All you really need to know about Rachael is that she’s one of those wildly entertaining writers who might make you laugh out loud a few times throughout her interview. She’s real and aims to live a debt-free life in her detoxed home. You’re going to enjoy this one, I just know it.
Hi everyone! I’m Rachael, also known as Faye, which is my middle name. I live in Northern California with my husband David and three little girls. On a normal day, you can find me around the house sweeping up sparkles from princess dresses and bribing my girls with gummy bears to pose for Instagram. I’m a fangirl of Peet’s coffee, high-waisted leggings, and clogs with socks. I grew up in small-town Kansas and migrated to Atlanta when I was eighteen, so I’m an all-American hybrid of West Coast, Midwestern, and deep South.
David is a web developer who works from our home office. He taught himself to program in the 90s and started his web business in a simpler time when all anyone ever wanted was a flaming logo on their home page. Before we dated, he rented a room in my parents’ basement and probably removed about 357 viruses from our family PC while he was there.
One day he started writing me funny emails, which made me fall love with him rather unexpectedly. I did the natural thing and freaked out, avoided him for seven months, and made plans to move to another state. He persisted rather unfruitfully until a mutual friend kindly sat me down and told me I WAS ACTING A FOOL. I realized she was right and told her she could be in our wedding. And she was, nine months later.
Our oldest daughter K.K. is four. She’s our social butterfly who loves to draw detailed pictures and puts together 100-piece jigsaws like a preschool puzzle genius. I frequently find her engineering things like skates from string and toy trains, or making space ships from my Amazon boxes.
Our middle daughter Liberty is three. She is sensitive and nurturing. Her favorite thing to do is pick me bouquets of clover and eat Chipotle Tabasco sauce on everything. Her throwing-up-at-two-am cry sounds exactly like her I-can’t-find-my-pink-tutu cry, so that keeps our adrenaline levels nice and elevated on a regular basis. Bless her.
Evelyn is our baby. She’s nine months old and is pretty easy-going as long as she is sitting in the very center of whatever her sisters are doing at all times. She enjoys eating bits of carpet and being our tiny human vacuum. She’s at the most squeezable, sniffable stage of babyhood. I spend half my day nuzzling her soft head and whispering fervent prayers that her wrist chub takes extra long to turn into a regular wrist.
When we moved to California during a crashed housing market, we bought a renovated 960 square-foot starter home in Vacaville, ten miles from where David grew up. We bought it in pristine condition for $175,000, which was a STELLAR deal. As family and career grew, it came to our attention that he needed a more private work space away from preschoolers shrieking for help on the toilet during international conference calls. So we started looking for a bigger house with a better office situation.
One afternoon on our way to see another property, our realtor suggested we swing by an open house. It was not in my ideal neighborhood and the listing photos mainly showcased dirt yard. It also had a pool, which caused me to indulge myself in visualizing every possible safety risk associated with aquatic recreation.
But once I looked past the bedroom dedicated to first-person shooter video gaming and the wild stallion painting over the master bed, I saw that it had every one of the must-haves on our list. It was our perfect home, disguised as an 80s two-story with stallion art…plus that swimming pool with 674 safety hazards.
Since we bought our old house at the bottom of a crashed market, we had some equity to spend on improvements in the new house. After doing some responsible adult things like HVAC and mold remediation, we decided on new flooring and an interior paint job. My zeal to demolish bathrooms and install subway tile has simmered down after sort of an unplanned pool renovation. Do not be deceived by the rippling waters of blue; our pool owns us. We are now traumatized and can converse for far too long about subjects like cantilever coping and types of plaster. (It started with a naively undertaken patio demolition and that’s all I can say at this time without breaking down.)
This is a ten-to-15 year home for us, so there is no rush! We have time to live with things and overanalyze everything to the nth degree. Which we are so good at. Sometimes that means realizing you don’t need to renovate at all.
The name of the game lately has been making it LIGHT in here. Basic things like trimming trees, removing window tinting and UV blocking screens has been miraculous! And I recently came to love my kitchen by removing cabinet doors and styling my shelves with paint and thrift store utensils!
Vacaville is a town of about 100,000, located on interstate 80 between Sacramento and San Francisco. It’s in a valley, backed up to a beautiful range of hills. We’ve been in a drought since I moved here five years ago, but the climate is pretty mild all year with hot, dry summers and rainy winters. We have almost no inclement weather so we get very excited about thunder or any form of tempestuous precipitation. It’s a really affordable place to live compared to other areas of California. Right now you can probably buy a starter home in an older neighborhood for around $250,000.
