Living With Kids: Kalli Verbecky

I love that you all get to meet Kalli today and see her pretty home in Lehi, Utah. Kalli and I are friends in real life and I always love her sense of humor when she posts about raising her three boys. I think her perspective is just what we need during this weird shelter-at-home time we’re all experiencing — her house is bright and sunny and her thoughts on social distancing are honest and funny and smart. Welcome, Kalli!

Oh hi! I’m Kalli Verbecky and this is my house. I share it with four dudes and two dogs + one gecko we forget exists on a regular basis because what even is the point of a gecko? I don’t know. 

Three of those dudes are my children. Sam is 11, Luke is 9, and Hayes is 6. They love their mom, any type of sportsball, hanging with friends, Dude Perfect, Harry Potter, also Xbox, Nintendo Switch and arguing about pointless things with one another. Brothers are great, I tell you what. 

Paul is the other dude around here, we met at work about 15 years ago. We started dating after I got dumped over the phone while sitting on a beach in San Diego and a seagull jumped on my head and ate my burger from In n Out right after. True story. My then-pal Paul called me about 30 seconds later and while I was cry laughing from the ridiculousness of it all, he asked me out. My mom told me to “hold out for someone taller” but I tossed that advice recklessly aside we’ve been married for 14 years now.

Paul is funny (I am MUCH funnier), great at math, and at building things — including a lot of the furniture in our home. He can grow a phenomenal ginger beard and is good at anything he tries except being tall. He’s also the GM of a custom high-end lighting design company. They build really incredible custom light fixtures for homes, hotels, restaurants, etc., at their manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City. They even have an in-house glass blowing studio like some sort of ironic hipster side hustle, except they’re incredibly talented and make the most beautiful things. You can check them out at Hammerton.com. 

I am the digital content director for a health supplement company and have worked in marketing and digital content creation for the past 10+ years. In the past that’s looked like contracting and working for startups because that gave me the flexibility I needed with small kids. I even worked for Gabby many moons ago when she lived in France the first time! Now, I am back full time in-office and I’m super into it — well at least I was before Covid-19 blew the world right up and sent me to work back at home again. 

I was raised on a ranch in northern Wyoming in the middle of nowhere but have lived in Utah for most of the past two decades. You can find me in the mountains with my dogs whenever I get a chance. I LOVE to travel and get high off scoring cheap flight deals, but also enjoy creature comforts and sleeping in my own bed. I’m highly invested in politics and feminism, social justice and equality. Awkward small talk and attending parties where I have to talk to strangers is my idea of hell. I like lifting heavy things, my two doodle dogs, boating with my family, and driving my kids to endless practices and games. Dark movie theaters, good food and cold, frosty bevs are my love language. 

We live in Lehi, Utah in the middle of a suburban paradise with wide streets, big garages, lots of kids and green grass. Our neighborhood is pretty typical for the area, not tons of diversity because hi, we live in Utah County and what is diversity?

Living in the heart of a religious and conservative stronghold has its challenges for sure, but people can surprise you in a good way if you let them. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s weird, but more often than not, we love where we live. 

I have amazing friends here, like the kind of women I’d go to battle for, and I know would do the same for me. We’ve also got couple-friends who we’ve tripped across the world with and would gladly go anywhere together. We’re incredibly lucky to have found the best people.

My kids have lots of friends, our families are close, we’re minutes from the mountains, lakes and reservoirs we love, and there’s always something to do. Downtown SLC is only 20 min away and we’re only a few hour’s drive from some of the most amazing National Parks and recreation destinations on earth. There’s a lot to love about living in Utah to balance out some of the cultural quirks and road blocks that can also come with living here. 

A while back, we were ready to say goodbye to the smaller, starter home with a super weird floor plan that we’d owned for 5 years. My kids were all up in my business and I wanted a little room to BREATHE. Home prices were going up and we knew we had a small window to really capitalize on the equity we’d built.

We randomly found this neighborhood and lot while driving around and once we laid eyes on it, we knew it was right. We put some money down and two weeks later they’d broken ground. Ultimately, we squeaked in right before home prices really jumped up and scored our 4 bed, 3 bath home with a .25 acre lot, 3 car garage and unfinished basement for $415k.

