Living With Kids: Katie Garry

Katie Garry and her family live in Glendale, Ohio in a home that will feel familiar to so many parents — charming spaces touched with kids toys and piles of laundry that never seem to end. : )

Katie is the mom of two toddlers (not quite old enough to be in school yet). So, while her quarantine experience hasn’t had the home schooling aspect that many parents are managing, she is dealing with the unique challenges of trying to keep two little ones occupied, while she and her husband try and get their work done. Welcome, Katie!

Our home is full of a fun cast of characters. My hard-working and dedicated husband, Ryan, who works as a drafter at an engineering firm and is the best girl-dad. He never hides away from dance or tea parties and will probably be the Girl Scout Troop leader one day.

Our recently-turned five-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, is a born performer — never far from a microphone, dress-up dress, or imagined stage.

Our 2.5-year-old daughter Madeline is hilarious, athletic, and strong-willed. She can often be seen riding her scooter wearing scuffed up sneaks, a mischievous grin, and sparkly party dresses.

And me, Katie. I’m the planner of the crew. Organization is my love language. I love every stage that my kids are in when they are in them. It’s amazing watching them grow and develop into the people they will be. I believe that we’re not raising children; we’re teaching and encouraging future adults. After nearly a decade in corporate, I now work as a self-employed creative strategist and brand storyteller. 

Ryan and I have been together for nearly 15 years, though we’re only celebrating seven years of marriage this year. We met in college at Ohio Northern University, a small liberal arts school in Ada, Ohio. He was a smart, two-sport athlete from Florida who had never seen snow and I was a studious small-town girl from rural Ohio who had ambitions of being a doctor until zoology bored me to death and tarnished my GPA.

Ryan and I didn’t date until we were juniors, but had been friends since the start of our freshman year. In fact, many of our friends also dated and ended up married to each other, so we’ve been able to traverse many stages of life together — growing from co-eds, to adulting, to parenting — even if we’re states apart. 

We live in Glendale, Ohio. A quiet, idyllic village nestled in Northern Cincinnati. The village itself is on the National Historic Register and has the distinction of being named a Tree City, USA. Our town mascot is the Black Squirrel and painted 4ft ceramic squirrels are peppered through the village. The people who live in Glendale are mostly wonderful, and the rest are great. House prices range from the mid-$100ks into the millions, with most homes starting at $250k+. 

Walk-ability is a major selling point. With restaurants, shops, salons, and a bakery, pharmacy and ice cream shop all at the center of town near the square, you can get most of your needs met without getting in a car. The highway, grocery stores and major chains are less than a mile out of village limits, so you’re connected and separated all at the same time. 

One thing that attracted us to Glendale is the public school system. Our family is interracial: Katie is white. Ryan is black. And the girls are biracial. Princeton City Schools is one of the most organically diverse districts in the city because of the towns it pulls from. The range of races, incomes, and family types is important to us, to show our kids a diverse world.

What makes Glendale the best are the people who live there. The community comes together to support a range of activities throughout the year. Like a summer concert series on the green every Saturday where you can bring your own picnic and drinks of choice, and kick back and socialize as a neighborhood. A kid and adult Halloween party. A holiday home tour. A beer and wine street fair in the fall. Not to mention a little local library that’s ran by volunteers who host a monthly story time, and a Boy Scout troop that offers yearly mulching services. 

What we don’t love about Glendale is some of the services can be a bit outdated, as well as some points of view. It’s sometimes a challenge to offer new ideas or bring forth progressive plans because people are more comfortable doing things how they’ve always been done. We also experience frequent water main breaks (at least a couple a year) due to turn of the century piping that’s still in use. This is set to be repaired in the coming year, so hopefully it’ll come off our list.

Our house came to be ours in a relatively normal way. We were at the beginning of our home search in late 2013. It was a flipped property that had been on the market for less than a week. We saw it with our realtor and put in an offer the next day. The purchase process was relatively simple, until a title issue arose on the seller’s end.

We had already given our notice at the property we had been renting, and we had a date that we had to be out, so the owners could prepare for the next renter. But our closing was delayed due to the seller’s issue. We ended up moving into our house prior to closing, which was odd! But it also allowed us to identify some minor issues and get them fixed before the closing.

Life is strange. Globally, this feels like an unreal situation straight out of a science fiction novel. Though within our four walls, we’re doing okay. Some days are better than others. And they are all long.  It’s been most challenging just being together 24/7 and not having any separation between work, family, and self.

As an extrovert,  I describe it as being the most smothered and alone as I’ve ever been. I wake up obscenely early to get solid working and thinking time in the morning, from 5:00 to 9:00 AM. My husband’s job is an essential business, but his role affords him the opportunity to work from home. His 9 a.m. standing meeting marks our changing of the guard, and then throughout the day we take turns keeping our young children occupied and engaged.

But there are definitely some days that PBS and YouTube Kids babysit a lot of the day. After family time in the late afternoon, with a park visit, walk, or other activity, plus dinner, we get the kids to bed and Ryan clocks his most productive hours from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM. It’s tough. It’s exhausting. But we’re making it work. I just wonder how long we can sustain this sort of schedule…

Also, I can’t understand the amount of dishes and laundry we’re creating! How?! Laundry has been a permanent fixture on our couch in the lower level since the beginning of this pandemic. And I swear, the dishwasher has me feeling like I’m walking through a revolving door all day.

I don’t know if it’s fortunately or unfortunately that our kids aren’t school-aged yet. We don’t have the requirements of their curriculum or classroom calls, but we also don’t have the built in-structure to help give days more order.

