Living With Kids: Leslie Degenhardt

The home of Leslie and her lovely family was featured here a couple of years ago, and we are delighted to have them join us once again. They’ve spruced up their place a bit, and decided to start a business during all the craziness of shut down and homeschooling and work-from-home. Leslie is passionate about vintage and found clothing and furniture pieces, both because of the personality that they bring as well as the sustainability of not always buying something new — so starting a shop that sells vintage goods is a perfect fit. Welcome, Leslie!

Hi there! My name is Leslie and I am honored to be featured here on “Living With Kids” for the second time! I was featured two years ago and I wrote about the frustrating process of buying our house, along with the DIY projects we took on since moving in.

I live with my husband, Pete, our daughter, Angelica (10), our son, James (7) and our rescue dog, Crash (soon to be 13). We’ve been enjoying living in our Colonial Dutch Gambrel home, built in 1994, located in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, for about 5 ½ years. Thank you for joining me for this small visit to my home. 

Shrewsbury is a historic town located west of Boston. We have a 75-acre park which is just a short drive away where there are plenty of walking trails, playing fields and a lake where we go fishing. We are a neighboring town with Worcester, a major city that is home to great hospitals, restaurants, cultural attractions such as Worcester Art Museum, as well as ethnic markets. 

My husband and I met on an online dating website which isn’t very romantic. However, unbeknown to us, we lived in the same town and our streets ran parallel to each other which I like to always include to hopefully add a bit of romance to our story. 

I grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts which is a city 9 miles northwest of Boston. My husband was born in Vietnam and was adopted by an American family when he was 9 months old. He first lived in New York, then New Jersey before moving to Massachusetts for college. Thankfully, he stayed in Massachusetts after graduating, otherwise we never would have met. He is the most decent person I’ve ever known. He truly is my “better half” which I had inscribed on his wedding band. We’ve been married for 12 ½ years. 

Buying our house was not an easy process. We were already homeowners and were in a financial position where we needed to sell our existing home before buying another. We were living in a small, passive solar house which we loved, but with 2 kids and a dog, we were quickly outgrowing it. Our house was coined “unique” which therefore, made it difficult to find comparable homes when it came to a buyer being approved for a loan. After months of tears and frustration, we finally found a buyer who was determined to find a bank that would work with him for an approved loan. 

Since moving in, we have made many cosmetic changes that we have done ourselves, or to be accurate and fair, I will say my husband has done. There have been many DIY projects including changing out all of the flooring, replacing our upper kitchen cabinets with open shelves, and my husband even managed to build a tavern in our basement.

We initially chose a dark laminate flooring for our living room which we loved the aesthetic look of. It added a very rich, warm feel to the space. However, I learned the hard way that with a shedding light-haired dog and 2 kids, choosing dark floors was a big mistake. We eventually made the decision to switch out the flooring. We chose a light laminate that matched the rest of our first floor. We did not want to be wasteful so we repurposed by installing the dark floors in the playroom in our basement. 

My husband is a girls competitive gymnastics coach at a private gym in Shrewsbury, where our daughter is a gymnast. I work early mornings as a medical assistant at a fertility clinic, and I have recently opened an online vintage store where I share my love for second hand and sustainable items. 

Our daughter has two passions: reading and gymnastics. She suffered a back injury this past year and even when faced with adversity she is still a pillar of strength. She is determined and has persevered, and she is now stronger than ever. 

Our son’s passion is making us laugh and most recently a drum set which he scored at a consignment shop. He also has an obsession with cardboard. He loves collecting cardboard from packages we receive and repurposing it into whatever his imagination dreams up. He is currently working on a design for a cardboard sled competition our local park is having.

The one thing both my kids have in common is they have the biggest hearts I know. They are also the happiest kids I know. Even during all the pandemic changes they’ve had to adapt to this past year, they still fill our home with love and laughter. 

We live on a quiet cul-de-sac which was like hitting the jackpot. Shrewsbury real estate is in high demand due to the great school district, which was our priority when choosing to move here. The back of our house is surrounded by woods which is the best playground for our kids. If a tree falls in the woods it automatically becomes a balance beam. It’s nature’s jungle gym!

For me, bringing up kids during a pandemic has had its pros and cons. Presently, our kids are on a hybrid plan for school. They have in-person school Mondays and Tuesdays and remote learning Wednesday through Friday. Fortunately, my husband is home in the mornings when I’m at work. Once I come home in the late morning, my husband then goes to work. I have no idea how families with both parents or a single parent/care taker is handling this.

