By Gabrielle. A few of the gorgeous family photos were shot by Momoko Fritz.
When Miggy sent me her interview answers, she apologized for the length and mentioned she could probably write forever about her special life and family. I wished she would. You will, too.
I’ve been married to a tall, dark handsome fellow for over ten years. My husband is a dentist and is very science minded, but also loves working with his hands, specifically woodworking. (Fact: he made our bed from scratch! So keep an eye out for it in the pictures below.) My husband and I compliment each other well (read: total opposites) and we enjoy working on projects together. (He made the bed, I made the quilt.) We actually met online in 2004, but since that was still VERY new we didn’t cop to it until a few years after we were married!
From first date to married was eight months and then two weeks after our wedding we moved from Provo, Utah to New York City. Let me tell you, that was a lot of change at once! But ten years in and I think we’re doing pretty well.
Our first daughter was born in New York City and I think that was the best place in the world to become a mom. I absolutely loved it and think back on those days with so much fondness. NYC definitely has a piece of my heart. Our oldest daughter, who goes by the moniker PSP on our blog, is the ideal older sister: responsible, smart, kind, adventurous, and she’s developing quite the sharp wit!
We then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where we had our second daughter, which was probably the best place for her to be born as she was born with physical disabilities. Cincinnati Children’s hospital is one of the best hospitals in the country. Our middle daughter, whom we call Lamp on the blog, has what is known as limb differences, and is affected on all four limbs. This, of course, means that her limbs are different. Accessibility and doing things a little differently are the norm for our family. Personality wise, she is a spitfire and keeps us all on her toes! I always say that what she lacks in limbs, she makes up for in personality.
A couple years later we moved to San Antonio, Texas where our third (and God-willing) last daughter, blog named Zuzu, was born. She’s the perfect little caboose to our clan and is the perfect mixture of adorably sweet and infuriatingly mischievous. While I never saw myself as an all-girl mom, it’s an identity I love and claim.
Now that my husband is done with schooling (New York), residency (Cincinnati), and the Air Force (San Antonio), we have finally settled down and to our surprise we returned to the Queen city of Cincinnati, Ohio last year where my husband purchased a practice and we finally put down some roots.
There’s a lot to love about this place. I’m not gonna lie, that came as a complete shock to me the first time we moved here! I always hoped that we would eventually settle on a coast, but I’ve come to think of Cincinnati as a hidden gem. If I had to summarize it in one word, I’d say charm.
Cincinnati is an old city with so much character and charm. Some of it can be a little rough, but I mostly find it very comforting and beautiful. And while affordability isn’t the sexiest word to describe a city, it’s one of my favorite things about living here. I feel like we can really afford to save, travel, and live the way we really want to live all at the same time! It’s refreshing.
As I said, one of the things I love the most about living here are the really great, yet really affordable older homes. When we lived here the first time we bought this gorgeous three story-victorian. It had all the original flooring (and no subfloors! At night, if the light was on in the basement, you could see light coming through the cracks of the floors!), beautifully carved details on the staircase, and pocket doors leading to the dining room. It was just a gorgeous home. And people wondered how we were able to afford it on a resident’s salary. Well, it was less than $135K! The house was on a busy street which was also why it was so cheap, but still! Coming from New York City we were like kids in a candy store with all this gorgeous, affordable housing!
Also I was delighted to find that Cincinnati is divided up into neighborhoods much like NYC with each neighborhood having its own distinct style and vibe. And many neighborhoods have their own little downtown areas with shops and restaurants, and when you have that type of walkability in a neighborhood, I find that people actually know their neighbors and there is a stronger sense of community.
I also like that Cincinnati is a smaller, big city. You can get anywhere you want in about 20 minutes. I love that we have all four seasons, but winter is comparatively mild. We’re also pretty east for being in the midwest, so it’s very green in the summer with a lot of beautiful rolling hills.
Truthfully I’m still coming to terms with living here, especially since buying a practice means we have put down some serious roots! Cincinnati is one of those cities where you’re born and raised and then you stay here. When people ask where you went to school, they mean high school! And since we’re not from here and we don’t have family nearby, we can sometimes feel like outsiders. Right now that has felt like the main drawback.
As I mentioned earlier, our daughter Lamp (that’s her fake blog name) has physical disabilities and can’t (yet) walk. She uses a power chair to get around almost everywhere, so accessibility is really important thing for our family. Therefore, a ranch style house is really the only logical choice for us right now, which significantly narrowed our home search by about two thirds.
