Living With Kids: Anne Marie Cropper
Today I’d love to introduce you to Anne Marie and her family. Welcome Croppers! She and her husband built a beautiful home in Southern Oregon (which is what we are featuring here today,) but after living there for a couple of years, made the tough decision to sell it and move to a rental a few miles away so their son with special needs could have access to a school that was a better fit for him. While I am sure it was challenging to make a tough decision like this, Anne Marie has a great attitude about it and about what makes a home. I’m so glad she shared these lovely photos with us of their “dream home” before they moved.
Hello! We are the Croppers — Anne + Taylor, Blaine (11), Roger (9), Carter (6), Clara (5), and George (2). Yes, that’s five kids. Yes, that’s four boys. Our home is a veritable circus. (It’s loud! It’s exciting! It’s headache-inducing!) My husband and I met here in Oregon, as teenagers, and after six years of being best friends with unrequited love drama/timing problems, the stars aligned and we got married almost thirteen years ago. Taylor is a marketing director for his family company, Bioskin, which specializes in performance bracing. His most exciting new adventure with that is that we launched BioskinFit last year, a line of incredible athletic tights. I say we, because I have gotten involved with the social media and influencer marketing, and I travel occasionally to race expos to sell them. Mostly though, I stay home and manage the circus. I have an education degree and loved teaching second grade before having children, but I am really grateful to be at home full time right now. Our children are fascinatingly different, each one, but they love being together. Like most siblings, they play hard, fight hard, love hard.
We live in Southern Oregon. Currently we live in Medford, but the home in this feature is in Talent, a small bedroom community of Ashland. Though small, Ashland is a vibrant, charming community, much thanks to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which we thoroughly love and recommend. We never tire of spending time in Ashland. The food scene is top notch, there are dozens of darling shops, and Lithia Park is incredible. And that’s just the downtown.
Southern Oregon is a fantastic place to raise a family. We have four distinct seasons, but the winters are mild, and we don’t have the same rain as much of the Pacific Northwest, which is nice. We love to be outside with our kids, and there are limitless opportunities to explore. We enjoy incredible trail systems, beautiful lakes and rivers, hiking, biking, blackberry picking… it’s just a gorgeous place to live and we absolutely love it here.
The tricky thing with Southern Oregon is that everyone loves it here, which means home prices are steep. Ashland, in particular, significantly restricts building, which makes supply low, so the prices there are the highest in the valley. When we first moved back to Oregon after college in 2008, we planned to buy a home in Ashland, where Taylor was raised and where he works. We soon became discouraged to discover that all of the homes in our price range (about $350,000) were old fixer uppers that needed a huge amount of work. Then one day we drove five minutes to Talent and found homes at the same price in a brand-new, darling neighborhood. Hot dog! We were sold.
We bought our first home and moved in with our first two sons. Several years later, thrilled with our neighborhood, which was full of great families and playmates for our kids, but beginning to outgrow our home, we discovered a lot around the corner from us that was on a short sale. We picked it up for a song and started making plans with a contractor who was a friend of ours. This was 2013, just before the market began to pick up again, so he agreed to build our home for $99/square foot.
In the end, including our lot, our new home cost around $360,000, which is basically unbelievable. We never could have built a brand new, custom 3,000 square foot home under different circumstances. We were just so lucky with the timing! Homes like ours would sell in Ashland for around $550,000 currently. (It’s so inflated here. We watch Chip and JoJo and just gasp in envy!)
We completely loved the building process. We have had so many friends joke, “we could never build a house together. We’d end up divorced!” But we had the opposite experience. We worked really well together and were energized by the creative process. Taylor spent countless hours drawing up the floor plans (he just used floorplanner.com!), which an actual draftsman turned into blueprints. Taylor is wonderfully creative and detail oriented, and he made incredible use of the space. (Watching a total novice design such a lovely and efficient home was amazing. I realized at that point that he may have missed his calling in life!) I am more spatially challenged so I was thrilled to leave things like layout to him, and focus on things like shelving, trim, tiles, paint color, etc.
When you grow up dreaming about having a family one day, you never see yourself as the mom of a special needs child, you know? I mean, let’s be real, most of parenthood doesn’t match the naive expectations of youth! One of the biggest challenges for me is that it took us so long to figure out that our son even had special needs. (I actually shared our story on This Little Miggy if anyone might be interested to learn more.)
So we struggled a long time before understanding what he was dealing with and getting the help we needed. He was eventually diagnosed with Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder. Essentially, he struggles with cognitive flexibility and emotion regulation. He wasn’t diagnosed until months after we moved — one of the great blessings of the move. We just knew that we had to make some changes so he had more access to the support he needed. One of the greatest joys came when I realized that the same brain and DNA that make it hard for him socially and emotionally also make him an exceptionally interesting, deep thinking, special child.
