WHEELING - Each day, Barry and Lisa Allen oversee the production of thousands of frozen twin pops as owners of the Ziegenfelder Co. of Wheeling, but they find their role as grandparents in a home with six adults and two young children to be even more of a frozen delight.
They say four generations of a blended, extended family that live and work together can even vacation together if they respect each other's space - and if they have a big enough home.
Among those living in the 4,000 square-foot home on Beechwood Drive in Wheeling are the Allens themselves; Barry's son, Brad, and his wife, Amber, who was scheduled to give birth on June 23; and Lisa's daughter, Mia, her husband, Matt Porter, and their two young children, Madison and Levi.
Lisa Allen's mother, Roslyn Lando, previously resided in the home. The Allens purchased it from her after they married six years ago, and Lando now lives in an A-frame home just outside their door on the opposite side of the main home's parking lot.
Barry Allen has four grown sons, and Lisa Allen has two adult daughters, and they thought the property - it almost could be described as a compound - would be a great place for children and grandchildren to come visit and stay in years to come. The main home has five bedrooms, and 4.5 bathrooms.
But in 2012, son-in-law Matt Porter came to work for Ziegenfelder, and he, Mia and Madison moved in to the Allen's large home. Son Levi was born later.
Not long after, Brad Allen also joined the family business, and he and Amber came to live in the house.
"Everyone has their own space - their own bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms," Lisa Allen said. "We're not tripping over each other. This house is good for that. It gives everybody their own area. There are no bedrooms next to each other.
"Everybody does their own thing, but we also do things together."
Most recently, 15 members of the Allen clan even took a week-long beach vacation, with the family wishing they could stay there together another seven days.
Lisa Allen, who serves as CEO of Ziegenfelder, uses her business skills at home to keep family members in harmony. She said "give and take" among the six different adult personalities in the home is necessary, and the older adults must respect the younger ones when they parent.
"Is there tension sometimes? Yes," she said. "But do we go to our corners and not talk to each other? No. It just makes us stronger as a family."
Lisa Allen said so many young families are saddled with debt when they start out, and her family was blessed to have the space where their children could come live and save money to purchase their own home. The Porters are presently building a home in Ohio County.
"So often, people think children have to leave home, but sometimes that just disperses the family," she said. "It's made us a close-knit family."
And Barry Allen said the home has brought together their blended, extended family. While he wants the children to have their own homes, he said it will be a "sad, quiet day" when they have gone. He also said he will miss the grandchildren running down the hall to wish him good morning each day.
"You might have children, but you might not always see them everyday," Barry Allen said. "When you live with them, you see their good and bad days and how they deal with them. You notice them maturing and growing up as adults."
And Roslyn Lando said she feels very lucky to have her great-grandchildren so close on a daily basis, and she believes she also is a help to the young parents who at times get overwhelmed.
"When they leave, I know I will be very lonely," she said. "They keep you young."
Mia Porter said many people have told her she is fortunate to have a house full of "built-in baby sitters," but she tries not to rely on family members that way.
"I feel very blessed my kids get to live every day in a home where they are so loved all the time," she said.
Expectant mother Amber Allen also believes the home will be a fine one for her new baby.
"I will feel blessed to bring a baby home to a house full of people who will love her so much," she said.