Living With Kids: Rebecca Muz
I love how every home seems to reflect the personality of its owners. Some are serious and calming. Some seem warm and cozy like a really great hug. And some, like this week’s Living With Kids home tour, are fun, playful and full of life. Please say hello to Rebecca and her family who reside in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Mark is a musician and an artist, and Rebecca is a designer. They have three teenage kids and their home totally reflects that. Poppy, bright and fun are the words that keep coming to mind. It’s the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day. Welcome, Rebecca!
Hello there. I’m Rebecca Muz. My husband Mark and I live here with our three kids, Rajan, Darius and Jade (their middle names) and our cats, Albus Dumblemeow and Catrick Stewart. Mark and I met in our high school art class (actually I was skipping English) and have been together since we were both 15. We bonded over cigarettes and mix tapes that we shared on a Walkman together at school. We fell in love hard.
It’s been over 23 years now and he’s still so much fun. He’s my best friend and I love him more and more all the time. (Maybe one day you’ll read our story in a modern love essay). Mark is the best partner to me and I love sharing my life/bed with him.
Mark used to be a full-time contractor but a horrific accident crushed his leg and caused an abrupt end to that line of work. Being unable to walk, and in bed for over three months, caused Mark to reevaluate his career, and made the change to full time art and music a logical choice. It’s always been part of our life, but now it’s a major part.
Mark currently co-owns an art and music venue, called the Aviary, with his brother. It’s called the Aviary because it used to be a combination antique and bird shop. Mark is also an amazing artist. And he is an actor in a series of distracted driving commercials for the Edmonton Police Service.
The Aviary is a new venture that has been in the process of red tape for almost two years, so we’ve had to done other things in order to pay for our bills. Sometimes being in a creative field requires a lot of different jobs in order to make ends meet.
I work in an independent tropical greenhouse. My job is literally like a school fieldtrip every day. It’s a beautiful environment where I’m surrounded by amazing plants and great people. It’s where people come to get away from things and enjoy the space. Imagine being surrounded by plants when it’s -29 CELCIUS (!!!) outside. Edmonton is crazy cold sometimes.
Working at the greenhouse is a great job, and allows me to be creative — I get to make adorable terrariums. I have been really interested in plants (I actually hired a bobcat tractor to dig up our front yard and replaced the lawn with a garden), and my job allows me to take care of them all the time. In spring and summer I switch to working outside in the trees and shrubs area. It’s really ideal for me and I’m very grateful.
Rajan is our oldest son. He’s 14 years old and 5 minutes older than his twin brother and our second oldest, Darius. Jade, is our daughter and she is 2o months younger than our boys. After our kids were born we didn’t sleep for about three years. ; )
Rajan is super into science and also computer programming. He is a very thoughtful and philosophical person. He became a vegetarian when he was 13 because he was upset by the treatment of animals. (This actually makes life easier for me as now I’m not the only vegetarian in our home). He will get into amazing discussions with adults, and I’m so impressed by how much he knows.
Darius is also into science and Megaman, but really loves reading. He is a very kind person and always very respectful of people’s feelings and opinions. He’s very laid back and easy going. He has such a peaceful vibe and it’s great spending time with him.
Jade loves drawing and music (she’s a huge David Bowie fan). She’s incredibly creative and is learning to play the guitar. She comes up with such imaginative projects and ideas. Her art and creations bring loads of joy to our home.
All of our kids have a really strong love of learning, and I’m so very proud of them. They are totally awesome people and are way better than I was their age. They make life wonderful and awe-inspiring.
We live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Our neighbourhood is on the southside where most homes were built in the 1970s. The average home price in our area is currently $370,000 and we paid $210,000 (Canadian) in 2006.
There are a lot of great things about where we live. First of all, our neighbours. They are great people and they make living here pleasant. Second, our neighborhood has an excellent walkability rating. We are within walking distance to schools, two grocery stores, a huge tobogganing hill, the recreation centre, farmers’ market, library, public transit, my hairdresser and the hospital. In summer the sun doesn’t set here and temperatures reach +35 degrees celcius, so we can walk everywhere. My work is even close enough for me to bike. Edmonton is really fun in summer. Third, Our neighbourhood is really multicultural, and I had the privilege of teaching an English as a second language class once a week before I got my greenhouse job.
The drawback to our where we live is that it is still in the suburbs. We wish that we were closer to downtown and the North Saskatchewan River.
Mark and I had owned a home in a really rough neighbourhood when were first bought in 1998 and wanted to own our next home in a safer place. My friend’s mom happened to drive by our home and noticed a “for sale by owner sign.” She had a tour and her quote was, “it’ll only take $30,000 to make this place livable.”
At the time Mark and I were approved for exactly $210,000 and we had a few requirements. We wanted a safe neighbourhood with a decent sized yard for our kids to play, and the hospital had to be really close for our son Darius. (Rajan and Darius were born premature at 27 weeks and spent the first 10 weeks of their lives in the NICU. They were able to come home together, but Darius had to have a feeding tube until he was almost 6 months old. He had subglottic stenosis and his airway was only open 30% the size of other kids his size. This resulted in breathing difficulties until he was 6 and required that we were very close to a hospital.)
Our house was exactly what we needed so we had to settle once again for a fixer upper. The house used to be a daycare so the fence was painted in primary colours, the dining floor was sinking in and we had to keep a bucket under one side of our kitchen sink, among other things. Within a month, the stove, hot water tank, and oven all stopped working. Then within the first year, our basement ceiling had a bunch of leaking pipes and there were buckets all over the basement.