Remote learning is hard! There have been a lot of tears and frustration, and I’m not just talking about the kids! When emotions start to elevate, we immediately drop everything and go outside. Our mood instantly improves. I believe we all need nature to feed our soul and for the overall mental health benefit. 

As far as the pandemic, I feel as though we have been extremely fortunate. Thus far, we have remained healthy and we still have our jobs. My heart goes out to each and every person who has lost a loved one, lost a business, lost a job, or has endured any other suffering due to this pandemic. 

Our most unfortunate experience, was when our beloved Crash was diagnosed with heart disease last April. He had a sudden episode of heart failure late one night. We rushed him to our local animal emergency room (which is thankfully only a 5-minute drive away) where we had to hand him over to nurses in the hospital parking lot. We kissed him good-bye which we were convinced would be the last time.

Amazingly, he survived and came home to us a few days later. He has since had two more episodes of heart failure. This sweet dog of ours just isn’t ready to leave us. We know that every day we have with him is a gift.

Our home is filled with thrift store and Craigslist finds as well as family heirlooms. I tend to gravitate towards a neutral palette and organic materials which have always given me a sense of calm and peacefulness. I’ve always had a love for second hand items. I would scour consignment and thrift shops when I was a teenager hoping to find a unique treasure. I would tend to wear clothing that was second hand and different from the trendy fashions sold at stores in the mall.

I learned as I got older the negative impact that buying new and fast fashion has on our environment, which increased my passion even more. My passion to protect our Earth became even stronger after becoming a mama.

Due to the pandemic, I was on furlough from March through September which gave me the time to think about what I could do to bring awareness to others about choosing second hand items and that’s when my online vintage store, Boheme Ginger, was born.

I have two reasons why I chose this name. The definition of Boheme is “a person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior”. This name resonates with me because when I was younger my father would always say to me, “you march to the beat of your own drum”. I’m not quite sure how he meant it, but I always took it as a compliment. : )

As far as the name Ginger, if you saw me you would know why that name fits: I am a red head. Boheme Ginger is a mindful collection of pre-loved fashion and sustainable pieces in an effort to breathe new life into what already exists, reduce carbon footprints and keep as much as possible out of landfills. By embracing second hand fashion and sustainable items, we are giving Mother Earth a great big hug!

I feel that the pandemic has given me an opportunity to explore ways I could make a difference and teach my kids how important it is to take care of their environment and the impact they have on it. I feel that especially during the pandemic, people are online more than ever before. Shopping online is a safer option than going into stores at this time.

I hope my kids learn that you are never tied to one career or one option in life. 

I hope that when our children are grown that they are able to look back at fond memories of their childhood. I hope they always remember how much fun they had playing in our neighborhood with each other. As their parents, we love watching them go sledding and making snowmen in the winter time. I hope they always remember climbing trees and playing in the woods in our backyard. Most of all, I hope they always remember how much love was in our home. I already miss the innocence of their childhood.

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

——-

Thank you, Leslie! There are so many relatable things here: being frustrated with online school, trying to figure out the balance of two working parents, and on top of that dealing with a beloved pet getting sick. So many people have dealt with so many difficult things this year. I also really loved Leslie’s advice about getting outside as soon as stuff starts to get tense in the home. It’s such great advice and something we call can take advantage of to one extent or another.

I also really appreciated Leslie’s perspective about thrifting and buying second hand being fun but also great for the planet. It is true that so many of us just immediately run to Target and buy something new when we have a need, and don’t think of the fact that getting something that is gently used is usually cheaper and is also more friendly to the planet. Such a great way to think about it!

Do you tend to buy things new or do you love digging through a thrift store? Do you have certain things you always try to thrift? Or certain things that you only feel comfortable shopping new? What’s the best thing you’ve ever got second hand?


You can check out Leslie’s vintage shop here or follow 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.

4 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Leslie Degenhardt”

  1. Thank you, Leslie, for a second home and lifestyle tour. I noticed your children’s art. James may be interested in the art of Louise Nevelson. Her works are usually made of wood, but cardboard would be adaptable. I also tried using packing Styrofoam that often comes shaped to fit the objects it is packed around. Anything goes.

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