Living With Kids: Amelia Hahnke

By Gabrielle.

I don’t know how to best describe Amelia. She is someone utterly smitten with her life — contagiously so! — and seems completely uninterested in trading her everyday for anything else out there. Some might call her authentic, but I honestly find that term a bit redundant.

I think I prefer content.

I hope you enjoy this breath of fresh, happy air as we all wind down a bit before the holidays. Welcome, Amelia! I’m so glad you’re here.

Well, I’m Amelia, a wife and mom and occasional blogger. My husband Ryan is a structural engineer with a 9-to-5 job, but I’m fairly certain that deep down he wants to be a carpenter. He’s a man of many talents, one of them being that I can show him a picture of something and ask “Build that for me?” and most of the time he can. He’s quiet and kind and patient and hilarious, and very, very good to me.

Our son, Ralph, is a grown man stuck in a three-year-old’s body. Ralph wants so much to be big. On the morning of the first snow this winter, after I’d bundled him and let him out the door, he grabbed his shovel and immediately started clearing the driveway like his dad. All work and no play for Ralph, and that’s the way he likes it. He loves to help with whatever tasks we’re doing, which is sweet and sometimes maddening, because he truly believes he can do it. He once pried a doorframe almost completely off the wall with his little toy tools after spending some time with Ryan in the workshop. There are dents from his hammer all over the house.

Ada, our girl, is five months old. She’s officially grown out of the hazy, sleepy baby stage, and we’re finally starting to see glimpses of her personality. She’s bright-eyed and curious, and quick to smile at anyone who looks her way, a trait I really love about her. I wonder a lot if she’ll always be so cheerful and friendly. I kind of hope so.

We bought our home three years ago from a sweet elderly woman who raised a family in it. When we originally started looking at houses my husband wanted to find something far out in the country, but I was pregnant with Ralph and afraid I’d get lonely out there — just me, a newborn, and some cows and cornfields.

We found a cute house in the suburbs, just a few blocks from my sister, and I was sold. I love living so close to her and her family, and knowing that if I accidentally lock myself out or need a quick babysitter, she’s right there.

Ralph adores his cousins and loves being able to drive past their house regularly or walk over on a nice day.

Our house isn’t perfect, and we won’t live here forever, but it’s been a good starter home with just enough projects to keep us busy. Our budget is tight (our budget will always be tight, thanks a lot student loans!) so we’ve had to take our time with fixing it up — a good thing, I think.

So far we’ve managed to repaint most of the rooms, update the kitchen, and put in a garden. We’ve just started talking of the future and maybe moving again — this time to the country, we hope! — but we’ll be sad to go. This house has taught us patience, how to make do with what we have instead of what we want, and how to keep a home, and for that I’ll always love it.

We live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, land of beer and cheese and long, cold winters. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, but I happen to think those stereotypical Wisconsin things are pretty spot on. Growing up I think I always assumed I’d move somewhere else, but now I can’t imagine living anywhere but the Midwest.

The people of Wisconsin are kind and friendly, and the state is beautiful in all seasons. Milwaukee is a bigger city with all sorts of places to explore if you like city life. Museums, great restaurants, shows.

Ryan and I tend to spend our time doing things outside of the city, and seek out the quieter parts surrounding Milwaukee. On the weekends we love to hike and camp and drive out to one of the many little lakes around here. The summer months in Wisconsin are my favorite — hot, sunny days, beautiful farmland, awesome thunderstorms, time spent at the lake or in the backyard from morning till night.

Folks here are used to extreme weather, which means there’s plenty to do all year long. And if there’s not, there’s always beer. You may think that’s a joke, but honestly…it’s not. Ha!

I won’t deny it, I love to clean. I breathe easier when things are tidy and everything has a place. But I don’t think I’ve always been this way, at least not quite so intensely.

I grew up with three sisters and, out of all of them, I think I was the one who had to be reminded most to take care of my stuff. My mom keeps a clean and tidy home, and I’ve always been used to living in a space that is well taken care of. When I moved out, I had to step it up!

We’re a one car household and my husband takes it to work most days, so I’m home with the kids a lot. To be honest, I think that’s why I’ve become such a devotee to a simple, clean, tidy house. If I’m going to be here all day long, I need to make it a pretty and clean place to be or I’ll go bonkers. If the house is messy, my brain is messy, you know?