On the plus side, the yard was amazing and Mark is a fantastic contractor so we could do the work ourselves. We have overhauled about 75% of our house now, including adding a metal roof a few years ago. It’s a 1976 bungalow and it’s 1400 square feet plus our basement. We’ve re-landscaped the front yard into a garden with four fruit trees (who needs lawns???) and it’s totally great now. With the updates, the whole house is a reflection of our style, and we’ve be able to do it all ourselves.
I have been passionate about interior design and Mark recently encouraged me to go to school for it. I’m currently enrolled in interior design at Mount Royal University and I finish this year. I’ve been doing some contracting work with Mark for about 5 years and that has allowed me to help design places other than our home.
When I look at home design books and magazines, I always wonder how the homeowners keep their kids’ rooms so spotless. I like to keep my house neat and clutter free, but my kids’ rooms are their own spaces and as long as I don’t step on earrings (that is so painful, it’s right up there with LEGO), and the floor is tidy, and their laundry is put away, that’s good enough for me. I would love to make all their design decisions, but I have to respect their choices and realize that they’re teenagers and can pick what they want in their own rooms. My kids know what an Eames chair is though, and I think that’s what really matters. ; )
I have been heavily influenced by Scandinavian interior design. Having similar daylight here (dark at 4:45PM in winter and light until 11:30PM in summer) has really taught me to embrace that style. I also think that white walls look amazing with art, and with Mark being an artist we have no shortage of beautiful pieces in our home. I’ve also been really impacted by Marie Kondo and her concept of keeping only those things that spark joy. I think this is a great way of keeping clutter at bay and creating a calm living space.
I also love mid-century modern design. My favourite furniture pieces that we own are my ball chairs designed by Eero Aarnio.(they’re not originals). They were a surprise from Mark for Christmas in 2016 and I was so absolutely thrilled. They were exactly what I wanted and I had been eying them on kijiji.com for months.
My favourite painting we own is the Brooklyn Bridge that Mark painted. I love watching him work and that painting is a really fun and vibrant piece in our home.
I like to keep my style fun and whimsical. Nothing is too serious or adult in our home.
Music is a huge part of our lives. As I mentioned, Mark co-owns The Aviary which is all about art and music. We also recently created a soundtrack for a film called, “Lola Against the Galaxy.” The film is an homage to 60s sci-fi so we used old electronic musical gear to make a genuine sound. It was a super fun project to work on together.
Music brought us together and we were in a band together in high school called No More Excuses. Our music appreciation ranges from folk to punk of all eras. Our kids also love music, and even though we don’t all share musical tastes we are okay with it.
The amazing thing about parenting teenagers is that they are way more interesting, and we can have great conversations one on one or as a whole family now. They are a lot of fun to be with and can do a whole lot more now.
One super fun project we all worked on together was our Harry Potter Art Project. (with a cat named Albus Dumblemeow, we’re pretty obvious Potter heads). We each painted 40 2X2 inch watercolour paintings and put them all together when we were finished. Each painting represents one chapter and the final one says “all was well.” It took us about 5 months to complete, but we all had such a great time doing it and it really expanded our artistic skills.
For me, the biggest challenges in parenting teenagers are the differing opinions and increased emotions. I have to remember that I’m the adult and to act like it. We also have to share our bathroom. We have two, but for some reason our kids prefer the one in our room. Why is that?
I hope that our kids remember that our home is a safe place. It’s very accepting and cozy and also really fun. We share a love of creativity and each other and that makes it a very fun place to live.
I hope that they forget Mark’s pain and the stress I went through after his accident. He crushed his leg at work and had to get 2 plates, 2 bolts and 8 pins in it to fit it all back together. It was a very intense and traumatic time and really shook our world.
My favourite thing about living with my kids is hearing them say, “I Love you.” I also love their life and energy, and the way they view the world, and that they’re cool mini adults now. They make every day a joy. (Though I absolutely miss their adorable chubby toddler cheeks and hands!!)
I wish someone had told Mark and I how to properly budget and spend money when we were first married. We had to learn things on our own and made a lot of bad financial decisions. When we owned our first home we put renovations on our line of credit or took out loans. We wanted things right away rather than saving up and paying for them when we could afford them.
In this home, we now only pay for things as we can afford them. We save up and do it the right way. It’s a much better feeling and it also prevents splurges that we regret. We also have an emergency fund. Luckily we’ve been doing this long enough that when Mark got hurt, we had a fund in place already, and it enabled us to keep our home.
Devoting our careers to art, music and design isn’t exactly lucrative, but it’s totally worth it for the joy in creating and the amount of time it enables us to spend with our family.
Thank you, Rebecca! I love to see a family that doesn’t take themselves too seriously and proudly shows off their love of Star Wars, Harry Potter and Mega-Man. What a fun environment to grow up in. And I loved what Rebecca said about giving her kids the freedom to express themselves through their art, and in decorating their room the way that they want it. It must be really powerful for a kid to grow up in a home where their sense of expression is so valued and cultured. Kudos!
It’s great, too, to hear about Rebecca’s love of raising teenagers. I think so often we hear about the drama and the angst that teenagers bring (I know I had plenty of that as a teen), so it is nice to remember that teenagers are just young adults — full of opinions and passions and ideas. And while I am sure it is sometimes tricky to navigate those feelings it’s really lovely to appreciate the ideas that they bring to the table.
What do you love the most about the age your kids are now? What are you anxious to move past? Are there things that you are excited about as they get older? Or things you are scared of?
You can follow Rebecca and Mark both on Instagram. You can find more of their art (and buy some for your own home!) at their shop. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. 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, gay parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.