I love getting to hear from parents who are in different phases of life. Some of us are in the throws of toddlerhood, some have kids in the tween years, and some of us — like Beth Rotman — are raising older kids. Beth is a mom of three, and with her second daughter getting ready to move out soon, she’ll just have one left at home. She’s got a great perspective on parenting, and her house is warm and cozy and full of textures and layers. It’s really a charmer. Welcome, Beth!

Hello! I’m Beth and I live in Ottawa Hills, Ohio. I’m so excited and honored to be sharing our home with you. We are a family of five — my husband (Phillip), me, and our three daughters (Audrey-21, Grace-18, and Claire-12). In a few months, there will only be three of us living full-time in this home.

Our oldest is in her third year of college at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Our middle daughter is in the process of deciding which college she will attend in the fall. So that will leave just our youngest at home — something she is dreading and looking forward to all at the same time. She says she will miss her sisters a lot, but she will like having us all to herself.

Isn’t it crazy how quickly time passes? Audrey was nine years old when Claire was born, and I thought to myself, ‘she’s halfway through her childhood and I’m starting fresh again with a new baby.’ It made me sad to realize that Claire would spend several years of her adolescence without siblings living at home. I suppose that’s why I value the family time that we do have during school breaks.

My husband and I met as children. We both grew up in Springboro, Ohio, which is a suburb south of Dayton. We attended different school, but our families were friends, so we occasionally saw each other. Our first date took place when I was in seventh grade and he was a high school freshman. He invited me to a Valentine’s Day dance.

Looking back, I still can’t believe my parents let me go on a date when I was just 12 years old! The same age my youngest is now! >Well, we didn’t date again until the fall after he graduated from Vanderbilt University, and I was in my third year at Wilmington College (Ohio). We dated for three years, and we were married the summer following my college graduation, and just before his final year of law school at the University of Dayton.

Phillip is a corporate attorney, and I was a teacher for seven years before we started our family. I loved being in the classroom with my second graders. However when the time came to be a full-time mom, I was ready. Both our mothers stayed home to raise children, and that’s what we wanted for our family.

We live in a small village called Ottawa Hills, which is located just outside Toledo, Ohio. We moved here 19 years ago from the Cincinnati area. My husband had just accepted a new job. Audrey was 2 ½ and I was expecting Grace. We knew we wanted a community that was family-friendly and had a good school system.

Ottawa Hills is all that and much more. Picture beautiful old homes along tree-lined streets, with children riding bikes on the sidewalks. It is more of a “neighborhood” than a suburb. Because of its size (approximately 4 ½ square miles), there are no school buses. Children walk to school or parents drive them. The schools are progressive and always ranked in the top five or ten in the state of Ohio.

It is a very tight-knit community, with a lot of its’ residents having grown up here and returned to raise their own families. Because it is such a small community, I feel like everyone knows everyone — which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. My daughters have felt a bit stifled at times going to school with the same 80 kids or so for 13 years.

Because we don’t have family living nearby, I love the support system. Neighbors and my friends in the village are so willing to lend a helping hand, as I experienced last year when I had surgery and couldn’t drive for eight weeks.

My husband recently started a new job at a company in Plymouth, Michigan. He has about an hour commute each way, but we have decided to stay in Ottawa Hills because it just feels like home.

Toledo itself offers so much…a great zoo, a fabulous art museum, a hands-on science center for families, the Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye games, a great metroparks system. Nearby Lake Erie offers a lot of summer fun, with trips to Put-in-Bay and Catawba Island. And a summer isn’t complete without a visit to Cedar Point!

If you’re looking for more adventure (or better shopping) in a bigger city, Ann Arbor is 45 minutes away and Detroit is an hour drive.

This is our second home in Ottawa Hills. Soon after we had our third child, we outgrew our first home in the village. I had always admired our current home from the outside when I would drive by it. When it was back on the market in 2008, my husband suggested that I go look at it. I think he was secretly hoping I wouldn’t like the inside. After meeting with the realtor, I called him to say the house had a mantle above the fireplace (our previous house did not have one, and it made me sad to hang our Christmas stockings from a bookshelf every year that we lived there). I know that is kind of silly, but I REALLY wanted a mantle! I immediately fell in love with the house and knew this was where we needed to raise our family.

Within a month, we had made an offer and the house was ours. A month later, the economy collapsed and we owned two homes. For a year! It was not a fun time, trying to sell a house during the 2008 economic crisis.

What should have been an exciting time was stressful. Our new home was in great condition, but of course we wanted to make it our “own” with some cosmetic changes. We had the wood floors redone and some rooms painted before we moved in just a few days after Christmas 2008. The rest had to wait until we sold our former house.

Eventually, we updated the kitchen. It happened in phases — new countertops, new appliances, installing wood floors to match the rest of the first floor, updating the backsplash, removing the wallpaper and painting. I think the only part of the kitchen that remains the same is the cabinets (which are in good condition and still in style).

I should mention that our house was built in 1918. We were fortunate that the previous owners over the years had all taken care of the home and updated it along the way. The third floor was finished sometime in the 1960’s, with two bedrooms and a full bath. Our older daughters enjoy that space. At times, they have felt like they have their own apartment up there and even asked for a mini fridge at one point. Ha…teenagers can be so funny!

One area that was at the top of our list was to do something about the way our master bedroom flows into the bathroom. Right after we moved, we found blueprints from the mid-1980’s that indicated a master bath update. A sunken jacuzzi tub was added, which meant elevating part of the room. There are two steps which lead up to the tub and shower area, and then two more steps which lead down to the vanity and toilet area. I will be the first to admit it is an odd configuration. The worst part is that it is open to the bedroom…no privacy at all.

