I’m happy to introduce you to Liane Walker and her family. They live in Vancouver, British Columbia in a gorgeous row home. Because home prices are so high there, they rent out the bottom floor of the house and they live on the top floors. You’re going to love Liane’s home — it’s light and bright and incredibly inviting. Welcome, Liane!
Living With Kids:
If I could, I’d invite you in to enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea with me. I’m Liane, a mama of three, wife, committed meal planner, systems analyst and co-creator of Foodie Digital. I’m a lucky girl because I live with my four favorite people and the sweetest pup around.
Sawyer (5) is a red-headed bolt of lighting. He’s adventurous and observant and entertains us all day with his wild imagination. The only thing bigger than his imagination is his appetite. He loves trains and public transportation and has absolutely zero interest in superheroes or watching movies. He’s quick to hold a hand and loves to talk hockey scores. Any sports score really. When he stops for a rare moment, I want to freeze time.
Noa (3) is a fiery Aries through and through. She’s a total ham, loves to laugh and isn’t the best sharer (true!). She’s a sun seeker like me, a beach bum and majorly brave in the water. She’s an amazing sleeper, and has been since she was just a few weeks old. She’s happy to play with dolls and babies as much as trains and trucks. She can be a little shy around new people but once she’s comfortable with you, I guarantee she’ll try to make you laugh. She’s a ray of sunshine, has the brightest blue eyes and the world’s best giggle.
Payton (1) or PDub as we like to call him is the cutest wrecking ball you’ve ever seen. If he escapes attention for a split second, he either has his hands in the toilet or is trying to sneak under the baby gate to climb the stairs. I’m sensing another busy bee! The only thing better than his toothy grin are the delicious rolls on his thighs.
Del is our seven year old rescue pup. She’s a mixed bag of different breeds but looks like a black lab mostly. My husband Scott fell head over heels for her when he saw her picture on a local animal shelter’s website. Poor girl was in rough shape; she had a broken jaw, fleas, giardia and was malnourished. We’re pretty sure she was running wild in the woods when the shelter picked her up. The staff at the shelter took incredible care of her and got her the medical attention she needed before she came home with us. Getting her to where she is today wasn’t without work. She sheds like crazy, and leaves muddy paw prints all over the house, but she’s the best decision Scott ever made me make.
Scott and I met in 2004 in Corvallis, Oregon at the wedding of mutual friends. I’d just moved back to Vancouver, BC, after working in London, England for a few years. The bride-to-be, one of my best friend’s from high school, told me a few weeks before the wedding that she thought I’d really like this Scott guy who would be there. I learned later that her soon-to-be husband said the same thing to Scott about me. We’ve been together since the wedding!
Scott is from Wyoming and has lived in Canada for almost 10 years. He’s a high-school math teacher and judging from the thank you cards he gets the end of the school year from his students, he’s one of those cool math teachers whose class isn’t a huge bore. He’s a small town boy living in the city and brings a little Wyoming charm with him wherever he goes.
I work as a freelance systems analyst. I help clients big and small optimize their technical, content, and people processes. It’s complicated, detailed work and I love it. The techie side of the work can be dry, but the people never are. I’m also the co-creator of Foodie Digital, a membership service that takes the tech stress out of being a food blogger. Nutrition is a mega interest of mine so working with creative foodies every day is such fun.
We live in beautiful Vancouver, BC, respectfully, the home of the Coast Salish people. It’s hard to not be captivated by this city, with its snow-capped mountains, dense forests, rugged beaches and ocean views from every angle. I’ve lived here for most of my life and the landscape still amazes me. British Columbia is home to close to 25% of the world’s temperate rainforest, which means that we’re surrounded by rich wild habitat.
Our neighborhood is best described as urban residential. We don’t have a driveway or a garage, but we do live on a relatively quiet tree-lined street. Our house is one of four classic early vernacular-style houses standing in a row; each one is painted a different color. There’s a good mix of detached homes, townhouses and condo apartments in our area. To get to the city centre it takes about 10-minutes by car, barring traffic, and 25-minutes by bike. We’re a one-car family, so being able to walk to amenities, like the grocery store, bakery and bank, accessing transit quickly, or hiring a car co-op vehicle on a moment’s notice, are perks of living where we do. The city’s best taco shop is a short walk away and the cannolis at the Italian bakery down the street are other-worldly. You can eat to your heart’s content on Hastings Street, our local high street.
Our neighborhood is vibrant, welcoming and multicultural. Each day we hear dozens of different languages spoken on the street. It’s wonderful and a welcome part of our community.
Vancouver, for all of its west-coast charm and amazing quality of life, does have its drawbacks. It rains a lot, and the affordability gap here is insane — that’s the gap between house prices and household incomes. It’s worse than Manhattan and San Francisco. To ease the pain, our family of five shares our home with two other people. They live in a completely separate apartment from us. Our home is three stories and our tenants (who we’ve come to know and love) live on the ground floor. We live above them on floors two and three. Our home’s total square footage is 2,200 feet. We live in about 1,450 of it.
This is a pretty classic scenario for homeowners in Vancouver, where the cost of owning a detached home is very high. A tenanted suite helps pay the mortgage. In our case, the rental income from the suite covers a little under half of our monthly mortgage payment. We claim the rent as income, pay taxes on it and are responsible for maintaining the apartment, just like any landlord.
Our home is in one of the city’s most in-demand rental markets. When we listed our suite for rent we had 50 applications in 12-hours. In the suite’s description we made it clear that we had kids and a dog and that only the patient should apply. Our kids are always outside in our backyard riding bikes and playing hockey, so it’s important for us that the people we rent to are friendly, easygoing and responsible. We ask for all the usual things when considering a tenant’s application: a reference letter from an employer, references from past landlords, a damage deposit, etc.