That realization is what I wish the world could understand about special needs children. They may have various limitations or difficulties, but they also have incredible gifts. I wish we could all see the whole picture more clearly and embrace and love more freely. One of the greatest social difficulties for our son is that his special needs are not obvious or physically visible, but they show up in his behavior. We had several painful experiences in which people (even those close to us) implied that we were simply parenting him wrong. It was devastating.
The decision to move was interesting because it felt very sudden, but, as I look back on it, I see clearly how the universe was aligning and even how we were being mentally prepared for the change long before we decided to go. Basically, our son was struggling more than ever before, and his behavior was not only impacting family life, it was now impacting his ability to be successful in school.
Within about a month of the new school year, we could see that we were headed down an increasingly difficult road, and it became clear that we needed to move him to a school that had more resources to meet his needs. We were sad to leave our new home (we had lived there just two years), but we quickly found a rental just where we needed to be, and never looked back.
Some of our other children struggled with the change more than others, but let me just say this: we only moved fifteen minutes away and we live just blocks from grandparents and several cousins, so it wasn’t a terribly extreme change for anyone!
Also, I would love to add here that one year later, our son is doing better than he ever has before. Through the diligent efforts of family, teachers, school administrators, and medical professionals, he now has the tools to navigate life in a way I doubted for a long time was possible. I see this move as the beginning of all the improvements we have experienced, and we are so grateful.
I love interior design and I love the personal touches that make a house a home. When we first moved into our rental, I am ashamed to admit, we struggled. We’d come from this spacious home, completely tailored to our daily habits and style, and so our rental (though a perfectly lovely home and amazingly equipped with enough bedrooms for a family of seven) felt cramped and dark (the home we built had incredibly natural light).
But Taylor and I have learned so much about what makes a home. Honestly, I could live in a shoebox happily if I could be with my family. We have had ample stories lately about refugees all over the world and displaced people all over the southern US with the recent natural disasters. How long could I really complain that I missed my old kitchen island or large pantry?! (EYE ROLL.)
It’s all about family. It’s about being together. It’s about decorating with children’s artwork and family heirlooms and sitting around the ($80 on Craigslist) kitchen table together. While I will always be interested in design and love beautiful homes, I have been so grateful for this sudden move because it shook a little reality into me about the things that matter most and that a home can be beautiful no matter the size or style.
I sometimes have friends ask me for help with decor dilemmas in their homes and most often I find that they just need to trust themselves more. I think we all worry too much about “what style am I?” or “what is trending?” Just buy/make/thrift what you like and don’t worry too much about the “rules.” If you choose things that you love, they will go together just by virtue of being things that speak to you! I think the best way to make a house a home is to let it be a reflection of the unique people who live inside its walls.
I hope endlessly that my kids remember the traditions and the ‘yes’ moments. The back to school feasts, the German Pancake breakfasts, the family movie nights, the Valentine’s Day parties, the birthday pinatas, the nights we let them set up a tent in the living room, the forts, the endless hours of lego building in the play room, the early morning snuggles in Mom and Dad’s bed, the chocolate chip cookie dough we all ate too much of, the family prayers. And even more so, I hope they forget how often Mom turned into a barking Miss Hannigan!
My favorite thing in the whole world is snuggling with my children in the morning. Often on the weekend, they show up one by one, until the entire family of seven is in our queen bed! What do I miss already? Even though it was exceptionally difficult, I sometimes miss feeding or rocking an infant in the middle of the night. There is something sacred in those memories, when all the house was still, except for me and a baby.
I wish someone had told me to be more fun! I have spent so many years of my life as a perfectionist and obsessive list maker. I have said “no” to countless adventures because of my desire to have my ducks in a row or complete a task or because I feared the discomfort of doing hard things with little ones. In 2017 I made “MORE FUN” my only resolution and I feel like I have a whole new lease on life! My kids don’t need memories of Mom putting checkmarks on her to-do list. They need memories of hikes and ice cream cones and camping trips!
What a positively charming home. It’s such a lovely mix of vintage pieces and clean, contemporary style. Bright colors, great art, tons of texture. What more could you want?
And what a really lovely story. I think as parents we all make sacrifices for our kids, because what else would we do? It makes me think back on my own parents and the sacrifices that they made that I was probably totally oblivious too. (And hey, Anne Marie, if you ever want to share photos of your rental, we’d love to see them!)
Are there choices you have made as a parent that were hard for you to do that your kids were largely oblivious to? Did you involve them in the big decisions? How do you help your kids to see the bigger picture, or do you think sometimes it’s OK for them to just see how it affects them?
You can read more about Anne’s parenting on her blog or follow her on Instagram. 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. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, gay parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Reach out at email@example.com.