When I asked Alicia for brighter photos of her dining room, she wrote back two paragraphs! Turns out, it is the darkest room in her home because of its complete lack of windows. Which makes it difficult, many days, since it’s the absolute heart of her home and where they seem to spend the most time. (And before anyone suggests a simple remodel, I should add that this is a 250-year old home with loads of history; knocking down a wall or two might not be in the plans!)
I’m sure we’ve all had a room like that in one home or another, right? One you want to hate for its lackluster features, but can’t help but adore it when you think about all the good times you’ve experienced in it? It’s nice to hear how Alicia has grown to love the space. This is a fabulous read, especially the ending, and I hope it makes your day a little brighter.
Hi everyone! I’m Alicia, and I’m so blessed to be able to share my story with you! Thanks for having me.
When I think back to how my husband and I met, I would never have believed where we would be today and how we got here. I met Ryan in college through my roommate and best friend. I was 18 years old and in my first year of college. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or where I was going in life. Our relationship was short lived. We met a few months before summer, and that summer I decided I wasn’t quite ready for the depth of the relationship that Ryan and I had. To what I can only credit God for, we stayed in touch, became the closest of friends, and I slowly fell more and more in love with who Ryan was as a person and how our relationship was unlike any I had ever had.
I had a friend who once told me, “He treats you like a husband treats a wife.” That right there is what changed my life forever.
We have known each other for 14 years and have been married for nine. In that nine years we had three amazing children. Nick, seven, was our first and he blows my mind every day with his compassion, love, and sincere nature. He is my clone in every sense of the word. Luke, five, is spunky, loud, stubborn, funny, and will have you rolling on the floor with his sense of humor and joy for life. Kate, two, is my girl; the one that I dreamed about for so long. She has an attitude that will stop you in your tracks. She is sassy and sweet, girly with a tomboy edge.
A New Jersey native, I never thought I would leave my town, let alone my state. I grew up with a very tight knit group of friends. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was leave my family and friends. From college I went to Rhode Island to law school. Ryan commuted from his engineering job in Connecticut. We got married the first summer of law school and I was pregnant before I received my diploma, to much dismay from my family.
Before I had Nick I swore left and right that once the baby came I would go right back to work. I would find a job as a child advocate or family law attorney, leave Nick with family, and I would work tirelessly as an attorney. That is, after all, what I spent three years and a whole lot of money and effort doing.
When Nick came, I went back to work. It was so much harder than I ever thought it would be. I was working in a domestic violence clinic and I loved my job, but all I could think of was being home with my baby. It didn’t take long before Ryan and I decided that I was leaving my job. I didn’t know where my career would go, when I would go back to law, or how we would make ends meet; I just knew that being home with my son is what I needed.
Life has taken us so many wonderful places. I have been a stay-at-home mom for seven years. I have dabbled in everything from tutoring, to contract work as an attorney, to owning my own handmade children’s clothing business. Being a stay-at-home mom when your family could very well use a second income is difficult, but something that I would not change for the world. It has taken me seven years to find a pace of life that I love.
About six years ago we moved to Niantic, Connecticut. Ryan grew up here and it is almost too good to be true that this is the same town that he works in. I could never have imagined being able to live in a beach town and now I can never imagine leaving. Niantic is home. We are surrounded by the Niantic Bay. There are no waves like there were in New Jersey, but the water is peaceful and the view is amazing.
Up until about four years ago we lived two blocks from the water in a little beach cottage. I would have stayed there forever, but it was tiny. We were actively looking for homes, but couldn’t find anything that was within our price range and the size we needed. My mother-in-law sent me an email telling me that there was a 250 year old home for sale that had just been renovated, and I instantly got the chills. When we drove up to the home I knew that I had to have it.
Our home was deeded over to a non profit company from the town on condition that a family get it. It has quite a long and interesting history. Niantic has a women’s prison, the York Correctional Facility. Our home was once home to many a superintendent of the prison — specifically, York herself. We had the honor of meeting Mrs. York and her sons when we visited the home for the first time.
Our home had been unoccupied for quite some time before the town decided to do something with it. Now that we are here I don’t think we will ever leave. We are surrounded by acres and acres of woods and fields. We like to take hikes behind our house where there are ponds and lakes. The sunsets are like no other. Through the years we have found out more history about our home. Dr. Vine Utley was said to have lived here. Dr. Utley introduced vaccines in the early 1800s that helped the smallpox epidemic in Connecticut. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on his case logs dating from 1798 to 1834. We found a photo that shows a horse and carriage in our driveway. It is truly breathtaking.
