You’re going to enjoy meeting Leslie this week. She and her husband live in New England with their two kids and an adorable dog. They found a home in their dream neighborhood that needed a ton of love and attention — and with the help of YouTube tutorials and whole lot of hard work, they have turned it into a beautiful home with loads of light and open living spaces.

Leslie and her husband also juggle a tricky schedule so that they both can work while the other one stays home with the kids. She’s got a great perspective on parenting and making things work when the kids are small.

Welcome, Leslie!

Hi there!  I’m Leslie and I live in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, which is about an hour west of Boston. I am so honored to be here sharing my home with you. Thank you for taking a look. I live with my husband, Pete, our daughter, Angelica (8), our son, James (5) and our rescue dog, Crash (10).

My husband and I met through an online dating website 12 years ago. Not very romantic. However, I like to think the rest of our story is. Pete was 33 years old and I was 35. Pete is the kindest, most decent person I have ever met. He loves to surprise me in any way possible.

Coincidentally, after meeting we learned that we had at one time lived one street over from one another. His house was on my running route. He and his roommates often sat out on their front stoop and he jokes that he remembers me running by.

  

Pete was born in Vietnam and adopted by an American family when he was 9 months old. He grew up in New York and New Jersey. He went to college at UMass Amherst where he competed on their gymnastics team. Although he majored in hotel/restaurant management, his love for athletics propelled him into a career as a gymnastics coach.

Pete has a passion for teaching children and it shows if you’ve ever seen him coaching. He impacts kids’ lives by building their self-esteem. He gives them a foundation and teaches them discipline and values that he hopes will stay with them throughout their lifetime. 

It has always been Angelica’s dream to be on her Dad’s team. This year that dream came true! Seeing Pete coach our daughter, I have no doubt that he has ever thought twice about the career path he chose.

I was born and raised in a suburb of Boston. When I met Pete, I was working full-time as a medical assistant. I worked full-time up until we had our first child. Our goal, as far as having children, was to always have one of us be home with them. I am proud to say we have accomplished that. I left my full-time job which was an hour away from home, for a part–time job only 10 minutes from home, working early mornings in a fertility clinic.

Depending on your beliefs, my job may be controversial and I respect that. I just want to say that I have met the bravest women doing what I do. Their struggle is real and they go through it every day, for months and sometimes even years.

Infertility is so common but it does not get the attention it deserves. People need to talk about it more. You are not alone. You do not have to suffer in silence.  I am reminded every day how fortunate I am to have my 2 children and I never take that for granted.

While I am at work, my husband is able to be home with the kids and get them ready for school. Once I come home from work, he then goes to work so that I can be home in the afternoon with the kids. I’m usually in bed when he gets home at night which hinders our time together but we know it is temporary. 

It is easy to feel disconnected from one another when our time with each other is limited. So, instead of dinner dates, we once a month have a breakfast date. It gives us time to reconnect. We realize our kids are only young once and it works for us.

At almost any given time, you will find my daughter either reading whatever she can get her hands on or practicing gymnastics. She has the biggest heart I know. My son is active, healthy and hilarious. He also knows how to melt my heart, like when he sees me roll out of bed in the morning and says, “Mommy, you’re so beautiful”. Then I look in the mirror and think “wow, he really does love me”.  They are both the kindest and happiest kids I’ve ever known.

We live in a Colonial/Gambrel home built in 1994. It is 1800 square feet and sits on a quiet cul-de-sac surrounded by trees and nature. We have lived here for 3 years and couldn’t be happier. Shrewsbury is a historical town located in central Massachusetts. It has a population of 36,011. We are close to shops, hiking trails and restaurants, including the most delicious Mexican restaurant with the best Mariachi band. One of my favorite places to visit and shop is a curated boutique marketplace located in a historic Worcester mill building. It is designed to celebrate local independent makers and our love of old things.

Living in New England allows us to experience all four seasons. The Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons when the weather begins to warm up, flowers and trees begin to bloom. During the summer months, we can drive just over an hour and be at the ocean. Summer is one of our favorite times to indulge in New England’s famous lobster rolls and seafood!  In the fall, we experience the beautiful foliage and every weekend you can find a fall festival in almost every nearby town. These fall festivals are the quintessential New England experience, consisting of hay rides, apple and pumpkin picking, various local artisans and so much more!  

The winter months can be tough and long if you are not a fan of the cold. However, if you can brave the elements, this area offers many outdoor activities such as skiing, snow shoeing, snow tubing, ice skating, sledding and more. We even have a ski mountain right here in Shrewsbury! (Although I admit, I choose to hibernate indoors under a blanket on the sofa with a cup of hot tea and wait for Spring.)

The process of buying this house was not an easy one. It was stressful, challenging and exhausting. Before moving to Shrewsbury, we lived in a small, passive solar house in a city nearby. After having two children we quickly outgrew it. We didn’t necessarily want a large house, just something with a little more space — and a town with a great school system was at the top of our list.

We had a buyer for our home after our first open house and needed to find a home quickly. The top of our budget was $380,000. The median price in Shrewsbury at this time was $425,000. It was a time when it was a seller’s market, and any home that was in our price range was priced for an intentional bidding war. We put in more offers than we could count and lost to bidding wars so many times.

At one point, we were going to have to look into temporary housing because our closing date for our home was quickly approaching. Finally, a house came on the market in Shrewsbury that we jumped on. It was the quintessential New England home with all the charm our dreams were made of. We put an offer in and couldn’t believe when it was accepted! We were over the moon. All our ducks were in order and our house was packed up.

