How we even live like this

A year ago, we moved from a home I thought we’d live in forever to the dream we almost didn’t even know we had until the opportunity presented itself — a 1921 French Revival home that needed a total renovation. 

At the time, we had three kids aged 5 to 1. And my husband and I are both self-employed. What could go wrong? 

Here, I’ll start: lead paint, rodents, potential asbestos, or, like, small humans falling through the not-to-code spindles on the banister? (We took care of all that, just in case!) And that’s just the physical stuff.

Recently we visited my best friend, whose home is undergoing a kitchen renovation. Our oldest, Ruby, walked in and said, “How can you even live like this?” 

That’s because that’s probably all she’s heard our guests ask US for the past year. 

Actually? 

We’re living like this pretty well. 

There’s something a little bit appealing about all being in this together. I won’t lie: I miss having an icemaker and towel racks. I really miss knowing where all my stuff is. 

“It’s in a box somewhere,” is a very common refrain around here. I miss things that work or are put together. 

I also miss our gardens, and our old neighborhood. But when I drive up the driveway, I feel that sense of wonder all over again.

Our time in our new home is in its infancy. But even in our early days here, we’ve managed a few firsts: Our first child started — and finished — kindergarten. We just moved the baby, Eero, into his own bedroom — he’s been in ours since the beginning. Now he shares with his big brother, and Ruby’s gone back to having her own space. Like everything around here, the boys’ room is temporary: My husband, William (pictured), and I are sleeping in the boys’ future room until our room is finished. 

Through it all, my babies just keep getting older. The other day, Eero looked at me after a diaper change, pointed his pudgy thumbs to his chest, and said,
“I cherub. I cute!” 

I died. When did he become a full-fledged mini-kid? Probably in the past year, while we were frantically tearing everything apart.

When we decided to move and embark on this project, it was an intense summer as we readied our former house and moved into our latter. We’ve had “a project” every single moment and we’ve often felt underwater. 

Our kids have borne the brunt of the uprooting, and subsequent moving around INSIDE the house. I know Remy in particular wonders if this house will ever feel like our old one: Homey, finished, his own. 

It’s going to be a while. 

But I hope my kids are learning resilience — also not to touch exposed stuff or draw on walls — and that a dream takes a while to realize. I hope they look back at this time and say, “Wow, Mom and Dad really took a moon shot. How cool is that?” 

I know I say that about my own parents, who bought an empty lot in the Great North when I was 4, and built a cabin over the years. A family treasure. 

I also hope that even though everything’s a mess right now, they know it’s home. That we are together and this is a safe spot where they can be themselves. That the projects aren’t more important than they are. That the uncertainty of our interior does not mirror any uncertainty about their importance. 

I can never be sure, so I hug them a lot and make sure to praise their sense of adventure. I hope they know we could not celebrate this anniversary without them. The ambition is largely here precisely because they are. 


Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a full-house renovation with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her adventures at instagram.com/dohmicile.