The actual process of buying our house was a little unorthodox and our realtor said they had never done it that way before. When it came time to look for our home we were still in San Antonio, and the houses in Cincinnati were flying off the market and we knew we would have to act fast. Again having such a narrow type of house that we needed, the idea of flying in for a few days to go house hunting didn’t seem like the best way to go. We were familiar with the area and we could see online exactly what ranches were available at any given time — which was not a lot. We watched the listings daily and if we saw something we liked we had our realtor do a hometown with us via FaceTime. The blessings of technology!
Eventually I saw our house online and was immediately drawn to it, except that it wasn’t exactly in the part of town we wanted to live. But the house was so great. It was all on one level with easy access inside (even if a home is one level, if there are stairs on the outside, you still have an accessibility issue), with an unfinished basement and a large lot with many beautiful, mature trees.
We did a walkthrough via FaceTime and put an offer on the house a day or two later while we were still in San Antonio! Our realtor was a little nervous, but we didn’t have a choice. Once our offer was accepted, we used the 14-day inspection period to actually fly out to Cincinnati and see it in real life. Two years later we’re still here and we really like our home.
As far as it being our forever home…it really depends on the day. I really hope I don’t sound like a negative Nelly here, because our house is great and we really do like it. But one of the things I love about Cincinnati in general is that this place is jam-packed with beautiful, old homes — victorian, mid-century, craftsman, bungalow, tudor, townhomes — you name it, they have it.
While our house was built in the early 60s, there have been renovations over the years and I think some of the charm was renovated out. So while I like it, there is a part of me still clamoring for something with a more historic feel. BUT, sometimes I think this house has a lot of potential to be everything we want it to be; we’re actually starting bathroom renovations in the coming weeks! Also, having a large outdoor space at the end of a cul-de-sac was a game-changer in a way I didn’t expect. In that respect, I think it will take a lot to get me off our property. Confused? Don’t worry, so is my husband.
I have recently realized that I am much more picky about clutter than about actual cleanliness. I’m not sure what that says about me! I can go a couple weeks with the kitchen floor being unmopped and dirty, but still swept, much easier than I can go with a house where there is stuff everywhere and nothing is put away!
I am definitely one of those moms who can’t ignore the mess around her and be present with my kids as if nothing else matters. My sanity and the house being in semi-tidy state go hand in hand.
This also goes well with my belief that kids need chores to establish a good work ethic, responsibility, and a much cleaner home. So every morning, the girls (not the toddler yet) know they have to make their beds, pick up their room, and change their clothes before they can leave their room. And, yes, my daughter with limb differences makes her own bed, gets dressed (mostly) by herself, and helps out with chores as well. Their room isn’t picked up every day, but I’m pretty strict about it not getting too crazy and messy.
But don’t get me wrong, I believe in letting kids be kids. I believe in low-tech, hands on, imaginative play. I love our yard simply for the amount of tree climbing my older daughter does. She often gets uncomfortably high and I am both beaming with pride and wringing my hands. Our unfinished basement has a play area for the girls where hours of dress ups, fort building, Harry Potter imagining, and other creative play takes place.
I would describe my style as modern vintage, with a slight boho touch. For as long as I can remember I have loved old stuff. Perhaps spending a good deal of my childhood in my grandparents’ home where most of the toys I played with were my mother’s and my uncle’s, and the decor was very 1960s is what shaped my aesthetic. Even as a young girl I liked to listen to oldies, watch black and white movies, and I had a preference for all things vintage. The main way this affects my decor philosophy is trying to fill my home with unique vintage pieces that I really love and connect with.
I’ve always known that even if money weren’t an issue I would never be someone who could just furnish a home overnight; I want to find the right pieces that I love. That being said, we’ve had our share of Ikea furniture. Also, it’s taken me a while to learn the art of decorating. I feel like I’m just getting the hang of it and it’s still a process.
The other component to finding things I love is how to balance that with money. I worked at the Gap in high school and quickly caught the “It’s on sale and I have a huge discount” bug and would buy all this stuff simply because I could get it so cheap. I started to realize that when I bought five shirts that I didn’t like and never wore, it was a much more wasteful than spending more money on one shirt that I would wear all the time. I try to keep this in mind when making home purchases.
And I think this is one of the biggest ways my decor philosophy influences my kids as well. There is so much junk out there targeted at kids and I’m always trying to help them understand and use this principle when they want something new. Do you love it? Are you drawn to this because it’s cheap? If price wasn’t a factor would you still love it? Wait a week and if you still want it we can talk about it again.