Our location on the interstate makes it livable for families, but with all the culture and scenery I can handle within a short drive! Drive west about an hour and you’ve got San Francisco, the bay area, and infinity Pacific vistas. Going east you’ll hit Sacramento before coming up on Reno and the Sierra Nevadas. Napa is a basic date night. (Is this my life!?)
In town we have all the basic necessities for mom life: parks, libraries, Target, In-n-Out, and a conveniently disproportionate number of Starbucks on every corner. I can zip from one end of town to the other in ten minutes and will definitely see at least three people I know at our local coffee shop. The only real traffic here is freeway passengers coming home from Tahoe and the beach on holiday weekends.
A huge benefit of where we live is the natural living community. Rainbow chard and raw dairy in all the places. This community has been a huge support to me in my journey through early motherhood. Hippies are the best of people. I was able to give birth to all three of my girls at home under the care of licensed midwives, and wrote many things on the Internet about it.
When we were first married, we went through a program called Financial Peace University. We paid off all of our debt while living in our friend’s one-window basement apartment, surviving off bean burritos. Subscribing to a debt-free lifestyle has been really foundational to our marriage. We shifted from making instant gratification decisions to thinking long-term.
Paying people off was the hardest part! We skipped things our friends were doing like taking vacations, buying furniture, and going out on the weekends. David worked a lot of evenings and Saturdays. We crammed the entirety of his office into one corner of our basement living space. For about a year the poor man worked huddled in subterranean dimness while I commuted to work with our car.
In some ways I think we missed out on enjoying all the freedom we had before kids. But we were also able to start a family from a place of financial stability. Pros and cons! For the most part, we stay out of debt by living below our means. Right now we are able to reap some of the benefits of having not owed anyone money for a long time, minus the mortgage company. Our income fluctuates all the time, but when it goes down, it’s not a tragedy.
I would describe my style as Collected Minimalist. I don’t like clutter in my space, but I do love tidy collections of books, plants, and art. The thrift store is my all-time favorite place to shop for collection pieces.
I use the term minimalist loosely because even after going Marie Kondo on this house like a wrecking ball, the inside of Evelyn’s closet still looks like I’m about to open a baby consignment store. I simply refuse to go on living without two pack-n-plays and a Mega Splash Exersaucer Activity Center!
I want our home to encourage independence and inventiveness. Minimalism creates room for this. I keep floors and surfaces clear for creative play. Overall, we keep it basic. Crayons and paper. Puzzles and blocks. I’m less about supervising sensory rice activities that make me cry inside, and more about letting my kids get bored enough to start plays entitled “Mom And Little Girl” that are mostly about parading around in Disney wigs.
In my master plan for a minimal, aesthetic home, we would have only wooden and cloth playthings with a tastefully limited dress-up collection of felt and organic cotton. Instead, everyone is a little kid and seems not to care at all about my plan for a curated toy box of painted wood in muted tones. Why would you when there are battery-powered light-up Rapunzel skirts to be worn? So I have relinquished some of my aesthetic preferences because sometimes plastic tea sets and Elsa wigs bring us joy and hours of creative play.
What about the Barbie Rainbow Lights Mermaids and Fairy Princess Snowflake Wands? These are the toys that slowly erode my will to live, but they do happen. Here is what we do: pink and purple items like dress-up, tea party, and princess blocks stay up in the girls’ bedroom. Puzzles, Duplos, and art supplies go in the coat closet which we turned into toy storage. Any toys I don’t need in my life disappear to magical places called consignment and Savers Thrift. The situation is ongoing. All proceeds to go coffee. Thank you for understanding.
Life with kids is so much better with less stuff. Less to fight about. Less to clean up. Less to straighten.
FACT: I have been removing SO MANY RUGS from this place. I finally gave up the rug under our dining room table last week. I tell you, I cried hot tears of relief as I freely swept crayons and dried Play Doh from underneath chairs. It’s our favorite place to do everything in life now.
Independent learning and letting the girls explore their interest and are big values to us. Right now, we see a world of learning and artistic creativity taking place at our dining room table with drawing, puzzles, and Play Doh.
I also keep some toys in bedrooms because I believe in sending my kids to their room to be SO BORED. Our mom used to give us the choice of doing jobs or going away to play in our room for infinity hours. So my sister and I recorded ourselves with tape players and practically set the house on fire with curling irons. Best memories. The tomfoolery. I thank the Lawd above YouTube did not exist at this time in history.
David started suggesting years ago that I blog (and also get Gmail). I declined because the idea of keeping an Internet diary was making me have images of teen angst and vintage MySpace. After six years of convincing, during which blogging turned mainstream, I decided to try posting something once a week every Friday.