That said, there are days, especially now that Ada is here, where things just don’t get done. And on babysitting days I completely give up on tidying until the day is over, because there’s just no point! I keep a little mental list of things to do every day — sweep the floors, make the beds, do the dishes and wipe up the kitchen, and put away any clutter that has gathered — because those are the things that grind my gears if left too long. Almost everything else I’m okay with waiting until I can get to them.

I’d describe my style as a little bit of storybook cottage, a smidge of minimalism, and a whole lot of Martha Stewart.

I love a cozy home, and I like things to look a bit on the old-fashioned and homemade side, but I don’t want anything too cluttered or stuffy.

The majority of our furniture is second-hand or handmade. The desk and cupboard in the dining room were from a thrift store, my husband made our dining room table and bedroom dresser, our bed and Ralph’s bed were found on Craigslist, the living room chair was from my Grandma’s house.

Ryan built a bookshelf in our living room out of wood he found in the dumpster behind our first apartment. Ha! Aside from my sentimental attachments to some things, nothing in our house is too precious. I’m happy to let Ralph tumble and jump and bounce around.

I also take great delight in making things look just so. From my cleaning supplies to my medicine cabinet, I get a thrill when even the basic stuff looks pretty. But I’m finding that I have to be careful about this.

I owe so much of my creativity to my mom because she let me and my sisters have a lot of control over that kind of stuff growing up. She allowed me to paint my bedroom hideous colors more than once, and never discouraged my enthusiasm for bedecking the house with paper chains and ugly crafts.

I hope my love for a perfectly spruced house doesn’t ever get in the way of my kids’ creativity.

My blog is called The Homebook, and I write about all sorts of stuff relating to home: motherhood, recipes, cleaning, odds and ends. My favorite blogs are ones that read like a magazine, and that’s what I strive for with my own blog.

I majored in Art in college, yet I never really found my niche while I was there. Once I started my blog, I found it. Or at least something close to it. I love the entire creative process of blogging, from the brainstorming of ideas, to the photos, to the writing.

I think I might be the most erratic blogger ever, even though I love to do it. I dream of having regular time to work on it so there’d be more consistent posting, but here and there will have to do for now.

Instagram is very much a creative outlet for me. It’s like a modern-day scrapbook of my life, but with a pretty little filter over it. I try not to take it too seriously, and I hope my followers don’t either.

When something strikes me as especially beautiful or funny or happy, it’s fun for me to snap a picture and post it. It’s real life, and it’s not, if that makes sense. I mean, yes, I bake a lot and my house is clean and I have a beautiful, happy family. We also eat a lot of frozen pizza, and there are almost always dishes in the sink, and my kids whine and get colds and have fits. But when those things are happening, whipping out my phone to post a photo on Instagram isn’t usually on my mind.

I think sometimes there’s a push to make social media more real and less glossed over, but eh. I’m happy with keeping Instagram a pleasant and inspiring little place to check into, and I’m just as happy to check out and get back to real life.

Amid the happy postings, there was one event at the beginning of our family-growing that was and most assuredly still is heartbreaking. My husband and lost our first baby at twenty-one weeks, four years ago this past October.

Things weren’t quite right at my 20-week ultrasound, so we were sent to a specialist a few days later, and that’s when we found out. The days surrounding that time kind of seem like a dream now. They were very sad and scary.

I delivered her in the hospital, and we were able to hold her and touch her, and then they just took her away. It was beautiful and terrible. We were suddenly parents to a little baby, and yet we weren’t.

The doctor who delivered her told us she was a boy, so they dressed her in blue and we named her Daniel, my husband’s middle name. Later on, test results told us she wasn’t a boy after all. When we found that out, I’m fairly certain I laughed out loud. I think the doctor expected me to be upset and apologized over and over for the blunder, but I don’t know…human error and all that.

After all we had been through, I think I realized that a name and some tiny blue clothes didn’t matter. The bigger picture was clear: she was our baby and we knew she was with her Savior.

I struggled for a long time after that, even when I became pregnant with Ralph just a few months later. I was kind of a mess, and was terrified of losing him, too. People were so kind and understanding, but often their words felt empty because I was so angry. It took time to get over that.

What helped me most was when people reached out with their own stories of loss. I’ll never forget the day we had the inspection for our house. The man that came was quiet and had a really dry sense of humor. We were in the basement, and he was checking nooks and crannies with a flashlight, and out of the blue he mentioned something about losing a son many years ago.

He didn’t offer much more than that. He didn’t even know about our loss. But oh, I could have hugged him. It was so encouraging to hear a middle-aged man, practically a stranger, bring up his child like that.