While I don’t have any spaces that are off-limits to the kids, I do have furniture that is nice and that I want to keep nice and I expect my kids and their friends to be respectful of those things. Our house isn’t a museum and they can touch and play with things, but I believe in taking good care of what we have; whether I got something for a steal or paid a little more, I believe in taking good care of our things to make them last and I teach my kids to do the same.
I have a blog; it’s called This Little Miggy Stayed Home. Probably the loveliest thing to come out of that space is my sanity. I really think my blog — as a creative outlet, as a space for writing and sharing in our family’s journey — has not only saved me from loneliness at times, but also from thousands of dollars of therapy bills. I have untangled so many balls of mental yarn through the process of writing and blogging, that I really owe a debt of gratitude to that space.
For me, it’s even even more beneficial than journaling because it’s in the editing process, the back and forth, the refining and rewriting until I get it right that has been so beneficial. And often, I write away until I find the root cause of a bothersome question or figure out how these random and seemingly unrelated thoughts mesh together.
When our second daughter was born I was suddenly plunged into this great unknown, not only of embracing the new identity of a special needs family, but at the time no one knew what her differences meant. Would she live? Was she ill? Would she need constant support? How would her limbs affect her and our family on the whole? Everything was a wait and see. And at the time we didn’t know anyone else who had a child with our particular challenges. And so I wrote. Writing throughout the remainder of my pregnancy and in those early months after she was born was both informative for our friends and family, but also extremely cathartic. That took a rather deep turn! Ha! I do regular crafts and DIY posts as well.
What keeps me coming back day after day is the love I have for writing, storytelling, and the connection with my readers. I love being a stay at home mom and so much of my life is driven by what I do for my kids and my family on the whole, but THIS IS MINE. This is my little nook of the internet that I’ve curated and created. Not all of my blog is super-cool-party-people-awesomeness, but some of it is, and I’m really proud of that.
Blogging has turned me into a writer, a crafter, a photographer, an advocate…it’s really quite amazing.
And so, the Special Needs Spotlight. When I said that my sanity was the loveliest thing to come out of my blogging, it was partly true, partly tongue in cheek. The work I do with my Special Needs Spotlight is by far the most rewarding part of my blog. Each Friday I interview a special needs family or sometimes an individual and just ask them about their journey, what their day-to-day is like. Really, it’s just an education for everyone to see what life is like through the lens of disability.
When I first had the idea of the spotlight I really thought about it from my perspective. Blogging and sharing our story had been so beneficial to me and really eye-opening for friends and family, so the initial idea was to give other parents a platform to share their journey. But I also went into it with the idea that I was now “in the know” and that these were my people and our stories and we were going to educate everyone else. But now I realize that I don’t know anything!
I have learned and gained as much as anyone else from doing this series. Four years and 130-plus interviews later, I can tell you I am a changed person. In the context of disability I see the world very, very differently than I used to, and I think most people assume that’s because of our daughter. But really she is only half of that equation. The other half I attribute to the Special Needs Spotlight, to the families and individuals who have let me and my readers into their lives and who have let me ask them questions and share their stories.
And I’ve had some pretty incredible things come from it. Perhaps the two that stand out the most are the two separate people who wrote to me saying that their child (or in one case a nephew) who was previously undiagnosed, was able to get a diagnosis and likewise the help they needed for their children, directly because of my Special Needs Spotlight. To know that my little blog played a part in helping those families has meant the world to me and frankly, it still blows my mind a little.
I’ve written extensively about our daughter and her journey on our blog. In fact, last summer I did a Special Needs Spotlight about her for her fifth birthday. This is probably the best and most comprehensive place to read about our journey. You can read it here.
I can’t talk about my hopes for my daughter’s future without taking about the broader scope of disability and really, disability rights. I know I’m supposed to say ‘The sky’s the limit!’ and while I feel that’s true, I also feel like her future is as bright as society will let it be. I have said that disability rights are the final frontier of civil rights and most people find this to be a shocking statement. What I mean by that isn’t that we’ve solved all the problems surrounding race, gender inequality, or sexual orientation, and therefore we can now move on. No, what I mean is that these conversations in terms of disability haven’t even started. Not in a meaningful way at least. Of course this is not something I ever saw before I became a mother and disability advocate, but now I see it everywhere.
The disabled community is the largest minority in the world, yet they are the most underrepresented in the media. It can be a jarring juxtaposition to live in a world where your body type is rarely acknowledged in the world around you, in everything from architecture to advertising, and yet when you step out into this same world there is a heightened awareness of your being as you are on the receiving end of stares, whispers, and pointing everywhere you go.