Honestly, that feels like a hot bargain these days. A home in our neighborhood sold a few months ago with our same general floorplan for around $500k so we’re feeling happy enough to be sitting where we are.  

Selling our old house was a freaking disaster. The market was hot for starter homes under $300k and we went through multiple failed accepted contracts from desperate buyers trying to squeeze themselves into a house they couldn’t necessarily afford before one finally stuck. But it all worked out and the builder finished this home right on schedule. We closed and moved in on the last day of September 2017. 

I love my house. It’s very much a builder-grade home but it has incredible big windows, lots of light, high ceilings and checked a lot of things off my list. I love the floor plan and the open feel. We went with a super dark navy color for the exterior with white trim and in the land of modern white farmhouses springing up left and right around here, it stands out and I’m super into that. I also tried to be careful with some of the details like choosing manufactured hardwood floors that were warm and inviting vs the pale flooring and white walls I see in lots of other new homes in this area.

Our kitchen has white cabinetry, which is a little predictable, sure. But I had them take those tall cabinets all the way to the ceiling, added in some open shelving, and we later added the black hex tile backsplash and brass sconces. I love the way it came together. 

Paul is a wonder boy. Anything I ask him to do, he can execute beautifully. Our fireplace, mantle and shelves, and custom cabinetry are just an example — he built all that from scratch in his garage workshop. The tile I chose for our kitchen and the light fixtures? He installed those too.

OF COURSE we have great light fixtures. The hand-blown gem chandelier came from his work and it’s perfect. It casts the most incredible patterns in the evenings. Paul’s also responsible for building a lot of the furniture in our home: the kitchen table, our coffee table, the nightstands in our bedroom, and the twin bed frames in our boys’ rooms. He’s pretty much amazing and in the middle of finishing our basement right now to add two more bedrooms, a bathroom (with a urinal because BOYS), and another family room. 

I feel best about homes that feel lived in and not overly staged or designed and that’s always been my goal. I like mixing styles and I love natural wood. I rarely spend a lot of money on expensive furniture or fixtures. Our sectional sofa is probably the most expensive thing in our home and it’s just a plain couch. The living room rug came from Amazon and it wasn’t actually the rug I ordered but was so huge that sending it back felt like too much of a hassle, so we threw it down and made the best of it. Everything else was either found secondhand and refinished like, the dresser that backs to our couch (the most epic score of my life, it was covered in black paint when I found it and purchased for $35!). 

Some of my favorite things are hand-me-downs or made by someone I love, like the table in my entry way that was in my childhood home growing up. The mirror above it is an antique beveled mirror that my dad framed in with barnwood. Barnwood isn’t necessarily my style but I love that my dad made it for me, and it belongs right there. I’ve got two paintings hanging in my office that my Grandma purchased in Rothenberg, Germany when she went to visit her daughter stationed at an Army base there in the 70’s. My grandma passed away a few years ago and those paintings are so special to me! The art hanging in the stairway is actually a woodcarving that my father-in-law bought in Thailand while stationed in the Air Force in the 70’s. I talked him into giving it to me and it’s one of my most favorite things. 

Our lot is at the end of a dead-end street and our yard backs up to an open field with a rotating cast of sheep and cows which thrills the Wyoming raised farm girl in me. That might not last forever with the way the housing market is in Utah — land is disappearing all the time — but we’ll take it while we can get it.

My oldest son saw a sheep birth out a lamb while jumping on the trampoline, so you know, that sort of took the edge off of the maturation discussion scheduled at school a few weeks later. Nature is great man, I tell you what. 

Since I’m the only one home during the day right now, I’m running point on my kids, while fielding Zoom calls all damn day, and doing all the work that my job entails, while still trying to make sure the kids do the stuff they’re supposed to for school, and occasionally take a break from arguing and playing games when I force them outside for some fresh air and more arguing. I kid! But not really, there’s LOTS of arguing. 