There aren’t pictures or stories about Daniel for me to share, but she’s still my baby. Getting a chance to talk about her every now and then is therapeutic for me.

I’m happy to just care for my kids, and I hope they grow up feeling that. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, more than anything else. Making lunches, wiping noses, picking up toys — all those things are tiring and hard. But those things are my duties!

I don’t ever want my children to feel like taking care of them is a chore for me. I hope I’m always joyful about it.

My mom is nothing but love and comfort and happiness to me, and she found even the smallest ways to make us girls feel loved: turning down our covers at night, always playing music, or popping our towels in the dryer to warm them up minutes before our baths were over. Those are the kind of simple, happy memories I want my own kids to have of home.

I wish someone had told me to fill out the baby book!

Take more pictures and videos, write down funny things my babies say and do, make a clay foot print ornament, for heaven’s sake!

The other day my husband found a random, forgotten file of videos of Ralph when he was just learning to toddle and babble. We sat there for over an hour, laughing at his sweet baby face and gasping over how much he’d changed. It’s only been a few years, but I’d already forgotten what he was like.

I need to get better at keeping a record of their little-ness. They grow so heartbreakingly fast!

–-

Thank you, Amelia, for your words and soothing images. I swear, it’s the perfect exhale to a lovely year of tours!

I begged Amelia to tell us the story of Daniel; I’m so moved by it. This time of year is often about the missing, isn’t it? I really, really hope whoever it is you’re missing is surrounded in a cloud of lovely memories and heartfelt thoughts.

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 knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

52 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Amelia Hahnke”

  1. “I don’t ever want my children to feel like taking care of them is a chore for me.”
    Right to the heart. I’m pretty sure I express on a daily basis through body language alone that taking care of my children feels like a chore and is a burden. My eyes have never been so open before. Thank you for the tour.

  2. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Dear Amelia,
    So much to love about your beautiful home. I especially love the greenery that pops up all over.
    I have shared the story of our Alexander on Gabrielle’s blog several times. Our experience is so like yours. Same timing. Same description of beautiful and terrible. And like your Daniel our Alexander is here in our thoughts. At this time of year my two children (13 and 9) like seeing Alexander’s tiny Christmas stocking hanging on the mantle and an ornament that I wrote his name on on the tree. Bringing them out provides a sweet reminder that we are a family of five in our hearts.
    May your little family find peace this Christmas.
    Pamela

    1. A stocking is such a sweet way to remember your Alexander. I love that. I have a few things I keep in a box to remember my girl, but I don’t take them out often, it’s hard for me. I have a little ornament too, a “B” for baby. It’s one of my favorites.

    1. Peachy pink retro is a nice way of describing it! :) Up close it mostly just looks old…and dirty… ha! But we saw many old bathrooms while house hunting. I know it can be so much worse!

  3. Amelila, I am a 63 year old grandma of 13 who still ponders and thinks about the baby boy who I lost at 22 weeks over 30+ years ago. What would he have looked like as an adult? What might he have done with his life? He was perfect but unfortunately the umbilical cord had a knot and he had no nourishment. What I do have are 5 beautiful children who have given me grands, a certificate with little tiny perfect footprints, the privilege of having seen him, and as you so beautifully stated a child who has returned to his other home. Thank you for sharing your story at this special time of year.

    1. Laurel, thank you for this. It’s encouraging to know that, even after many years, mothers don’t forget how special these tiny babies are. Merry Christmas to you!

  4. This is one of my favorite “living with kids”. A peaceful, pretty home and a mom who is so down-to-earth and good at sharing her heart! A perfect read during these crazy holidays. Going now to check out her blog!

  5. Amelia, thank you for sharing your beautiful home! Since you seem much better at cleaning than I am can you give me tips on maintaining your butcher block kitchen counters? I love the way mine look but have trouble maintaining them; finding them hard to “wipe off”.

    1. I’m afraid to say I’m a bit lazy about my counters. Once a month I rub walnut oil on them to keep them from getting dry, but beyond that, I’ve resigned to the fact that they’re going to look a bit worn. I kind of like them that way! We don’t have a dishwasher, so they get wet a lot from handwashing, but they’ve held up surprisingly well. I wipe them up with a damp rag and some homemade cleaner from my sister, and then dry them off right away. That’s about it! I hope that helps!

  6. Wow, what a neat tour and what a neat mother. I am so moved by her story and her ability to love the little chores that come with mothering. Thanks, Amelia. You touched my heart today.

