Usually, I try to remove all time stamps from these home tours. That means cropping out Halloween decorations when possible and trying not to post summer tours in the middle of December. But Candice is good at decorating for the holidays. Like, really good. (Do you remember her Winter Wishes craft? She’s also the brilliant photographer who helped us with our Central Park family photos.) And so I threw out all the rules and begged her to share her holiday home. Her inspired Christmas decor reinforces the idea that simple is stunning, especially in excess. (Candice calls this the Anthro rule, which made me laugh. But it’s so true, isn’t it?) I hope this installment of Living With Kids offers a little inspiration, and maybe even an afternoon of cutting a billion glittery stars. Enjoy the tour, Friends!
Q: Please tell us all about this festive family.
A: Hi! Our family consists of Mark, Candice, Grant, Nicholas, Sebastian and a prideful little scotty dog named Dickens. I met Mark when I moved across the country the day before my senior year of high school started. I wish I could say it was love at first sight but really due to a rather large miscommunication when we first met it was more of a Pride and Prejudice situation. To say we barely tolerated each other is an understatement. It wasn’t until the end of the year when we were cast as husband and wife in the high school play that we stopped trying to avoid each other completely.
He moved away after high school and it wasn’t until he came back when I was a junior in college getting my BFA in photography that we knew we were in love. We were married just a few months later. We have been married for almost 15 years now and I’ve loved him every minute of it. (There is a lot more to the story including the time I set him up with my best friend…but we will just leave it at this!)
Mark is currently a Theatre Professor at a University here in San Antonio, and I teach photography online.
Grant is a new teenager and is everything Mark and I are not: brilliant at math and science with a deep love of rules and organization. I’m very grateful that there is someone in this house who loves that stuff.
Nicholas, formerly known as Cole, has decided that at the age of ten his nickname is too young for him. He also changes his name from Cole to Nicholas every Christmas season. He is charming, funny, and can make friends with anyone.
Sebastian is two. That means that you can see that there is an eight year gap between his brother and him. We waited for him to join our family for a long time and it was well worth it. He’s super smart and full of life. He pretty much rules the rest of us with his adorable demands.
Q: How did this house become your home?
A: We moved to San Antonio from Brooklyn, New York. Mark was working as an actor and I was working for a major camera company teaching and shooting. We enjoyed life there so I really didn’t think that we would leave anytime soon, and had made my peace with apartment living. In a surprise life twist, Mark came into contact with an old professor where he went to undergrad. They offered him a job, and we decided that it would be a better choice for our family at that time. It would mean that Mark would have more consistent hours. The life of a theater actor is a hard one in many ways; one of which is the fact that you are leaving for work around the time your children get home from school so you miss out on a lot. We felt like this would give us a chance to be together more.
How we found our home is a funny story, I am notoriously bad at making choices when it comes to housing. I can spend months looking for an apartment to rent. So Mark was so scared that I would never be able to choose a home to buy.
I’ve always dreamed of living in an old victorian or something with a ton of character, and there just isn’t anything like that in our price range and area of town here. I knew that we were going to be in something new and in a suburb. It was hard for me to accept that because it just wasn’t the life I imagined for myself. But once I did I made a list of things that I really wanted.
The number one thing? A house with tons of light and northern windows in the family room. Our realtor thought that was super weird but it was important to me. I found our house online. I never saw it in real life before we bought it. I just felt like it was right. I wasn’t able to go to San Antonio because of work so Mark flew down and looked at it. He liked it so we put in an offer and it became ours just a short two months later. That’s not to say owning this home has been perfect or easy! Our moving company got in an accident on the way down here, and when they opened the truck at our home most of our belongings were ruined. Then a year later our house was hit by a small tornado and it took off half of the roof, flooding the house with rain so we had to redo a lot of it. Why it wasn’t the half with the kitchen that I actually want to redo I’ll never know. It’s becoming a running joke that the one house I picked quickly and felt good about is the house that the most has gone wrong with. But, what can you do?
Q: What makes you love the place you live?
A: This is a hard question because even after four years I’m still learning to love it here. There are so many good things about San Antonio, though, so I try to remember that when I wish that I’m living in a bigger city or when I miss living near my parents and siblings in my hometown. San Antonio is a wonderful city for families. There are tons of things for children to do, including Sea World, Six Flags, a great zoo, and a children’s museum. There is history in the form of the Alamo and the other missions, and the world famous McNay Art Museum is right down the street from Mark’s work.