I can also recognize my own incredible privilege and my family’s privilege in this whole thing. We’re both still fully employed with good jobs, our kids have their own rooms to retreat to when they need space, plus all the books and games and whatever else they need to feel engaged and entertained. They can run around outside and even though they can’t play with friends, they can take breaks in arguing long enough to play together, and sometimes that happens when the stars align just right. 

Their teachers have been incredible and made it fairly simple for them to get their work done. Their sports have been put on hold and that’s not great, but they’ve got coaches and music teachers checking in and friends they can FaceTime and you know, they’ll be just fine. We can go to the grocery store if we need to, and have stuff delivered at will. It’s essentially a quarantine best case scenario if you’re looking at the bigger picture.

That said, I know it’s ok to admit that it hasn’t been a walk in the park and parts of this have really, really sucked. The most recent week — week 4 of staying home — was tough. I hit a wall mentally and emotionally and maybe had a hard time getting out of my bed. 

I hope this experience does change us as a society. I hope we see each other as humans, neighbors and friends instead of acting like our individual liberties are more important than the collective good of society and humanity as a whole. I hope we learn to sacrifice a little to serve others around us better, and I hope we learn how important it is to put people in positions of power who are intelligent, capable, and put the interests of the those they serve above their own ego. I hope we learn to take better care of the planet and our natural resources, and our own bodies and health too. 

Personally, it’s made me think a lot about how easy it is to disconnect from the people around us and how insane the train of consumerism and capitalism is. It’s made me deeply reconsider how I spend my time and money and what truly makes me happy. 

The thing I’ve learned about staying active during quarantine is: motivation is a myth. When you start looking at fitness and exercise as essential to your mental and physical health, rather than an avenue to weight loss or fitting into a certain size of clothes or “getting your body back”, it certainly makes the idea of breaking a sweat a lot more appealing. It’s also important to find something you actually like to do. Be willing to try new things but don’t force it. When you find the things you like to do, working out doesn’t feel as much like work. 

I broke my pelvis in a freak accident a few years ago and my healthy strong body is what saved me from a more devastating injury and also helped me heal and recover incredibly fast. It helped me realize what a gift my body is. I’ll take advantage of it and do what I can to keep her healthy and capable to allow me to do what I want, when I want. 

This quarantine-no-gym-situation has been rough for sure. I’m staying up too late and sleeping a lot, and I feel incredibly off without my same routines and coping mechanisms. At the end of the day I feel completely overwhelmed with kids and life since they’re home and I’m home ALL DAY. 

Here’s what has helped: I try get out and walk my dogs at least once a day on a trail I frequent. Sometimes that’s in the morning, sometimes it’s in the evening, sometimes it’s both. Either way it’s a much-needed break and I always, ALWAYS feel better after. I also rented a bike from my cycling studio and ride as much as I can. I try to fit in a hike here and there but since my kids are home 24/7 it’s harder to get away. I also force them outside a few times a day to move their bodies. They are always more willing if I get outside and play with them too, even if it’s honestly the last thing I want to do most of the time.

I’ve learned that cabin fever is a thing. I’ve learned that my kids have hit a weird age where they’re maybe not that good at self-directed play so that’s been a huge learning curve for them to have to go back to the basics there and learn how to play with each other since friends aren’t an option. I’ve learned how easy it is to disconnect with each other even when we’re in the same room and how even doing the little things like making sure we sit down for dinner together makes a huge difference.

We’re really lucky to have a comfortable home to ride this out in with a yard and some open space. Paul still gets to leave every day and go to work, so there has been a sense of semi-normalcy for him. It’s also been a huge asset for him to have the basement and his projects to work on as a distraction. I’m so thankful we’re both working and have that distraction too. 

This will likely be the home that dominates my kids’ childhood memories, so I hope we’ve done a good enough job making it a safe place where they feel loved and well cared for. I hope they remember the simple little traditions we have like pizza and a movie on Friday nights, playing octopus out on the trampoline and shooting baskets outside. I hope they remember movie nights with the fire going and caramel corn on Sundays or swinging on the front porch together in the evenings. I hope they remember us as parents who laughed a lot and admitted when we were wrong. I hope they know that we surely weren’t perfect, but we did our absolute best. I hope they remember the “haves” a lot more than the “have nots”. 