  7. Amelia- your post brought me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing…..all of it! I am a mother of a 6 & 2 year old. Your story of loss touched me so as did all the “mother things” that go through you head. :) I am right there with you. They grow too fast. How could I forget what my 6 year old son was like at 2? Awful! But such is life. It was good to relate and know its not just me. Take care and enjoy that family of yours!

  8. Amelia, thank you for sharing your story of love and loss. It brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a commuter train. Your home is so beautiful and simple, and you seem to bask in that natural simplicity. what it said to me is that this is a woman who really, truly, firmly knows who she is. And that is such a beautiful thing.

  9. OK, I went and checked out Amelia’s blog. I love it and have been poring over the archives! The most recent post is June, so I hope that she is still going to blog? I absolutely know how busy she must be with the kids, but I do hope she continues! :)

  10. I loved this “Living with Kids,” especially because her home seems simple and non-pretentious, but pretty and ‘real’!

    I was just wondering if you ever get submissions from moms like me, who work a regular, corporate job outside the home full-time, send their kid off to daycare/preschool every day, and have to squeeze all the fun and relaxing and creative parts of their life into weekend and the hour in the evening she has free? Almost 5 years into this motherhood thing, I’m still struggling to find contentment and balance and beauty in the everyday rush of that life, where flex schedules and in-home nannies aren’t my reality.

    I love reading this series, but I often just find myself envious or “stuck” after reading them, rather than inspired, as there’s no realistic way to translate my reality into the beautiful, contented lives many of these women lead. I don’t mean to say their lives aren’t chaotic too – but would love to hear about how some find balance while climbing the corporate ladder (with a spouse who is doing the same) and trying to raise a family and keep and house and all the rest!

    1. Aliesha, Gabby has featured two income families here before but they are few and far between. I think this is a reflection of the her fan base,which seems to be heavily stay at home and often Morman. Or maybe reflective of folks who submit which seems to be heavily bloggers aspiring for larger followers, people with robust Instagram accounts they’d like to be seen widely, small business owners with ETSY shops etc. Gabby works for pay (although, I guess, not technically outside the home) and I assume would love to feature women with similar backgrounds if they submitted. Do you want to give it a try? Personallt, I’m not brave enough. Possibly because I’m too busy trying to be a great employee as well as a great mother to create a picture perfect tablescape or medicine cabinet.

      All that said I thoroughly enjoy this series and this home looks especially warm, inviting, and lovely. Whoever said “comparison is the enemy of joy” was really on to something; I think.

      1. Aliesha and Jenny, thanks for your input. A few things: Gabrielle kindly emailed me and asked if I would share my home and some words about it on her blog, and I was so excited to do so. This was not necessarily an attempt to gain more followers, although anyone who happens to read this is more than welcome to follow along.

        I agree that it would be awesome to hear from more mothers who work outside of the home. I am a stay at home mom, (though not Mormon!) but I also do in home child care several days a week. I mentioned it a little bit in the interview, but now I wish I would have talked about it some more. There’s a lot of responsibility in taking care of another person’s child all day long– I work hard, the money I earn helps put food on the table, and I’m proud to do it. Most of the time, the fun/relaxing/creative parts of my life are squeezed in on the weekends and after I put my kids to bed, cleaned the kitchen, folded the laundry, taken a shower, etc.

        Also, taking care of my home (and sometimes blogging about it) is a great joy for me, and I’m certain I’d make time to do it even if I had a full-time job outside of the house. Let’s not assume that someone with an organized medicine cabinet isn’t also busy being a great employee or mother. :)

        1. Thanks to both of you ladies for your kind and thoughtful replies. Amelia, I did not read your tour as a ploy to gain Instagram followers – however, I did start following you on Instagram – ha! Your photos are so sweet and remind me of my own love of finding beauty in the everyday, with a pretty little filter over top! I identified so much too with how you described Instagram – yes, life is often messy too…but those aren’t really the times I want to capture in a photo!

          I think I really identified with the simple happiness you talked about finding in your life, but sadly, the contentment that came through so evidently in hearing about your life is something I’ve yet to experience as a mother. I hope it didn’t sound like I thought you have all the time in the world for fun, creativity, and the things that make you happy – I think I’m just struggling so hard to find a balance, and working full-time outside the home presents an additional constraint on flexibility, etc. I loved hearing you talk about your children because that is the way I IWISH I thought to talk about mine – but with the daily grind, we’re up and out so early and there is little time to find simple joy in the silly stubbornness of a 4-year old! When you said, “I don’t ever want my children to feel like taking care of them is a chore for me. I hope I’m always joyful about it,” I smiled, but my heart broke a little, because I’m pretty sure my daughter thinks that taking care of her is a chore for me. And that’s just not how I pictured my life as a mom, you know?