It was at the top of our TO DO list when we moved, but it took us nine years to finally do something about it! Isn’t it funny how your plans and priorities change? We did have the carpet removed and the floors tiled a few years after moving in (I am NOT a fan of carpet in a bathroom). It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that we had sliding barn doors installed in the opening between the two rooms. Not only do we love the look of the doors, but it also solves the privacy issue.

Just last year, we gave our living room a makeover. We had a window seat, shelving, and cabinets built into the back wall of the room. It totally transformed the room, and has now become a favorite place to spend time.

Early on in our marriage, my husband and I discovered that we were raised differently when it came to home projects. >His parents hired people to do everything, even hanging pictures. I come from two parents who did everything themselves — painting, woodworking projects, sewing window treatments, wallpapering, etc.. Unfortunately, neither of us have ALL the skills or the time to do that. We decided for the sake of our marriage that we would acknowledge our limitations and find professionals to help us see our vision through. Lucky for us, one of our neighbors is very talented in that area and he has helped us with a lot of our home projects!

While I may not be good with power tools, I can throw a great party! I’ve always loved all that goes into entertaining —invitations, napkins, tablescapes, party décor, planning a menu around a theme. With three daughters, I’ve hosted quite a few parties over the years.

I had a good friend who kept encouraging me to start a blog sharing my party ideas, along with DIY craft ideas, home décor, recipes and the such. My blog is called Polka Dots & Picket Fences and I write about a variety of topics, but my favorite is party planning.

So it was only fitting that we hosted a party celebrating the 100th birthday of our home last year. We served cocktails and some food from the era in which our home was built. For the invitations and décor, I used a watercolor portrait that was done of the exterior of our home. It was a special night honoring our home with close friends.

Our family is definitely in a time of transition. Sometimes I think we could be empty nesters next year, if we didn’t have Claire. Thank goodness we have Claire! I’m not ready to be an empty nester.

Parenting older teens/college kids is a tricky thing. Mine don’t want to be “parented” and hopefully if I’ve done my job as a mom, they don’t need me as much. I wish I had known how quickly it all goes by. People told me that when I was in the midst of taking care of babies and toddlers, but I didn’t really process it until I was moving my oldest into her freshman dorm.

Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t tried to “fix” so much. Anytime my daughters had a problem, I went about trying to make it right OR show them how to make it right. As they got older, they said they wished I had listened more and not tried to “fix” things. That would have been much easier…just listen and hug them. I’ve learned, and hopefully I’m a better parent to Claire.

My girls accuse me of being too organized, and I say “accuse” because they act like it’s a bad thing. I remind them that because our home is organized, our family operates more efficiently. I will admit that I can be a bit OCD about our house. I like things tidy, but I’m trying to relax more about the house and just life in general.

I hope my girls remember the fun times we’ve had in our home — creating valentine cards for their classmates, after-school snack time, playing slip and slide in our yard, family dinners on our sun porch in the summer, watching movies together, game nights (maybe not the arguing that occasionally occurred during the games), and just laughing at the silly things our dogs do. I hope they forget the times I lost my patience and yelled.

Did I mention we have three dogs? Lily (our miniature poodle) will be 15 this spring, and we have two English bulldogs. Cecelia is 5 and our newest addition, Charlotte, is 8 months old and joined our family on Christmas Eve. It was a totally spontaneous decision, which surprised our daughters. As parents, Phillip and I are such planners. But it was a good decision! Charlotte is such an easy dog, and I’m glad we were able to give her a home.

My favorite part of living with our kids has been seeing them blossom into the people they were meant to be. It’s been like having a front row seat to watch as their lives unfold. I feel blessed to have been a stay at home mom and witness it up close. Believe it or not, I miss the day to day craziness of getting three kids to three different schools in the morning, driving to all their after-school activities, homework time and getting a home-cooked dinner on the table.

With Audrey away at college and Grace able to drive, my responsibilities have greatly decreased. I tell my friends who are in the throes of it to enjoy it because it will be over in a blink of an eye. However, this new phase of seeing them choose colleges and possible careers is exciting! And like I said previously, thank goodness we still have Claire at home.

I wish someone had told me (and I had listened) not to lose my identity while raising my children. I probably wouldn’t have listened because I was so excited to be a mom. I threw myself into being a parent, and my life revolved around my daughters for so long. It still does, to a certain degree.

I do enjoy writing my blog, and I hope that it leads to something more for me. I’m not sure what that is, though…sometimes I feel like I’m trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. But I’m already grown. When I see the moms who are able to balance parenthood and a career, I’m a bit envious. I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I had continued my teaching career.

  

I have no regrets, though. I’ve loved every minute of living with my kids, and I hope they look back on their childhood as a happy time in their lives and know that they have two loving and supportive parents who will always be there for them.

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Thank you so much, Beth. I loved getting a peek into this lovely, happy home. And I admit, I’m a bit envious of that giant bathtub, even if the “step-up step-down open concept” bathroom might be a little odd. The barn door was the perfect solution! You can tell this is a house with a lot of great memories attached to it.

Beth had some great thoughts about how perspective changes as your kids get older. I love the contrast between the ideas of really enjoying every moment of your kids being smaller, but also the advice of not completely losing yourself in parenting. That’s such a delicate line to walk. Finding the balance between being present and in the moment with your kids, while still finding time to be a human being and do the things that fulfill you as a person isn’t easy to do. It seems very easy to let the pendulum swing one way or another.

What do you do to maintain your own identity while in the midst of parenting? Do you find ways to carve out time for yourself and your interests? How do you get out of the house and do the things you are passionate about? How does that help you be a better parent?

SOURCES

Claire’s Bedding

Foyer Storage Dresser

Master Bedroom Duvet

Kitchen Island

Black and White Rug


You can see more of Beth on her blog 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