I hope they forget all the times I lost my cool, especially that one time I screamed at them from the upstairs to STOP FIGHTING FOR THE LOVE OH MY HELL… not realizing that they’d opened the door for the carpet cleaners who heard the whole thing. FOR SHAME. 

Someday, I’ll miss being one of the most important people in their daily lives. I know I’ll always be important, but this time I have with them right now under my roof is really special and no doubt it will continue to go by fast. There will come a day when I’m not the first person they see and talk to in the morning or at the end of the day and I don’t like to think about it.

Growing up is great! I am happy my kids are out of the baby and toddler phase. I have really loved this stage of parenting elementary-aged kids that are funny, who pick up on sarcasm and can have honest conversations and tell great jokes. I really like my kids as people, turns out!

I know I’ll like them as adults too, but I also know how hard it is to be an adult and figure things out and I’m already pre-mourning this time we have together right now when I could control things a little better for them. They’re not even gone yet! But at times I find myself already missing them. 

I wish someone had told me that no one has this stuff figured out. That parents don’t know what they’re doing, that everyone is human, and you have to figure out what works best for you. I wish someone had told me that I deserve to think about MY needs and what I want rather than what other people want for me when it comes to choosing a career, a partner, when (or if) to have kids (and how many), and how to do life in general. I wish I’d learned earlier to embrace the mindset of “good for you, not for me” and learned how to stay in my own lane and worry more about what I’m doing vs what other people are doing. 

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Thank you, Kalli! I think Kalli’s description of her home is perfect – it feels livable and stylish without feeling like it’s precious or over designed. I love the dark navy in the kitchen, and the fireplace with those big bright windows. And of course the light fixtures are so lovely. They’re like the jewelry on an already stylish home.

I also really loved what Kalli said about fitness. Kalli is a power weight lifter and I have long admired her commitment to her health and fitness routine. And I love hearing her say that it isn’t really about “motivation.” It’s about recognizing that exercise is part of good mental health as well, and that getting some movement in the day, even if it is just taking a walk, is good for the mind and body.

What ways have you found to stay active during the quarantine? Are you getting out of the house? Are you pulling out those old Jillian Michaels work our DVDs? Family basketball in the front yard?
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Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

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 features@designmom.com

21 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Kalli Verbecky”

  1. I find myself wondering how you find so many people to do this who I would love to be friends with, and then I wonder if maybe everyone is amazing if we would give them a chance. Kalli sounds delightful, and her house is lovely and inviting. I loved her honesty about parenting, and share her hopes that we will come out of this with shifted priorities. As for working out, I am tip toeing back into running a bit, hoping my hips and knee will cooperate. Also doing FaceTime yoga with my yoga teacher and yoga buddies, Yoga with Adriene, and sometimes time with a workout app. Thank you for this series. I really love it.

    1. Kristin! I feel the same way when I read these interviews and I agree with your observation–no doubt we all have a lot more in common than the alternative, you know?

  2. One of the most livable houses ever posted on this series. Also, I do appreciate that the author isn’t tone deaf about privilege. That can often get lost in this series.

    1. Totally agree— her home seems homey and stylish at the same time, and she seems like someone I’d want to be friends with. As I read all her hopes for what we’d take from this pandemic, I kept thinking, “Amen.”

  3. I am obsessed with all the natural light in Kalli’s home. I love all the things that remind her of Wyoming but not in a cowgirl type, lasso on the wall type of way. Kalli is right when she says she has friends she would go to war for, she is an amazing friend.

  4. This was one of my favorites. It’s always good to hear that we as moms and parents don’t have it all figured out and need a break and yell sometimes.

    1. I don’t think any parent is operating at their best right now…or any kid for that matter. These are unprecedented situations that have mostly just made me realize that I would have been a terrible pioneer when Netflix and screens weren’t even an option to help us through this. You feel me?

    1. Laugh with me when I tell you that the white duvet cover is actually turned wrong side up because the right side has red marker stains all over it.

      Utah really is so beautiful and the view is something I never take for granted!! Thanks Ann!

