Taryn’s New England home is so lovely. I can’t wait for you to see it. It is tall and narrow, and travels over six floors — which I’m sure leads to some exhausting trips up and down with laundry baskets and backpacks, but also creates all sorts of quiet nooks and beautiful moments.
The home is in Concord, Massachusetts, and Taryn lives there with her wife, Rebecca and their three adorable kids. Taryn and Rebecca’s story is beautiful and involves a couple of cross country moves, adoption, being pregnant at the same time, and major remodels. Let’s say hello: Welcome, Taryn!
Hello from Concord, Massachusetts! Within these walls you’ll find me, Taryn, living with my wife, Rebecca, and our three children, Elle, (8), Ashe (3), and Eames (2).
Rebecca messaged me from New Mexico on a now defunct lesbian networking site back in 2008 and by happenstance, I’d always wanted to visit the Southwest. So we chatted back and forth for a couple of weeks before I decided I needed to go have dinner with her to see where this was going. Through our chats we found out we had all sorts of things in common — we had lived in Italy at the same time, we’re both artists/designers, we both like to make music — though she’s a classically trained singer and I’m into beats.
Thirty-six hours after our dinner, I returned to Boston with stars in my eyes and a bruised heart because I knew the distance was not going to work. So Rebecca moved to Boston a couple of months later, and two months after that, we got married on a schooner in Provincetown with fifty of our closest friends and family.
I convinced Rebecca that we should move to New Mexico that Fall and she told me I was crazy. Rebecca spent much of her childhood on a tiny island in the South Pacific and knew I would miss the ocean like she had. Still, she agreed to give New Mexico a shot again and we spent a year exploring those long empty roads and the captivating light.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to see where she was born, where she played with wild abandon, and where she rode her horse to kindergarten. She was right, though — we missed the ocean and ease of international travel from a major city.
When we came back to Massachusetts the following year, we settled on Cambridge, and Rebecca worked at Harvard for a few years while I worked as an art teacher.
We had been trying to get pregnant since New Mexico and despite some medical interventions, it just wasn’t happening. Any extra money meant another insemination and that meant another enormous tank delivered to our city doorstep and the disappointment following the inevitable negative.
The worst thing for us to hear when we were struggling to conceive is “it’ll happen when it’s meant to,” and let me tell you, we heard that a lot. We were not going to get pregnant by accident and in order to even have a chance, we had to keep putting money into it.
One day, we got the idea to take foster-to-adopt classes just to learn about the process. It was not anything we had ever considered before but there we were. Before the end of the 8 weeks, our wonderful instructor said she had heard about a three year old that she thought might be a fit but since we hadn’t been home studied yet, we’d probably be too late.
We went through the home study process and met our new social worker. She said it could take a long time to be matched and we brought up the child our instructor had mentioned months before. She said she’d look into it. Shortly after, we got a call from the child’s social worker and she, thankfully, really made us work to show her we were the right home for Elle, who was actually two years old.
We were presented with an 850 page disclosure with a complicated medical history and asked to make a decision to proceed or not. In this process, you don’t know how you’ll connect with a child until you commit but we had so far been successful following the inner voice that says “just jump.”
I’m going to skip over a lot of details here to protect our daughter’s privacy but suffice to say meeting her was one of the best days of our lives. I’ll never forget her sweet face turning to us and smiling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the sixth year of Elle in our family that we got the chance to adopt her.
You can imagine: the lack of permanency, the monthly social worker visits, the inability to have playdates at other houses unless their parents are background checked, and not being able to cross state lines without permission. It’s a huge challenge. But we did our best and have a fantastic therapist to work through it with.
Elle is the most gregarious, lovable, and resilient person I have ever met. I would not be surprised if she is President some day. She loves theater more than anything but Legos are a close second.
After one year in Cambridge with our daughter, we decided to move to the country. We chose a home about twenty miles west of Boston, across from a sheep farm. I still remember getting a postcard from the post office saying we were now on a rural mail route. It was remote and our city friends would come spend the weekend. We had archery set up outside on hay bales, which were delivered by our neighbor on her tractor. We tapped the trees for syrup. We had a wildlife cam. We had a finished barn in addition to a “potter’s shed.” It was a very different life than we had in Cambridge.
After we found our parenting groove we wanted to give Elle a sibling. I tried a few more times to get pregnant and never got one positive test. Rebecca, at age 38, had never wanted to try but I convinced her. We went with a known donor this time and on her fifth try, she got pregnant. She had a lovely pregnancy and remained active working on our farmhouse and driving the lawn tractor.
Somehow she persuaded me to try one more time saying I might have regrets. On try #20 (at home, no doctors), when Rebecca was six months pregnant, I got my first positive test. This also happened to be the morning of Rebecca’s baby shower. It was absolutely surreal.
Ashe was born one month later, one month early. He was our first infant, since Elle was already 2 and a half when we met her. Still, it wasn’t overwhelming and Elle transitioned into her role as big sister beautifully.