Sharing space with other people does take a certain amount of tact. Small things like sweeping their walkway, or carrying their recycling bins in from the street are small courtesies we extend. Early in the morning after breakfast we usually usher the kids upstairs to the third floor to play so they can run, stomp around and make as much noise as they want. Though that may sound like a hassle, it really isn’t.
If I’m being honest, this house isn’t my dream home. I’m grateful to have a home in Vancouver, but mostly it’s an investment for our family. We moved into this house when Noa was three weeks old, after searching for a new home for a little over one year. I think we looked at least 40 houses and got outbid four times before we decided to make an offer on this house. There were three other offers on this home when we bought it. We learned later that a family that we were bidding against produced a video to wow the sellers! That’s how crazy-competitive home buying gets here. We were told the sellers ended up choosing us because they thought it would be nice to have a family with young children move into the neighborhood. But we did have to increase our offer by $10,000 CDN to close the deal.
One of my favorite things about this house is the abundance of natural light throughout. It’s heaven on dark and rainy Vancouver days. The custom built-ins in the living room and window bench are two recent cosmetic changes that we made to make the house feel cozier.
When we first bought the house, there was no suite for tenants. Scott and a few other talented folks built it from scratch. The suite has the cutest little kitchen, great flooring, a euro-style washer and dryer, and a beautiful exposed cedar beam, original to the house. It also gets a lot of natural light for a ground-level suite. The suite paid for itself in 18-months and has added a ton of value to the home if we ever decide to sell.
My family and I make regular trips to visit Wyoming, where Scott is from. To know Wyoming is to love Wyoming. It’s one of the most right-leaning states in nation, which can make for interesting times for a Canadian feminist lefty. But, politics aside, the physical beauty of the state has my heart. My husband and I got married in Jackson, Wyoming in 2014. The state’s wide open spaces, wildlife and tight knit communities are something special. The Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming are Scott’s favorite place in the world.
Something I have a hard time with when we’re in Wyoming is the fact that residents can carry a weapon openly or concealed without a license. As a visitor, I often wonder how a person’s right to carry a concealed weapon trumps my right to know who’s carrying a concealed weapon around my kids and I? Quite perplexing for a Canadian.
One of the benefits that we receive as Canadians is paid maternity and parental leave. Because I’m self-employed I’m not entitled to any kind of maternity leave because I don’t pay employment insurance. Either parent can take the parental leave portion, so in our case, Scott took leave when Payton arrived. It was the best decision we’ve ever made. For us. For him. For the kids. We traveled to Wyoming to see family, and then chased the sun through Mexico and Hawaii. Of course, I was working while we were on the road, so it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows but I’ve become seasoned at working remotely.
Over the years, Scott and I have come to see that both of us can’t fire on all cylinders career-wise at the same time. One of our strengths as a couple is knowing when to be the supporter. When he’s chasing his professional goals, I hold it down at home and visa versa.
Mispronounced words and phrases are one of my favorite parts of having small kids. Little sayings like “yesterday time” instead of yesterday and “lovey” for I love you are just so stinking cute. A personal favorite is when Noa closes her bedroom door and says she’d like some “pri-to-cee” rather than privacy. I have no intention of correcting her, ever.
As an infant Sawyer was severely colicky. The crying continued until he was about 11 months old. It was really tough. When I would sleep, his crying played-out in my dreams; I felt I like I couldn’t escape it. I wish some had told me then that the crying would eventually stop, and that some babies, frankly, are easier than others. I don’t know if I would have believed it, but it would have been so helpful to hear.
There are so many things I wish my kids will remember about this time in our home. Like their dad and I happy in the kitchen, making wholesome food for our family. When they’re older, with homes of their own and kids to cook for, I hope they’ll pull out that old memory and think of us and smile. I hope they remember my good morning kisses, just as much as the ones I gave them at night. I hope they remember that I got in the game! Whether it’s hockey, soccer, football, puzzles, fort-making, baby doll dressing or pretend traveling to Pluto.
I hope they’ll remember being covered from head-to-toe in dirt, finding slugs and lady bugs, and our adventures together on local forest trails. I hope they remember going crabbing on their daddy’s boat, jumping into the cool waters of our local lakes, sleeping in a tent every summer and cooking good food over a campfire. I hope they’ll remember that everyone was welcome in our home and around our kitchen table.
I’m okay if they remember that I got mad, sad and impatient sometimes. Learning to how to handle big emotions, mistakes and messy moments is a valuable life skill that I’m still learning. I don’t navigate life perfectly and they won’t either. I don’t want to model anything other than who I really am, tough times and all.
Thank you, Liane! What a perfectly lovely home. And I think that Liane was absolutely right when she said that the big, bright windows make all the difference. You can really see that this home is filled with light and love. I’m obsessed with the dreamy, calm color palette too.
So what do you think about renting out part of your home to a stranger? In an expensive city like Vancouver, it seems to make total sense. And it certainly would be nice to have half of your mortgage covered by rent. Would you find it hard to have another family under foot? Could you give up some of your privacy and space in this type of situation? Would you love the financial security? Or do you love having a space that is all your own?
LIVING WITH KIDS SOURCES
Crib is the Rhea Crib from Oeuf
Crocheted dolls on Noa’s bed are (this is my sister-in-law!)
Rug in the kids room. (The world’s BEST rug if you have kids and a dog!)
Loving this living with kids feature? Take a look here for more of my home tours favorites!
Photo Credit to Jenny of Bright Photography. Learn more about Liane’s business at Foodie Digital. // 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, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.