Then we received some unexpected news. The buyer for our home was unable to get approval for his loan because our home was described as “unique”. This meant that there were no “like comps” in our neighborhood in order for the bank to assess the value of our house. He was not interested in pursuing another bank for a loan. This meant we weren’t moving. We were in a financial position where we needed to sell our house in order to buy another house.

Our dream house had several offers, which meant the realtor would be contacting one of the other offers to buy the house we were supposed to be moving into.  I looked around our house all packed up and ready for its new owners and I was devastated. I know that sounds a bit dramatic because it’s only a house. But this house was our dream house, in a town that we thought we could never afford to live in, with a great school system for our kids. I had already envisioned our kids playing in the backyard, family meals, holidays ,and exactly how I was going to decorate.

So, what could we do? We brushed ourselves off and started from square one. Our house went back on the market and just like the first time, we had a buyer after our first open house. It was difficult to be happy knowing that this buyer may not be approved for a loan either. Unless we had a cash buyer, how would anyone be able to get a loan for our “unique” house?

We began house hunting, once again. There was one house in particular we would research on line but kept bypassing until we decided why not just take a look? It was initially listed for $400,000 which was well over budget for us, but had been on the market for a while.

As soon as we drove down the street we knew. It was a quiet little street and this house sat right at the end of a cul-de-sac. It checked off nearly everything on our wish list and the location was perfect! I could already picture our kids riding their bikes and scooters around this quant neighborhood. When we walked in I was taken back to my childhood. This house was the same floor plan as the house I grew up in! I immediately loved it even though aesthetically it wasn’t our style.  I knew we could transform it ourselves — even though my husband assured me that he is not a handy man and is unable to fix anything!!!!

We put in an offer for $370,000 which the seller counter offered $390,000. We countered again at $380,000 and fortunately, our offer was accepted. Oh, and the buyer for our home went through 3 banks before finding one that would approve a loan for him!

Fast forward three years later and 3 years of updating. We have managed to do practically everything ourselves (ourselves, meaning my husband, the one who swore he is not a handy man). Thank goodness for “YouTube”!

Without changing the foot print, my husband transformed our kitchen which was once dark and dreary into a bright, inspiring room that I now love to be in. We had new countertops and a sink professionally installed and we installed the subway tile backsplash and open shelves ourselves. It was a family affair.  We had the kids sanding down the shelves and they also helped by putting spacers in between the tiles for the backsplash.

We have always loved the look of open shelving and thought it would make our kitchen appear brighter and more open.  I know this isn’t for everyone, however, I love them so much I don’t know if I could ever have upper cabinets again.  We don’t have an abundance of kitchen appliances. Everything on our shelves is what we use on a daily or weekly basis.

We also changed the flooring throughout the house and my husband even managed to build a tavern in our basement! It makes doing laundry more enjoyable.

Our décor/furniture consist of craigslist finds and family heirlooms. We have a neutral color scheme and are inspired and gravitate toward anything natural and organic. I love color when I see it in other people’s homes, yet, I feel as though I’m allergic to it in my own. Color in my home, for some reason, equates to clutter, which I have a strong adverse reaction to.  I feel more peaceful with neutral tones. My plants add just enough color for me.

The walls were already white when we moved in which we chose to keep. It definitely makes the house feel brighter and more open. We strive to keeps things kid friendly. After all, this is their house too! I want our kids to be comfortable and have space to create, play and dance around to their heart’s content.

  

Despite the fact that we both work, we have opposite schedules which allow our kids to know that one of us is always home. We hope they learn the importance of family values and appreciate the sacrifices we make in order to be together.

If you ask my kids my favorite quote, they will say, “less is more”.

My “mom superpower” is the same as all parents. Love. I have an endless supply, it’s free, and we all have it. Love is our most powerful possession.

My absolute favorite thing about living with my kids are all the hugs and kisses they give me. All the times they make me laugh and act silly. Our lazy Saturday mornings when I don’t have to work and we can snuggle together and I can make them their favorite breakfast.

They are 5 and 8 years old and I already miss everything that happened before their current age. Even changing diapers. I’m always feeling the loss of stages they have already gone through.

I hope they forget all the times I complained about being tired and all the times my patience ran out. If they do remember, then I hope they will understand and forgive me.

I hope our kids remember how much they laughed, danced and played. I hope they remember summer barbecues in our backyard with family and friends, our traditional Christmas Eve celebration which included a visit from Santa, and bringing our dining room chairs into the living to play musical chairs because James randomly asked to. 

However, most of all, I hope they remember how much we loved them.

I asked my daughter what her favorite thing about our house is and she replied, “love”. I hope she always remembers that.

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Thank you, Leslie! How stressful it must be to have a home purchase fall through at the last minute. I suppose home buying is pretty much always complicated and emotional, but that must have been particularly rough.

I am so glad that Leslie and family ended up in the space they did and were able to transform it the way that they did (yay, YouTube videos!).

I also this is awesome that Leslie and her husband have figured out how to reach their goal of always being home with the kids. Obviously, this solution wouldn’t work for every family — some jobs and schedules just wouldn’t allow it. It occurs to me that whatever arrangements you figure out, the baby and toddler stage is just plain hard. Having one or both parents stay home is hard, paying for child care or daycare is hard, arranging schedules is hard. We all just sort of figure it out as we go and make the most of it, right? I love that Leslie and her husband have found a solution that works for them.

How did you get through the tricky toddler years? Did one parent stay home? Did you have in-home help? Did the kids go to day care? Did you have family nearby? Or some combination of all of the above?

SOURCES

Coffee Table

Sofa — with removable slip covers!

 


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, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com