My pregnancy was completely uneventful until my seventh month. I was getting recurring high fevers and increased exhaustion. My midwife said exhaustion was normal and the fevers were a mystery. Rebecca was working a lot, Elle was in kindergarten, and I spent my days with Ashe.
After a week of needing to go to bed at 5pm, I was getting more and more worried. Rebecca and I went on an overnight to NYC for a baby moon and I was sure I had mono despite all the tests coming back negative. I remember sitting in the hotel room at 4:00 AM, googling reasons for a high-grade, recurring fever, and finally reading about something I hadn’t read before.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) seemed to fit the bill and I woke Rebecca up and insisted we return home so I could demand this test. Sure enough, I managed to go my whole life with something most of the population already has. CMV is in the chicken pox family and affects only 1% of pregnancies. It’s commonly spread through children and changing diapers. I had a 4 month old at home but we’ll never know how I contracted it. We immediately got connected with the leading doctors in this area at Boston Children’s Hospital. I had a fetal MRI and was warned that 10% of babies who have contracted CMV in utero could have serious complications such as developmental delay, organ failure, and petechiae at birth.
Eames was born at term without petechiae or other complications and had a clear MRI at four weeks old. He did have a high viral load of CMV for the first five months but weekly heel pricks showed his numbers dropping consistently. I’ll never forget the specialist at Children’s saying, “CMV loves the nerves,” and preparing myself for a hearing-impaired child. At just over 2 and a half, he just had his first normal hearing test after years of “borderline.”
Though our country home was charming and we did a lot of work to it, in the end, it wasn’t enough square footage. Plus, Elle was in the public school and definitely the only child with two moms. While the local town people were always wonderful to our family, we think it’s important for our children to see families like ours.
Concord was perfectly situated but definitely seemed like it was out of our league. After watching the market for awhile and seeing homes purchased immediately after being listed, we knew we had to think outside the box.
There was an unfortunate home, sitting on the market in Concord for some time, that we finally decided to drive by. My aunt is a realtor and she agreed to show it to us despite trying to talk us out of it. The home had been a rental for years and as such, was very unloved and in need of updating, inside and out. Also, the house is spread over six floors, which sounded like a nightmare with babies.
However, it was in Concord (great schools!) and only ten minutes from my parents. We found a buyer for the farmhouse right away and made a considerable amount of money back thanks to our renovations during our three years there. This allowed us a greater down payment for our current house.
I forgot to mention that all those years, we’d been carrying a property in Albuquerque as well. It had been sitting empty for a year because we were tired of being landlords and it had been on the market. Somehow, we managed to sell the Albuquerque house and the farmhouse, and buy the Concord house, all on the same day.
So we moved here when Eames was 8 months, Ashe was 15 months, and Elle was 6 — and bought a lot of baby gates.
We had to gut two bathrooms, gut the kitchen, build an office and laundry room, enclose extra space in the garage for a mudroom, finish the basement, pave the driveway, pull up carpet, sandblast the exterior to expose the beautiful cedar that had been painted over, and lay a stone patio. We managed to do all of this during our first year here as luckily my father is an independent contractor.
It has been great when he has the time to make us his primary job. Now we’re focused on replacing windows which was holding us back from adding paint or wallpaper.
Concord is such a quintessential New England town with all the charm you could ask for. We have Walden Pond nearby, and the homes of Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But we also have a lot of working farms and a commuter rail to Boston. The kids run over the Old North Bridge at least once every week and can visit my mother at her office right on Main Street.
I like that I can drive two minutes up the road and pick up lunch ingredients every day at a family farm that’s been there for 100 years. Rebecca and I can have our weekly date night in Cambridge, just fifteen minutes away, or stay local and have farm-to-table Mexican food, with a movie at the local, tiny, privately-owned cinema. We are fortunate to have some creative and kind neighbors with whom to share ideas, special events, and carpool duties.
We were committed to moving out of the United States until we moved here. We’ve both moved around so much and really enjoy that lifestyle. We get bored easily. While we will give wherever we’re living our best, we never could imagine staying anywhere long-term…until now. The feeling of our house becoming a home is not lost on me.
Rebecca and I enjoy making spaces the kids can engage with and consequently, we’re always repurposing when they lose interest. Some days Ashe negotiates sleeping in Elle’s room, and Elle obliges if she can sleep in the guest room — just for fun. I love that flexibility.
These days, now that many of the home projects are winding down and all income is earned from remote work (save for Rebecca taking a few business trips each year), we are focusing on travel.
I recently got dual citizenship by birthright in Italy. Theoretically, I’d just call the consulate and register our children. However, Italy doesn’t have a precedent for gay adoptions. Though we birthed two of three our children, we made sure to do second parent adoptions to keep us all safe when we travel.
Over my years of working with the consulate to get myself recognized, I’ve watched the officer go from “you’ll have to hire an attorney in Italy” to “maybe we can try something here.” So…fingers crossed. Rebecca can get citizenship through me as well but it’ll take about four years. However, we can all go live in Europe tomorrow thanks to dual citizenship.
