By Dawn Van Osdell
On a recent brisk, snowy day in Tenleytown, Pleasance Silicki was watching out her window as her 3-year-old son, Milo, played in the newly fallen snow. Preschool had been called off due to the weather. And since Milo’s big sister, Saylor’s, first grade class at Janney Elementary School was enjoying no such luck, Pleasance had only one kid and the family dog to keep her eye on as she chatted about the life she and husband Mel have built for themselves in this historic neighborhood on Washington, DC’s Red Line.
“We’re a real-life, modern day Dharma and Greg,” says Pleasance, born Pleasance Chyna Lowengard Darling, referring to the ‘90s sitcom about a married couple who’s a perfect match despite their night-and-day personalities and pursuits. She’s a self-described liberal, Jewish, sometimes-vegetarian who runs a family yoga studio. Mel is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican from Delaware, a CrossFit fanatic, and a builder by trade.
The two lived for more than a decade in a modern townhouse Mel built for Pleasance in Grover Park. She used to call it her dream house, but once kids and a dog entered the picture, she realized they needed to swap sleek for homey. It took an unexpected business upheaval, self-reflection, and a stroke of luck to find just the right spot in family-friendly Tenleytown, which is just a short walk from the Lil Omm yoga studio Pleasance opened in 2010.
Originally, Pleasance, a former kindergarten and first grade teacher who also taught prenatal and Mommy & Me yoga in the Georgetown Lululemon store, opened her own studio in Palisades. The impetus was the frustration she’d experienced as a new mom to Saylor, on finding no integration between yoga and family in DC. “Yoga and spiritual connection are all about family, and kids and family are not parts I could leave out,” she says.
Pleasance lost the lease on her studio when she was weeks away from giving birth to Milo. “I was really pregnant and one hot mess!” she remembers, explaining how her “itsy-bitsy” yoga classes were deemed “too loud, too vibrant” for the upper-level office building space she was renting. She suddenly found herself with a community of dedicated families—a sort of broad family in its own right—and nowhere to teach them. The silver lining was a welcome four-month maternity leave and a chance to land a more kid-friendly space in Tenleytown, which turned out to be more accessible to her core community, anyway.
Three and a half years after Lil Omm found a home in Tenleytown, the Silickis did, too. Pleasance wanted to be able to walk to the studio she had so painstakingly built. “I felt less vibrant, less connected when I was away,” she says. “It feeds my soul.” And Mel was more than game for a move. “I’m a builder,” he says. “I knew there’d be a time when we’d leave the home we built and find another.”
After journaling and creating her own vision boards about a house that would provide her family with a better mind and body connection, Pleasance says she wasn’t surprised when she found it— three bedrooms in a well-loved rental house—on Craig’s List. “When you have faith and trust and you align it all with your values, it manifests. It all works out,” she says. The house also has the fenced-in yard they coveted for their Staffordshire bull terrier, Miller; an office and meditation space for Pleasance; and an open, flowing downstairs where the kids can play and run around circles, and everyone gathers around a big table in the kitchen for family dinners and “a lot of art projects,” says Mel.
“Our home is the community, really. It’s our extended family,” Pleasance says. The kids go to school with friends they know from Lil Omm, and spending time together at the studio is the life they know. “Yoga is their language,” Pleasance says. She recently heard Milo squeal, “Oh, I love that pose!” when he spotted a dog lifting a leg to do his business in the park.
Just as she’d once hoped, Pleasance can now throw on her shoes and run down to the studio to fill in for her instructors at a moment’s notice. Saylor often comes along to help moms with their babies. Pleasance and Mel rely on a nanny to help with their own childcare, but Mel happily ducks home from his nearby office whenever he’s needed. “I’m so proud of the business and community Plez has grown,” he boasts.
Having home, work and play in close proximity allows both Pleasance and Mel to be more flexible with their schedules. When Milo was repeatedly asking if tonight was family dinner night, they shuffled class schedules, work meetings, and personal workouts to add a second family dinner to the weekly calendar. Wednesdays are date night—usually dinner out—a ritual Pleasance and Mel have carefully guarded for the past two years. On weekends, they divide and conquer for morning workouts, meeting up in the afternoons for a swim at nearby Wilson High School, an outing at adjacent American University Park, or a movie. They often eat out as a family at neighborhood Mexican mainstay, Guapo’s, or at Masala Art for the kids’ favorite Indian dinner.
The family has two years left on their house lease and no plans to leave the neighborhood when it expires. “Everything happens for a reason,” says Pleasance. “Sometimes it just takes some time to get where you’re supposed to be.”
Photos by Jeffrey Morris