  5. Kalli,
    I love your home, but I love your words about what you hope may come out of this pandemic even more. I kept saying “Amen!” as I was reading. Also, your darling dog on the stairs looks like our Arlo’s sibling. What a cutie! Thanks so much for sharing your home and brightening my day.

    1. That’s Bo! He’s an 11-mo old springer-doodle we just adopted in Feb. He’s got a super joyful and enthusiastic personality and is the total opposite of our other mini-labradoodle who is 6 years old and so laid back. I’d love to see your Arlo (one of my favorite names). I’m a dog person to the max.

  6. loved this house and the comments – just felt like we only saw two rooms, made me crave more.. guess that is good

    1. Hah! I think when you have an open floor plan you run that risk because really, it’s all one big room on our main floor. Also because of Covid I couldn’t get a photographer in here to photograph some of the small details that are great but don’t translate into iphonography, you know? I didn’t share much of my children’s rooms or my master suite because I haven’t done much there! I’m a big fan of letting my kids decorate their own rooms and let them tape stuff to the walls and go nuts with their cork boards. You can see stuff taped to the ceiling on the one photo of my son’s room that I did share. It’s totally lived in but just doesn’t photograph super well. I’d love to share an update in a year when we finish our basement and guest room and have some more of our landscaping complete. You’ve given me some good motivation!

  7. Kalli seems like a damned delight! I really enjoyed this. What a bright, sunny home! Although, I almost sobbed when I read how much they paid for it as I am cooped up in an apartment we paid A LOT more for.
    My husband and I are both life-long apartment dwellers and sometimes toyed with moving somewhere else, but one the things to consider has always been diversity, which I am glad Kalli mentioned. What would life for us and our kids be like in an environment lacking diversity? (we are an interfaith, biracial family). There are certain things we have always loved about being in our neighborhood – we live close to both our families, we can walk to stores and restaurants, hop on a quick subway ride to a museum. Now with COVID, all of those benefits are gone. Instead, we are stuck inside with an energetic toddler and Kindergartener. We try to go on walks in the morning and are lucky to have a small terrace for some fresh air. Living in what is now the epicenter of the world for this crisis (we are in Queens, NY) has made us question the way we live. What I wouldn’t give for a yard right now! My son recently told me he wished we lived in a big house. Sigh. At the same time, I feel extremely lucky to have a home, food, health, and love. It’s difficult, but we will get through it.
    Sorry, this was long! Thanks for sharing your beautiful home, Kalli. I too, hope this experience changes us as a society.

    1. NORA! You are the exact kind of person I was thinking about when I wrote about the privilege of having a yard, a sizeable home and some open space to make things a little easier during this time of extreme togetherness. Having lived through the busy toddler and small people stage of life, I’ve also been super grateful my kids are a little bit older as we deal with all this. All of the things that helped me survive that stage of life have been removed! Playlands, friends, children’s museums, parks, etc. Gonezo. I have so much empathy for what you’re going through right now, especially the scary parts of riding it out in the epicenter of the US outbreak.

      I think there are parts of the US you can find with a mix of what you’re looking for although I’m not sure an equal balance of diversity plus cultural opportunities is even possible with the suburban life without some sort of tradeoff. Here in Utah, we have areas that offer those suburban benefits I talked about and more diversity too, but they come with a price. Home prices jump up considerably the closer we get to Salt Lake City, even though SL County has more of the diversity and cultural opportunities we’d prefer. There’s no way we could have purchased our home at such a good price even we’d moved even 15 miles closer. There’s a trade-off no matter what in any case!

      I stalked your website, let’s be friends. I’m @kallikverb on IG!

  8. Do you mind if I ask where you got your sectional? We are shopping for one and I love yours along with basically everything else in the house! Thanks!

  9. Loved this installment of the series. Kalli has a warm, funny voice and sounds like someone I’d get along with IRL. I’m desperately hoping the “oh hi” beginning was a Little Edie “oh hi.” That’s how I heard it in my head. :)

  10. What a warm, happy, comfortable-looking home! I really appreciated how you are framing this difficult time in a positive way. I needed a reminder of that today. Also, as a boy mom – I think the yelling at them to stop yelling is just part of the package some days. :)

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