I’ve been a fan of Manchester-by-the-Sea mom, Jen Migonis, and her blog Migonis Home for some time now. My favorite posts are the ones where she shows behind-the-scenes looks at her home renovation projects. But she also posts lifestyle and motherhood content. Her journey to becoming a real estate investor and mother of four is an interesting one and we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her!
Where are you from originally and what town do you live in now?
I am from Whitinsville, MA (central MA) and live in Manchester now. I’ve been up in the area ever since starting as a freshman at Gordon College in 2000.
How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
Four. Drew is 8 ½ , Elle is 6 and Vera and Grayson are 2 ½.
What’s your favorite family activity on the North Shore?
We love going to Singing Beach any time of the day but one of our favorite events this summer were the kids races at Asbury Grove in Hamilton every Monday night. The kids would run and then there would be a cookout for anyone that wanted to stay. It was so fun to see the kids improve their times and really look forward to racing each week.
Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop on the North Shore?
I love shopping for the kids at ReSale for Kids in Danvers or on Facebook Marketplace. Marshalls in Gloucester is my go-to. I always get a thrill for finding brand names for a steal…I always feel like I’m beating the system.
I love Siam Delight or Thai Choice for Thai food, basically anywhere for Mexican, the Lobster Pool for seafood and the views, and Hale St. Tavern has fantastic sushi. AJ and I always love to go to Rocky Neck in Gloucester in the summer for drinks and to sit on the water.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I had a lawn mowing business through high school and college. Best job ever.
You have a successful lifestyle and home renovation blog titled Migonis Home. Tell us more about your background and how you got started blogging and also renovating homes.
My background in college was business and event planning so renovating homes is definitely another creative outlet. My husband and I own a number of rental properties so flipping (pre-children) seemed like a smart way to expand that business. Our first flip was pretty successful and we put the profits from that straight into buying our house in Manchester. We thought we bought a palace coming from a tiny condo! Over the years we’ve added more properties and with the profits from the flip we put it straight into another investment property to avoid capital gains taxes (glamorous, right?). We are both self taught at renovating but have learned what we can handle and what we really aren’t talented at (replacing drywall is #1 on the list!) and have built up a great team of people that we know we can trust when we need someone (plumbers, electricians, accountant, attorney, builders, etc.)
What’s your favorite room in the house to renovate?
The kitchen, for sure! We just did ours this past year and it’s a game changer for how the space flows into the rest of the house now and how much better it is for entertaining. That being said…it’s also been the biggest ticket item we’ve ever tackled thanks to it being such a large space SO one of my favorite things that we did in our current house was simply to paint. When we moved in our entire living room was pink (including parts of the ceiling) with coordinating pink paisley drapes, love seats, wallpaper and window seat cushions. It was so custom and well done but not our style at all. Painting the ceiling white and then walls a light gray was the first change we made in this house and it was really inspiring to see how $50 of paint can make SUCH a difference.
Do you have a go-to spot on the North Shore to shop for home goods?
Home Goods in Danvers and I’m counting down the days for the one to open in Gloucester.
As I mentioned before painting furniture or walls is a really great way to completely change the look and feel for your space so I always head down to Manchester Ace Hardware store and grab paint there. The guys know me by name and expect to see paint on body and the twins in my hands when I come in.
I also love to shop my yard or the beach… I am currently sitting at my desk with this great piece of driftwood that I snagged at White Beach while there with the kids the other day and have really pretty weeds and great fall branches all over my house now. It’s a lot cheaper than the Trader Joe’s flowers I’m obsessed with!
In addition to writing about home renovation you’ve also written a bit about adding to your family through adoption. How did you decide to become an adoptive parent?
Adopting was something AJ and I felt God was telling us to do for a long time and we were just too scared to pursue it (we thought it was completely overwhelming to go from 0 kids to 1 when Drew was born!). But after five years of feeling like this was something we should do and after Elle was 2.5 and we moved into a larger house it felt feasible…still like something big and crazy but a little more manageable. We did the training classes through the state and really felt confirmed that this was a good decision. At the end of our approval stage we got a call that there were six week old twins available to a pre-adoptive home but we’d need to be hurried though the system. They were taken from their birth parents upon birth because their birth siblings were already part of DCF’s care so we were able to get Vera and Gray straight from the hospital (they were nine weeks premature) which worked out perfectly for our family.
What do you wish more people knew about adoption?
I keep hearing this more and more…all adoption is built on loss. It sounds like such a negative statement, and it is, but it’s such a good reminder for AJ and I that just because the twins have been with us almost since birth there may come a time when they feel a sense of loss toward their birth parents and probably wonder why they couldn’t complete everything the state told them to do to keep them.
This is more of a logistical issue but the state gives a stipend and support to families for fostering and adopting through Massachusetts and I wish more people realized that. Many people site financial reasons as being a reason why they can’t take a child in and this could provide a way for people to give a home to a child who really needs a stable place.
As a busy working mom (of 4!), any tips for balancing work and motherhood?
There is no balance. I just heard on my favorite podcast this morning that there is “harmony” and it’s so true. If I want a really clean house I’m going to be sacrificing my time to blog and create. When I wanted to finish the final stages of our kitchen renovation before a blog event I hosted last week it meant we had a giant mountain of laundry on our dining room table for a week and the house wasn’t as clean as it normally is…when you decide to succeed at something or finish a project often other things have to slide as a result. I rarely let my sleep slide too much because I know I’ll be a bear to everyone if I do!
What is the best piece of mom advice you ever received?
When I was pregnant with Drew and was unsure if I could do a natural birth my mom said to me “don’t try to be a hero,” and it’s stuck with me in all areas of life. Obviously I want to do the best I can in everything but her statement reminded me hold loosely to things. After pushing for four hours with Drew I ended in a c-section because he wasn’t moving at all. I never suffered with sadness over missing a “natural” birth because I held so loosely to it…my biggest goal was that my child be born healthy.
Her statement also ties in with keeping balance…I can’t be a hero and do everything otherwise everything is going to suffer. I say no to A LOT…even really good things so that I can say yes to the things that really matter at this stage of life.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you need some “me time”?
Send everyone out of the house with AJ and spend time at home by myself cleaning and decorating. I am one of those weird people who find cleaning life-giving!