I have always loved historic homes over newly built homes. I grew up in a new build and although it was seamless in every way, there is something to say about living in a home with character. There will always be things in our home that I want to change, like the sagging ceilings, the creaking floorboards, and the way the house isn’t — and will never be — an open concept. But the parts that we don’t like are also the parts that I would never want to leave behind.
I love living in a home where many a family has come before us, each making their mark in some way. One of our favorite things to show people when they visit is the old fashioned pencil sharpener in our basement on the stairwell. Surely used hundreds and hundreds of times, it was left and it will stay for decades to come.
Our dining room has been an endless struggle as far as decorating goes. It was once known as the sitting room. It is the center of our home. It is a room that has no windows, so it is very dark. But, in it is a large fireplace that now houses a wood stove that keeps our family warm through the winter.
Because of the way the house was built it isn’t very well insulated, so heating can be quite pricey. Thinking of our dining room as a practical room that was used to heat our home has helped me to appreciate it rather than be ungrateful because of the lack of light. It is the room in our home where our family eats, where we do arts and crafts, where we cozy up next to the fire, and where we celebrate all of our holidays.
Decorating has always been a passion of mine. I can’t really pinpoint the exact style that I have in my home. We very much enjoy decorating around certain historic aspects of our home but very much feel that in order to enjoy it unconditionally, we must also bring our own style. Being a lover of the coast you will see many coastal accents. We have quite a few nautical paintings, seashells, and coastal touches.
I love white. Give me white walls, white linens, and white washed furniture any day. I do feel that I have to balance my love of white with the more historic aspects of the house, and it is a definite juggling act. For instance, I have tried to convince my husband to paint our floors white and I am actually glad he convinced me otherwise. My style may change over the years, but these floors have been here for hundreds of years and who am I to go and change that!
My children would love to paint their bedroom walls red, put Star Wars stickers on their bed and walls, and pick out Transformer sheets. Part of me struggles with allowing them to express themselves while also keeping my sense of style in mind. We have found ways to allow them to make their spaces their own while also keeping me sane.
They have a wall in their bedroom slathered in Star Wars stickers, they got bunk beds against my wishes, and they can choose accents of their choice in the playroom and bedrooms. I want our home to be their home. I want them to feel they have a say — but they have come to learn that design is a compromise and that we can all be happy in the end.
I am glad to have toys in every room as long as the toys have a place and they can be neatly tucked away when not in use. I have quite an obsession with wicker baskets. I love how the texture adds so much to a room and they are so convenient when you have children and hundreds of toys.
For me to function as a mom and a wife, I need to have a clean space free of clutter. It is always a work in progress and something that we are constantly tweaking. We have purged a lot of toys and items that were not essential to our lives. I find that the children are more creative and happy with less items. I try to keep only toys that spark imagination and creativity. All three of my children would much rather build a castle with blocks, draw a picture, or use their imagination than play with some of the toys we used to have floating around the home.
I want the children to grow up knowing that they can play, make a mess, paint, play with play-doh, and even do water play in the house as long as it has its time and then everything goes back the way it was. I hope that my children will remember all of the art projects we did, the way our home had endless hiding spots, climbing trees on our property, picking raspberries from our bushes during the summer, and me telling them never to grow up. I want our home to reflect our love for our children. They are my life’s greatest gift.
My husband and I often talk about how we don’t know what we did with our time before them. There are definitely days where I miss being able to drink a cup of coffee without reheating it ten times, but I would not go back to my life before them in one hundred years. They are my life’s purpose and I hope that I can show them that every day that they live in my home. I already miss them and they are barely in grade school!
Through my years as a stay-at-home mom I have struggled to find a hobby. I was never really good at not having something to work on endlessly. When Nick was only three months old I studied for and passed the Connecticut bar exam. I started a blog. Before I knew it I was embracing staying at home. It was a different way of life than I was used to, but it was in itself challenging.
To try to offset some of the money that was needed raising our family I began a handmade children’s clothing boutique. Kate Maeve Co. was named after my daughter. I soon learned that sewing, marketing, blogging, and running a business while raising three children was more than I signed up for! Although I no longer design and sell children’s clothing, the people and the community I met through this business is like no other.