          We do make time for fun things, and we do spend much of our free time with our daughter – I guess I just wish it didn’t all feel so hectic, chaotic, and scheduled! I just reread your post and I think my husband and I both feel a lot like your husband – we work the daily 9-5 but deep down, I want to be a photographer; my husband wants to run his own microbrewery! I’m thinking maybe the reason there are many fewer Living With Kids posts featuring families with two parents working full-time, mostly-inflexible corporate jobs, spending a large chunk of their income on daycare/preschool, who feel at peace, free, contented and excited about their lives…is that there aren’t that many!

      2. I was actually just thinking about this today – why not me? But I need someone who has more of this life figured out! :) Or a great solution for a more flexible job situation and cheaper pre-school!

  11. I connected with this story…so much like my own. It’s a pleasure to hear about strength at this time of year. Thank-you for sharing all of the parts of family life.

  12. Amelia, if you haven’t already you should read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I think you would really like it. Merry Christmas!

  13. It took me to the sentence that started with Ada to realize it’s ameliamarthelia! I love your Instagram. I like to check in once a week or so, or when I’m feeling lazy or overwhelmed and need some inspiration to tidy my house up. I loved looking a little deeper into your life- thanks for sharing!

  14. I’ve been secretly waiting for Amelia to be featured on your blog! Her home is as beautiful as she is– inside and out! Thanks for sharing. ♡

  15. Oh, this is my favorite home tour by far! Such a simple, unpretentious, genuine perspective. I love all of your images and words, Amelia! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Gosh I just love everything about this home and this little family. I am a fan of Amelia’s Instagram and feel so inspired by the way she mothers those gorgeous babes of hers. Her home is so warm and full of light. My favorite for sure.

  17. I think you have accomplished what you wanted — a cozy, beautiful home, and it looks like it would smell lovely, too! I love the subtle touches, and all the wood and white. Thank you for sharing!

  18. It is good to know you are living in Milwaukee. I live in Kenosha. It is so close to Milwaukee. I came to US almost 4 years ago. I really love to meet new people here. I wish I could met you. Who knows, we might see each other someday in someplace:)

  19. This is one of my favorites from this series! I love her home and my dear sister has the same name. :) The part about being joyful in mothering duties made me cry. I too always wanted to be a mother, but now, with a four-year-old and one-year-old, I struggle to be joyful and content. I’d rather my daughters think of me the way Amelia writes about her mother. Thank you for sharing these beautiful sentiments. They truly touched my heart and reminded me to adjust my perspective—a reminder I need often!

  20. I’m pretty sure this is my absolute favorite home tour of the year! What a sweet home and I love the clean white walls. I too went through a sad loss and we named our little girl Gracie. I’m pregnant again with another little girl but sometimes it does have me worried like you mention above. But things have a way of working out for the best! Also, I love your attitude about motherhood. That’s exactly how I feel about my Henry. :) xo

  21. I love love loved this feature- I’ve read it three times! What an amazing woman you are, Amelia…now I’m even more in awe of you that you don’t have a dishwasher! Your children are so lucky to be raised in such a warm, cozy, thoughtful environment. I wish all kids could experience this- our world would certainly be a different place. Happy 2016!

  22. Amelia, if you do begin blogging again, please write a piece on how you edit your home. I’d love to understand your process. How do you avoid the big plastic toys and cheap ikea (especially when you get them as gifts)? How do you think about how you put your home together. I say that because in my mind I want a more organic, natural home, but then it all seems to get lost when we actually start putting it together.

  23. wow, what a lovely “living with kids,” one of my all-time favorites. you are so real and down-to-earth, amelia, and you so fully embrace living, finding pleasure even in what most call chores. aesthetically, your home is so peaceful and sweet, quiet and unostentatious. i love the combination of white, natural wood, and greenery. your message is wise and i thank you for it. all the best to you, ryan, ralph, & ada.

  24. Amelia,
    I love your simple doweling curtain rods. I am trying to do the same and am wondering where you got the curtain rod brackets to secure to the wall. Any leads or tips would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Julia

  25. Mackenzie Hutchings

    Thank you for your story <3

    I was wondering where you got your co-sleeper? It is DARLING.

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