Our oldest will be in kindergarten in the fall, and I’m kind of glad she doesn’t have context of what school is (or was?), so she won’t have anything to compare it to if it looks, feels, and acts differently than what we traditionally envision when we think of school. 

The unknown is hard. The uncertainty is unsettling. The threat of a second wave in the fall is unnerving. I’m actually expecting our third child in November and I feel like I’m going to be stuck at home for at least a year. From March 2020 until at least March 2021, once the baby arrives.

The newborn phase is hard enough with support and help. I worry that we’ll still be practicing levels of social distancing then and I’ll be left trying to figure out how to keep it all together alone. (I say “alone” because of businesses having employees go back to work, and being self-employed, and the primary care provider. The mental load that mothers carry is no joke. Even when we have involved, active partners, more of the weight still tends to rest on our shoulders.)

We really need to figure out a federal parental leave policy in this nation that supports the mental and physical health and well-being of parents and babies.

As a family we were constantly on-the-go. We’d make weekend trips to see friends and family all summer long. While we miss this aspect of our lives, it’s been nice to slow down and focus more on our nuclear family and spending more quality time together. I think that even when quarantine is over, we’ll be less over-scheduled than we have in the past. 

Something else that has changed is that we’ve met a lot of neighbors that we hadn’t previously. We’ve lived in our home for six years, and we’re seeing faces around the corner that we haven’t encountered before. It’s so nice to finally meet people now that we’re all at home more often (meaning: all the time.)

I hope the world comes out of this with a more innovative spirit and with a broader definition of togetherness. We’ve had to redefine what it means to spend time with one another and we’ve had to work harder to stay emotionally close while remaining physically distant. I hope this means we take our family and friends for granted far less, and appreciate them so much more! 

I also hope we continue to figure out different ways to make each other feel celebrated. We’ve done birthday parades for family members — my favorites were for my 90 and 88 year-old grandpa and grandma. They were so thrilled and surprised. And then they were able to return the favor and threw candy from the windows of their handicap accessible van while my dad drove them in the lead car for Mackenzie’s 5th birthday.

To be able to celebrate despite not being able to throw a party has been refreshing and delightful. Mac even said this was her best birthday ever — and she’s had a bounce house in the past. 

Lastly, I hope the world emerges with a sense of respect for boundaries and a “we over me” mentality that makes the world a better place for all people, not just some of them. And that we come to value experiences with loved ones over things that take up space.

Overall, we’ve just been able to experience more of our kids. Since they are both still very much in developmental phases of life, it’s nice to be there to witness more of their ah-has and be there to teach them something new. 

We’ve also solidified the need for routine. Sometimes it isn’t possible with our meeting schedules, but the girls definitely do better with some idea of knowing what the plan is for the day. At breakfast each morning we try to run through what the day might look like so they have clear expectations, which in our experience can help eliminate tantrums and meltdowns.

Mackenzie has been able to articulate fears, concerns, and wishes for things to go back to normal. That has been equal parts heartbreaking and eye-opening as we realize how mature and astute she is. Her EQ has been on full display as we’ve had multiple conversations about how we’re feeling. Her understanding that she can’t hug her grandparents when she sese them makes me proud (that she’s been listening and is following the rules) and sad (that physical touch has been removed as a way to show affection outside of our nuclear family). 

Maddy’s vocabulary has flourished since staying home. Her sentences are getting more varied and complex. Spending more one-on-one time with each of us has really given her a lot more to play with in her word toolbox. And it’s been awesome to see how the girls’ relationship has grown. They take care of one another, look after each other, and bicker, of course too. But I hope they remember this special sister time that they’ve been given. 

I hope our kids remember the walks, the bike rides, and all the family meals shared together. I hope they remember baking and science and art projects. I hope they remember laughter, and cuddles, and feeling loved.  I hope they totally forget that they weren’t able to play with their friends, hug their family members, or go on vacation. 

My absolute favorite thing about living with my kids is the pure love. The hugs, the climbing up in laps to read, the joy and happiness the sound of their laughter brings. We wake up every morning knowing that we will smile that day. 

I already miss the pitter-patter of their feet running down the hall to our bedroom. They are trying to sneak while sounding like a stampeding heard of elephants. Then you feel their faces inches from your own at the side of the bed and you think it would be nice to have ten more minutes of sleep, so you hoist their little bodies into bed between you and your spouse and start the day with warm, morning cuddles. 

I wish someone had told me (and I had listened!): you never think you’re ready, but you are. The best experience is experience, so sometimes you have to stop planning your life and just live it. It’ll work out if you work for it. 

——

Thank you, Katie! I love hearing your perspecive about spending time with your little ones, hearing their vocabulary grow and expand and helping them navigate this extremely tricky thing that the current world populations hasn’t really had to navigate before. That must be hard to make small kids make sense of all this. And I totally relate to the feeling of feeling proud that they understand the “new rules” but also feeling sad that they even have to.

I also loved what Katie said about the future. Who knows what school will look like come fall for new kindergarteners or for new college freshman. Maybe things will be back to “normal” but maybe not. And what will having a new baby look like? Will people be able to visit? It does seem complicated and slightly scary and totally unknown. I feel like we don’t even know what next week is going to look like, let alone 6 months from now.

What have you learned about your kids and your family staying at home? Now that you are with your family so much more frequently, are there things you hadn’t noticed before? And are you hopeful for the future? Or a bit nervous? Or probably a bit of both?

SOURCES

Collapsible Kitchen “Helper” stool for kids

Pottery Barn-like Kids Chairs (much better price!)

Custom Name Benches

Ohio Print by Eastbound Ohio


Check out Katie’s work on her website or on her Instagram. 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

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