter.

I wish someone had told me (and I had listened!) to trust my gut. Call it what you want: your heart, your spirit, your intuition, but know that it does not lie. Listening to that small (or not-so-small voice) inside of us is the closest thing we have to an inner compass, gently guiding us back home to our truest selves.

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Wow. Such a charming home and family and so many great gems of wisdom. I’m sure even in a cold, sub-zero Minnesota winter that Mari’s house is full of light and warmth. I love the soothing tones and simple color palette and the personal touches tucked into every corner — like Grandma’s teapot or the Buddha above the fireplace. And that playroom really is a dream! What a joy to have a space where the kids can be messy and run around and you don’t have to worry too much about it.

I appreciated Mari being willing to talk about things that can be scary to be vulnerable about. Mental health is (thankfully) getting less of a stigma as more people are willing to share their stories. But despite the strides we’ve made, there can still be baggage attached to talking about it. And I’m always grateful when people talk about their belief systems. Energy reading and intuitive healing aren’t very familiar to me so I really enjoyed reading her thoughts. I think it is wonderful when anyone finds a path that makes sense for them.

Have you ever met with an Intuit or an Energy Reader? What did you think about it? Was it helpful, interesting, or perhaps something you did more for the experience? What untraditional beliefs do you have that have helped you in your life?

SOURCES

Pillow cover

Cube Storage

Floor pillows

Forest Animal Mobile


Photo credits to Julia Soplop. You can read more about Mari, and her coaching practice, on her website, or follow her on Instagram. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, gay parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Reach out at features@designmom.com.