It is so cool to have my birth registered in my ancestral commune along with my marriage certificate (okay, it’s a civil union there, but it’s something). My last surviving grandparent is Sicilian and she has enjoyed reviewing the documents I have collected about her husband’s lineage.
This past summer, we lived in London and invited any interested family members to join. At one point we were 12 people in a divine Hampstead rental. I loved watching our children in their city groove, riding their scooters, going to the museums, and helping us get the groceries home on foot. We’re brainstorming our next adventure together. If we can figure out the logistics, a school year abroad might be in our future.
I hope our children remember how well we worked together as a five-some in creating this space. There are weekends when we are all outside for every day-lit hour — gardening, clearing wooded areas, and swinging from the trees. I can’t wait until it snows just to see how the sledding hill we spent a month prepping will work.
I hope they remember the couple of days each week when we’re all sitting around the table together and everyone likes their meal and makes each other laugh. Because so much of our time is chaotic at this point of our lives, I’m feeling trained to find the beauty in the tussle. But if I’m being honest, I prefer the quieter moments. Rebecca is the opposite and I love that we have that dichotomy. I’m more likely to make art with the kids while Rebecca would rather take them to the sculpture park.
I hope our children are adventurous like we are. We recently went through a period where Ashe was a homebody and even a short trip to the store became a struggle. We chalked it up to leap in development and it did pass but it was a reminder to follow the child despite the pressure of our own agendas.
Working from home is such a balance and there have been plenty of moments where Eames bursts through the door into a video call. He is a real life Dennis the Menace with the sweetest and most loving heart. He carries his baby dolls around patting their backs and we can’t even be frustrated when he wakes up so early because he’s just so cuddly. We just take it day by day and set the expectations that whoever is preoccupied will come say hello when time allows.
We have someone take the boys out three mornings each week so we can have that consistent uninterrupted time. Eames naps a good chunk of the afternoon and Ashe goes to outdoor school. We’ve set up a Montessori classroom in the home and rotate the materials so that they can be stimulated and challenged, which really resonates with curious and focused Ashe.
Despite all these indoor spaces, Rebecca said she’d like to live abroad during the winter because being inside is just not her thing, but as a born and bred New Englander, I love a good blizzard. So we got the kids into skiing last year and will try to be even more consistent this year.
My favorite thing about living with kids is weekend breakfasts. Chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream and a side of veggie bacon gets everyone to the table.
In the end, I hope our children think we were reasonable because there are definitely days now where they cannot understand why we say no to another hour of television or waking up at 4am. Hearing your two year old shout, “that’s not fair!” is both amusing and deserving of pause. Rebecca and I keep a shared list of the funny things they say.
I hope they remember the days I offered them hot chocolate with chocolate cake because they deserve to be treated.
I know they’ll remember our tradition of driving home from a meal out listening to Sinnerman by Nina Simone at too high of a volume and everyone clapping in rhythm. I hope they remember the hours between 4:00 and 7:00 each evening because that is usually our most special span of together time.
I wish someone had told me how challenging it is to maintain your sense of self, and that parents taking a breather will do everyone some good. In theory, I’d go to the bedroom and read a book or stare at the wall but, truthfully, closed doors and respect are a work in progress. I’m so lucky that Rebecca is supportive of those times and, over the years, has sent me on some lovely overnights alone. Other times I need a trip to the library where I’m not watching a puppet show but instead reading inspiring travel journals or recipes I’ll probably never try. And sometimes I just need five minutes in the car by myself to finish that NPR story because parents don’t get to see their own interests to completion often enough.
I also wish someone told me one of my favorite activities, staying up late with Rebecca and making things, would simply not be possible as often as we’d both like. We are in bed shortly after the kids many nights as Eames has always woken up before the sun. Still, frequent date nights are an accomplishment and we cherish them. Even if sometimes we finish dinner and find ourselves heading home before an hour is up and justifying how lame we are to the babysitter. Fleeting times, these years, right?
Thank you, Taryn! What a lovely family and a lovely story. I think there is so much in this post that so many people can relate too. The challenges of long distance relationships, cross-country moves, renovations, balancing work and kids, tricky pregnancies, and the need to keep a hold of your own identity, even as you become a parent and so much of your energy and sense of self gets absorbed by your kids.
The thing I loved most about Taryn’s story was the constant refrain of being adaptable and adjusting to new circumstances. Like when she was talking about the period where Ashe became a homebody, and they decided to just roll with it as best they could and follow the child’s lead. I think this is brilliant advice — not only in child raising but life in general. How much time do we spend trying to force something to happen in our lives when the timing isn’t right? Or getting frustrated because we think there are things we should be doing that we aren’t? How much sweeter and easier life is when we surrender a bit — go with the flow, trust our instincts and let things happen on their own time frame. It’s wonderful advice.
Sinnerman by Nina Simone (clap along!)
Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.
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