Then a miracle happened inside The Computers. Sixteen people from Facebook and two people on the World Wide Web in Australia started reading my words! If you Google “how to get motivated to clean house” or “how to clean a messy house” you will find me. YES PEOPLE DO GOOGLE THIS ALL THE TIME. Desperate moments call for desperate Google searches. I love people so much.
Lately my blogging interests have shifted towards journaling and photography. There’s nothing in the world like the storytelling process combined with the instant gratification of pushing a post button! The greatest thing by far to come out of this space is the connection I have with friends and family. People read my blog and feel like they know me. Social inhibitions gone.
FACT: Introverts love to socialize online. Blogging has played a huge role in helping me make new friends in California and re-connected me to past friendships too.
A few years ago I did a big project to remove chemicals from our house, and replace toiletries and cleaners with either homemade or non-toxic products. I decided to write about it on the Internet as though I were talking to my sister. It launched a series I called my Whole Home Detox. The most helpful thing I discovered in my project was the Environmental Working Guide database. You can look up safety ratings for any product or ingredient in your house. It is a data miracle.
One of the most unique ways I detoxed my home was to replace my facial cleanser and moisturizer with a 50/50 mix of almond oil and castor oil. I literally rub oil on my dirty face every night and it makes my skin luminous! Plant-based oils…who knew?
For me, the most challenging part of living with kids is when they get sick. I get very sad and pace around aimlessly doing Google searches on the hour. I feel obliged to warn my friends on group text and cancel all human contact for 40 days and nights. Humidifiers everywhere. Apple cider vinegar shots. Coconut oil on everything. At the same time, saying this makes me deeply grateful that my children are well and that we’ve never had to deal with any serious health problems. Those families who do, you are my champions.
My favorite part about living with my kids has got to be the entertainment factor. Little kids are basically a 24/7 entertainment channel. David’s Instagram feed has turned 100% into videos of the girls doing astonishing things like riding in circles on their bikes.
Some evenings after they’ve gone to bed, we sit there like lovestruck fools, watching 12-second videos of them mispronouncing words and walking around with their shoes on backwards. We once filmed K.K. doing a magic show, which was actually 15 consecutive minutes of her saying “Wait, wait” and bringing us toys from upstairs.
At this age, my kids may not remember a lot of specifics about our home. But I hope they remember it was fun and that it was a safe place for them to learn and explore their interests. And land’s sake, I sincerely hope they remember the POOL! MANDATORY FUN IN THE SUN FROM NOW UNTIL FOREVERMORE.
I have memories of coming downstairs in the morning to see my mom sitting in her pink chair with an afghan, an open Bible, and a cup of coffee. Having that as a constant in my life was incredibly grounding. I hope these are the kinds of memories my children have of me as their mom. And let us join in prayer that the healing passage of time will erase the ones of me in Leggings as Pants, utilizing children’s educational programming as I pass out apple sauce packets for breakfast. Amen.
I wish a wise grandma somewhere on Facebook or at a baby shower would have told me that I should SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. Oh, wait…five did! This is probably a rock solid, 3000-year-old piece of advice that no one follows because of laundry and Netflix and relishing the sounds of silence. It took me until my third kid to realize this was the only way to live.
Here’s some sleep statistics of my own research. Number of times I have regretted going to bed at 8:00 pm: ZERO. Number of times I have regretted staying up till 1:00 am watching YouTube brow tutorials and eating a brownie in a mug: 157. (The only outlier is the number of times I have regretted staying up until 2:00 am to view the Awkward Family Photos website. That number remains zero.)
At our house, we do not mess with bed time or nap time. We shut this party down at 1:00 and 7:00 pm respectively. I may have to use wizardry and a five-pound bag of gummy bears to do this. It may also mean a preschooler is in her bedroom putting beads into her ear canal while I am asleep. These are trade-offs I’m willing to make for some REM. We apologize for not listening to you, Grandmas of Facebook and baby showers. You were totally RIGHT!
Thank you, Rachael! I could read ten more pages of your thoughts!
I have to tell you, this one choked me up: “I have memories of coming downstairs in the morning to see my mom sitting in her pink chair with an afghan, an open Bible, and a cup of coffee. Having that as a constant in my life was incredibly grounding. I hope these are the kinds of memories my children have of me as their mom.”
Do you ever wonder the image you’ll hold in your children’s’ memories? Also of note: the sleep issue! We’ve all heard the advice to sleep when they’re sleeping. Did you listen?
P.S. – Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.