This tour takes us on a sweet journey through a home that lovingly embraces two cultures. From traditions and tiny travel souvenirs to a giant world map in a little girl’s bedroom, Myla and her family’s home is a subtle study in world geography. The most important lesson? That it’s a small, small place.
The Lopez family lives in the perfect spot – just a 40 minute commute outside of New York City – which was one of my family’s favorite homes on our growing list of hometowns. To further illustrate my point (and Walt Disney’s!) of how tiny this world of ours truly is, Myla’s family and mine are neighbors. Sort of. She has a cottage in Normandy, too!
It’s the most fun when paths overlap, isn’t it? For those of you with culturally blended families, or even those of you with your passports at the ready, I really hope you enjoy this tour!
Q: Please tell us all about you and yours.
A: I’ll try to simplify our story! There’s me, my husband, Richard, and my daughters, Chiara and Ines.
I spent my childhood in the Manila, Philippines while my husband spent his in Brittany, France. We now live in northern New Jersey and spend summers in our little cottage in Normandy, France. We met in our late teens and dated long-distance prior to the days of email and Internet. The great thing is that we still have actual hard copies of our correspondence that we can show our daughters, and hopefully our grandkids one day. I can’t believe it but we actually have been married for 17 years!
I recently started a blog to record the simple pleasures and beauty that I encounter in my daily life as well as travel. Other than the blog, I spend a big portion of my time volunteering in my kids’ school, as well as taking advantage of the rich cultural offerings that the New York metro area brings.
Q: How did your home become yours?
A: We live in Montville, New Jersey. Prior to purchasing our house, we lived in Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens when it was on the verge of becoming really popular. We decided to move to the suburbs when we were about to start a family because we wanted to have more space and a wider school selection. We felt that we would have been limited to private schools and highly competitive public schools in New York if we had stayed there.
Montville is about 40 minutes away from New York City, which is good and bad. We have easy access to the city so we can take advantage of its close proximity, but the cost of living is still pretty high in NYC suburbs.
Q: What makes you love the place you live?
A: We love our town because we feel close to nature here. There’s a hiking trail on Pyramid Mountain, which is about ten minutes from our house. There’s also a horse stable about two minutes away from us that we used to stop at when the girls were little so they can look at the horses. Montville has a pretty aggressive Open Space Committee that does not allow for too much commercial development, so you do not see a lot of big box stores here. Our town is also very family-centric and offers many different recreational programs for children of all ages.
I love that the girls’ schools are within walking distance so I don’t always have to be in a car.
Q: What effect does your home decor and design have on your daily family life?
A: Even though the house was built in 1966, the house has a pretty open layout. I like that all the rooms in our house gets used. There is no formal area that is completely off limits to our kids. The kitchen is pretty much the main hub where everything happens.
Since our house is pretty moderate in size, I can easily make dinner while the girls are doing their homework or practicing piano. I do most of my work on one of tables in the kitchen area. On the weekends, the girls do some crafting projects here.
Q: Do you decorate with your girls and husband in mind?
A: My husband and I both have equal input in decorating our house. He’s actually got a pretty good eye for mid-century furniture and art, whereas I am drawn to the more bohemian stuff. We do think about our girls when we decorate, choosing artwork that is visually stimulating, rich in texture, and accessible to them.
We wanted them to grow up with real furniture and not to use things that are only child-appropriate – hence, the two white couches in family room and living room! I think that our children learned how to respect and care for our furniture by not having anything completely off-limits to them.
That said, I do ask them to clean up their toys and bring them back to the playroom when they are done playing.
Q: You’re a culturally diverse family. How do you hold tight to your specific traditions while trying to blend them together, too?
A: We try to expose the girls to their French and Filipino sides whenever we can. As I mentioned earlier, our summers are usually spent in France so the girls have a pretty deep understanding of the French culture and way of life. Last summer, we visited the Philippines where I got to show them where I was born and where I grew up. There’s actually a bit of overlap between the two cultures. Since the Philippines was a Spanish colony, my family’s traditions closely resemble those of Richard’s family. And, of course, there’s the food from the two countries that I often make at home.
Q: How do your pieces from faraway lands inspire you on a daily basis?
A: The pieces from faraway places have a way of grounding me and sometimes anchoring me to my past. Most of the time, it just brings back a bit of nostalgia and traveler’s high that becomes an impetus to plan the next travel adventure.
Q: What do you hope your girls take away from this home in terms of memories and the traditions they will someday build?
A: It’s funny that you ask this question. I saw a New York Times’ travel supplement today that says “At Home in the World” on the cover, and that’s basically how I want my daughters to remember their childhood and their home.
We have traveled with them in many different places since they were babies and would like to continue to do so until they start rebelling and preferring their friends’ company to ours! We want to instill them an openness to all cultures through travel. Hopefully, the artifacts we bring from our travels and have in our house will reinforce this attitude.
Q: What has been your absolute favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mother?
A: My absolute favorite part is just seeing the changes in them over the years. As they start forming their own opinions, their take on things can be refreshing. What surprised me most about motherhood is how different my daughters’ personalities are. Chiara is analytical and serious, while Ines is social and loves attention.
No matter how much parental guidance and genetics come into play, they just become their own selves with their personal quirks and all. I love the stages my girls are now as I get a glimpse of the young adults they may become.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…
A: …that parenting means having to let go. There are so many moments when we need to give them room and let go so that they learn and grow. It’s always a bit of a heartache when we realize that they don’t need us for certain things. I suppose we just simply need to trust that we have done the work to prepare them for whatever challenges life brings when they leave home.
Thank you, Myla! You’ve given us such an interesting perspective today. You mentioned in our correspondence that your daughter has almost outgrown her map bedroom; please let us know how you redecorate it!
Friends, I wonder at what age kids stop going on family vacations and start preferring their friends’ company? (I’m hoping it’s 27, but I’ll be happy to hear your own experiences with this!)