Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Homes Sweet Homes

Phil and I were married young.  I had just finished getting my Master's and he had just completed his Bachelor's at Franciscan University.  It was May 2001 and we were 23 and 21 and ready to do this thing called married life.  Only there was a problem.  We didn't have anywhere to live.  Phil was going to be starting his Master's program in the fall at Providence College in Rhode Island, and I would be job hunting while running my parents ice cream shop on Cape Cod.  My parents graciously allowed us to live with them for the summer months, as renting a house on Cape Cod in the summer would have been ridiculously expensive.

We lived with them for a few months, and then (thanks to my brother-in-law's connections) found a job for me at a CPA firm in Providence, and a small third floor apartment in a city nearby.

All the way at the tippy top

That little apartment served us well until John-Paul was born, but then lugging a baby seat and bag and groceries up three flights of stairs became tres difficile.  Phil was about to finish his Master's and I had left my job to stay home with JP so we were able to move elsewhere but with no money to do so. We spent the summer on the Cape and lived in an apartment above the ice cream shop where we worked and ate ice cream all summer.  I remember making waffle cones at night while JP slept upstairs.  We had no idea where we would live in the fall once Phil started teaching.

We lived upstairs and worked downstairs at Maggie's (now Katie's)

My mom had the idea that we should become house-sitters in the cute beach town nearby where everyone left their summer homes vacant during the school year.  I put a little ad in the local paper and voila!, a nice lady contacted us and said we could stay at her house for free from September-May in return for taking in the mail and keeping up with the landscaping.  What luck!  We lived in that beach side cottage for Phil's first year of teaching and then had to move out for the summer.

We lived on the road that led out to this island, so gorgeous

 At this point, my parents had opened up another ice cream shop in the little village where we were house-sitting, and Phil was to run it with my younger sister on his summer break from school.  We were able to rent a home in a town nearby for the summer and lived there with my sister while I was very pregnant with Andrew.  Once the summer ended, we moved back into the home we house-sat.

My biggest memory of this house is that JP got physical therapy weekly because he didn't want to walk!

Andrew was born, and although a free house was great to have, we knew we needed to plant some roots.  All of this moving around so often was hard and only going to get more difficult as we increased the number of kids we had.  Lucky for us, my parents have always dabbled in real estate, as my dad was a builder and property was their investment for retirement.  They found a two-family house in a nice town and bought it, renting out the top apartment to us (we had two floors, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and about 2000 square feet of living space - it felt huge!) and the bottom apartment to the elderly woman who was currently living there.  Thank goodness she was hard of hearing, as we had many babies in a short time in this house!

At some point, my brother, who was working in New Hampshire, decided to move back to the area with his family and wanted to rent the bottom apartment until they built a house to move into.  It was agreed that my parents would turn the two-family house into two condominiums, and sell one to my brother and the other to us, so that they didn't have to be landlords anymore and we would actually own something!  We looked around at other houses in our price range and couldn't find anything remotely close to what we had, so we bought our condo when I was 31 and we only had four kids.  This is the same house we live in now!

We've seen a number of tenants come and go in the downstairs apartment, our favorite ones being Sarah and Katie.  We have tried to put our home on the market twice to buy a single family home, but both times were met with no success because it's an unusual situation to only sell half of a house.  My brother, who's since moved out, wants to hold onto his condo as an investment property.  Eventually we gave in, seeing that we weren't moving anywhere, and did a remodel by adding a bedroom, and renovating the kitchen and dining room.  Now the space fits our growing (full-grown?) family.

Just recently, my parents sold their house and began renovating the downstairs condo so that they could move in.  It seems funny how God's timing works full circle.  While I was frustrated over not being able to sell and "upgrade" to a single family home, God's plans of having my parents move in downstairs is way better than what I wanted.  It was in the works the whole time! Now our kids can see their grandparents all the time, and hopefully we can all help each other out with chores and errands and just enjoy three generations under one roof.  Looking back on our house adventures, I can see how our love for each other and trust in God has paid off.  I'm glad I didn't believe the world's lies that we needed the perfect house/cars/big salary/finished degrees before we started our family.  I am a big believer in hard work and making things happen but at some point you've just got to just do your best and let God do the rest!


  1. It seems like the right thing was always there at the right time. What a beautiful home!

  2. I'm ridiculously excited for this adventure for you. If I had my way, my parents would love downstairs from us too!

  3. Oh my gosh. I LOVE this entire story. The plot just gets thicker and thicker.

  4. So, do your parents own the downstairs condo? Not trying to pry too much, but we were "this close" to having my folks move in with us but ran into difficulty when discussing the financing of it all. Just curious how you're making it all work.

    1. My brother still owns it and will rent to them. Sorry you all couldn't make it work out!!

  5. I really enjoyed reading the story of your homes and so happy that your parents are able to move into the condo, that is going to be great.

  6. I LOVE this. We've been married for five years, have three kids so far and this is our fourth home. I see some of my friends putting off kids so they can have that perfect home first and I just want to shake them and be like "you don't have to!!" (I won't 😉). It can be so easy to fall down that rabbit hole of having your perfect home, but is is really freeing realizing you don't have to, and being content where you are is hard but wonderful. Amazing to see how things worked out for you!

  7. Loved this! It's a possibility down the road that my mom would live with us... but she would need separate space for sure. ;) It's so great that your parents will be right there-your kids will get to have special memories with them!

  8. I love this! We are currently expecting our seventh baby and live in a 3-bedroom house. Our neighbors are confounded as to why we don't move (most of them have two children). I keep telling myself that someday it will just be me and my husband rattling around in this "big" house!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this!! Your family and home are beautiful. I struggle too with trying to figure out when/how we're going to move and have to remind myself often that "comparison is the thief of joy." When I remember all that God's given us I feel much more content. :)

  10. Awww, what a fun story! So many great memories. We had a similar situation. When Sierra was little, and she was our only one, we put in an offer on a house that seemed perfect to us. A couple of acres; small, cute, newer ranch. But we didn't get it. I was a little devastated. But then, less than a year later, two 20 acre pieces of land became available right next to each other. My parents bought one, we bought the other. The outcome was so much better than I could have ever dreamed up. I love it when God does that :)

  11. Our baby is in our room (in a pack and play) and the 2 1/2 year old is in a closet (in a pack and play)....and I don't have parents living next door! :-) You do what you gotta do to make it work!

  12. Such an awesome story! Love the house-talk. So jealous of all the fun places you've lived :)

  13. Love this story Colleen! What wonderful places you have lived and I love the memories from each of them. And how absolutely wonderful to have your parents help-what joy the kids will bring to them also.

  14. It's so endearing to hear stories of larger families in the non-tradtional house. We have 2 (almost 3) and live in a townhouse with no real sights on moving to a Single Family home anytime soon. I do lament that we don't have a real yard, but seeing how others make it work really help!



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