One of the best quotes I’ve ever read on this comes from a recent Special Needs Spotlight actually (which was also one of my all-time most read spotlights and I really think everyone should read it). Rebekah, who is a paraplegic and wheelchair user, said this: “When I think about genuinely accessible spaces — the kind of space where I feel safe, included, connected — where I can take a deep breath and know my needs will be met — part of what I see is ramps and handicapped spaces, but mostly I imagine more and more people who are open, present, and flexible about what it looks like to be human in this world.”
We really need more awareness and representation for people with disabilities and to see them in a much broader scope than the hero/victim stereotypes that so often characterize what it means to be disabled.
My Instagram feed is where I share a lot about our family, little epiphanies I have about motherhood or disability, and just the day in and day out of what normal looks like in our household. Of course, a lot of people come to see Lamp as I’ve shared many exciting milestones on IG like the first time she stood up independently, her first steps, and more. One of my favorite features is Miggy’s Music Monday. I have a passion for music and I realized that I don’t just love music, I love sharing music with other people. So on Mondays I share a band, singer, song, album, etc. and tell a little something about it or a connection I have to it.
My favorite part of living with my own kids is watching this little sister trio in action and how well they interact together. I had mostly brothers growing up and only one sister who is ten years younger than me and grew up in a separate household due to divorce, so I didn’t have this sister dynamic that my girls have. If I didn’t love it so much, I would be envious. I am always telling them how lucky they are to have each other. Sure, they fight and have disagreements, but I’m really grateful that they are already friends and close playmates at such a young age.
I also love seeing the little things around our home that remind me of our special needs family status: the board in front of the back door so that Lamp’s power chair can clear the threshold, the small power chair parked in the corner while she’s away at school, the special utensils her dad made for her.
Maybe it sounds strange – even to me as I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to articulate this before — but going from a horrible ultrasound appointment that leaves you in paralyzing fear, to the embracing of a life you love so much…well, there’s a beauty in that journey. We’re a very typical family and I try not to let our daughter’s special needs take over the family identity or even her identity, but at the same time it’s certainly a part of our everyday lives and I think you see it reflected in our home accurately.
I hope my kids feel like they were always free to be themselves in our home. As a kid, I had a sort of split personality and acted one way at home and one way at school; I didn’t always feel like I could be myself at home. So I really want my kids to feel that they can be who they are. Additionally, while I will never try to sell our family as one that is perfect and I don’t want my kids to be under any false pretenses about those things, I do hope they always feel loved, wanted, and that their opinions and ideas matter.
One of the reasons I love sitting down to family dinner is to hear my children’s thoughts and ideas about life. It took me so long to realize the importance of thoughts and ideas! Simple ideas have changed the world, or even just a life. I want my kids to know that and feel validated in their contribution to our family. I also hope they remember spontaneous dance parties, reading together often, going on family adventures, and overall a loving, if not flawed, home.
I wish someone had told me that the older you get, the less you will know! How this is possible I’m not sure, but the older I get I realize I don’t know anything!
I also wish someone would have told me that you don’t have to lose yourself or give up the things you once enjoyed to adulthood. For example, I love music — specifically rock music — and sometimes I just have to crank up the tunes and rock out. I love going to see live music, but hadn’t done it in almost eight years until the past summer! Logically, I knew that it was okay to still be me, but I thought I was supposed to be this more refined version of me or something. I really, really admire people who follow passions and dreams for no other reason than it gives them pleasure and joy. I am trying to get back to being okay with pursuing dreams without feeling the need to justify it with logic and responsibility. (Although, c’mon…don’t be dumb.)
Which brings me to my last thing…I wish someone had told me it’s okay to be where you are. Whatever struggles, flaws, mistakes you embody right now, it’s okay. I am someone who pushes herself to be better a lot, and as you may have guessed this means I also push others to be better as well. Improvement is good. Constantly disapproving of yourself and others is not.
Thank you, Miggy. Chills covered me a few times while reading your brilliant thoughts, but this one about disability rights is stuck on my heart: “I know I’m supposed to say ‘The sky’s the limit!’ and while I feel that’s true, I also feel like her future is as bright as society will let it be.”
As is: “When I think about genuinely accessible spaces — the kind of space where I feel safe, included, connected — where I can take a deep breath and know my needs will be met — part of what I see is ramps and handicapped spaces, but mostly I imagine more and more people who are open, present, and flexible about what it looks like to be human in this world.” An incredible reminder for us all, don’t you think?
Oh, I could write forever about your words, Miggy! Tell me, Friends: What thoughts stuck to you? From her split personality as a child to not giving up your joys once you hit adulthood…it’s all so, so good.
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 know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.