I did the majority of my sales through the Instagram community. I met quite a few Instagrammers who also owned their own businesses, and friendships formed. I ran a fundraiser on Instagram for a beautiful and amazing girl in our town who was battling cancer and was so touched by the number of businesses that reached out to donate products for someone they had never even meant. Sites like Instagram are not just a place where people share photos on interior design and children, it is a place where businesses go to flourish, where friendships are made, and relationships blossom into opportunities you may not have otherwise had. That is why it was so hard for me to just walk away once I shut down my clothing business.
My blog, Kate Maeve Co., became a place where I could share the work of other small businesses and a place where I could continue to stay involved in this community that had become so much to me. I met so many amazing people on Instagram and it is where I gained information on something that eventually helped me in one of the toughest periods of my life.
I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager that life is full of pain. It is full of gut wrenching physical and emotional pain that you will have to fight through harder than you ever thought possible, but that life it is also beautiful. Every fight you have to go through will bring you somewhere even more wonderful.
Ever since I can remember I have dealt with some form of anxiety. As a child I would have night terrors, battles with insomnia, and crippling fears. I enjoyed dancing, spending time with my friends, and my wonderful family, but there was something that caused an anxiety so deep. I never knew this was a normal part of so many other people’s lives. It wasn’t until college that I started working on the issues that had affected me in so many ways. On the outside I was happy, friendly, outgoing, and loving, and for the most part I loved my life. But, there was always a part of me that struggled to manage my emotions.
It is hard to admit the struggles we have inside to those on the outside. We worry how we will be judged. Especially as parents we want to be seen as having it all together, in control of our life and emotions, and unwavering in our courage.
The reality is, though, the more I share my story I find there are others just like me. Moms who are afraid to share their story for the same reason. I have friends that lost their battle to depression and over the years I have learned how to be okay with sharing my story. My story isn’t unique. It is what so many people go through every day, but it is silenced. People that don’t have a husband like I do, or a family like I do, battle it alone. You can get through it and you will get through it and the result will be better than your most beautiful dreams.
I am raising little people who will become big people and I need to be their rock. I need to show them that they can overcome obstacles and come out better. I had so many amazing people guide me and help me along the way. I suffered with postpartum depression with each of my three children. To say that there were days where I thought I could not go on would be an understatement. When my mom or husband would tell me that it would pass and I would get better, it was the last thing I wanted to hear or could believe. It took years and years of work to become the person I am today. It will always be something I have to look out for, but it is something that made me who I am and the mother I have become. Mindfulness, self care, and community have become vitally life changing.
Life is painful, thoughts can be painful, and it can be raw and brutal, but it can be wonderful.
Which leads me to where I am now. I am a mom, a wife, a blogger, and an entrepreneur. Along with my blog I also run an essential oils business that has been more empowering and invigorating than anything I have done since law school. It has helped me build back the confidence that I lost, helped me develop friendships I know will last a lifetime, and in the process has helped me with the struggles I have had with anxiety for so long. It has become part of my lifestyle and my life.
Through the years I have changed everything that we bring into our home and have made an effort to create a healthier and more natural lifestyle. Along with minimalism, we switched out any and all chemicals in our home and have replaced them with our own recipes using essential oils.You can find many of these recipes on my blog. I love educating others on living a more natural life. I am so grateful for where this journey has taken me and the ways my business has helped me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I love sharing my journey with others on my blog and helping others to grow in their own life.
When I look back as a grandmother one day I will remember the struggle of motherhood, the tantrums, the sleepless nights, the teething. More so, I will remember the hugs, the kisses, the bedtime snuggles, the back rubbing, the hand holding, the giggles, the squeaky voices, the love, and the day-to-day rituals that will leave me with the most wistful memories as I grow old. I never want to leave this stage of my life. It is the most blissful experience and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Thank you, Alicia! I loved reading about your career path, and hearing about how you continue to grow and improve. I especially enjoyed this: “It is hard to admit the struggles we have inside to those on the outside.” I’m a big fan of those who bring the inside out — in decorating and in life!
I’m wondering if anyone wants to share their own difficult space stories? Which one is your room you want to hate but can’t help but love? How did you turn it around? How did you make it a little more livable and lovable? I always enjoy when you share your experiences!
P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.