Q: You’re so good at decorating, but especially good at celebrating the holidays! What are your top three decor tips when it comes to styling your home?
A: I think anything in multiples looks good. My Mom and I call it the Anthropologie theory. You know how Anthro can take even the simplest item (like a piece of plastic) that seems super cheap and not that great on its own, but then use it 500 times in a display and suddenly it’s stunning and you just love it? I feel that way about decorating, too. Paper stars are so simple, but throw a few hundred on a golden branch over your table and it’s a major statement without spending much money.
I love having fresh greens or living things in each room. I just feel like it makes the space feel alive. Around Christmas, it’s not hard to gather up branches and items around your yard to do that. We have cedars everywhere here in San Antonio, so I just cut a few and used them around the house.
I don’t know if it looks like a lot or not but I actually only have a few boxes of “Christmas” decorations. I like to change things up each year instead of keeping everything the same, so I make a lot of things and I use a lot of things that are more generic and just move things around to make displays.
Q: Everything looks so perfect! How do you involve your kids in the Christmas decorating?
A: Well, I do have three boys: a teenager, a ten year old, and a toddler. So, for the most part, they aren’t interested at all in helping me decorate. In fact, I’ve even asked myself why I do it! But I grew up with a Mom who is an amazing decorator and made the holidays feel like magic every year. I think it’s just a part of me to do the same. In fact, I know it’s because my sisters are exactly the same way; even though we all have different styles, each of our homes are winter wonderlands.
This year I actually told the boys that I was thinking about not really decorating and much to my surprise they all were sad and asked me to do it. They both told me that it just wouldn’t be the same without the decorations and that they loved it. Then they started to talk about all their favorite things we had done over the years for Christmas and it made me realize that, even though they complain when I start pulling it all out or I make them come and help me pick out the perfect tree, they secretly love it.
The only thing I really make them help with is decorating the tree and setting up the nativity. They actually seem to enjoy it. It helps that the older two can help out Sebastian. For some reason, even last year when he was one he liked looked at the tree and not touching it. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.
Q: What has been your best holiday decor idea?
A: Our advent calendar, for sure. My sister, Stephanie Ford, actually made it for me out of linen for Christmas one year and then I stamped the numbers on in different fonts. Instead of candy, we do an activity or service for each day. It is so much fun, and even through they are older they still look forward to it.
I don’t typically decorate with figurines and images of Santa because I really like the focus to be on the spiritual/giving side of Christmas, but I really, really love the painting of Santa Claus I have in our entry because it isn’t actually Santa Claus. It’s a painting my Grandma painted of my Grandpa. It’s from a photograph that I took of him dressed as Santa one year to illustrate the Night Before Christmas when I was in school. He has since passed away but my Grandpa was as close to a real Santa Claus as there could be. All kindness and joy with a quiet smile in his eyes all the time. We all miss him and I hope this painting stays in my family forever.
Q: Tell us the idea on your wish list every year that still hasn’t happened.
A: My grandparents have a cabin at Lake Tahoe, and I’ve always tried to get my whole family to go there for Christmas. I picture all of my siblings, their spouses, my parents, and all of our children showing up a week before Christmas and cutting down a tree and decorating it with popcorn, cranberries, and homemade ornaments.
In my dreams we get snowed in right after loading up on groceries and we spend the whole week cooking, watching old movies, and building snowmen with the kids. Someday I WILL make this happen.
Q: What do you hope your kids will remember about your holiday decorating and this home? What traditions do you hope they’ll keep forever?
A: I hope they remember the holidays as magic. That there is something about serving others, and there is power when the focus during the holidays is on love. I hope they feel like Scrooge at the end of a Christmas Carol when he says, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
We have a lot of Christmas traditions in our family so I don’t expect them to keep them all, but I do hope they will choose a few to take with them to their future families. That would be lovely.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids?
A: My favorite part about getting to live with my children is that I feel like I “get to” live with them. They are all amazing little people who teach me so much. I really, really love our time together as a family and I am extremely protective over it. I have learned to say no to extra activities more and more often because I just really enjoy being with my husband and children at home more then anything else.
I am surprised by so many things about my children, but mainly, how much of us are in them and yet how different they each are.
I read an article once that talked about how we always know when a first is happening, but we never know when a last is happening until we look back on it. I get so sad sometimes that there are lasts; a last time they hold your hand on the way to school, a last time asking for an extra bedtime song, a last time they believe you know all the answers. I miss every last, but at least it is usually followed by a new first.
I try to remember this. I love that I can have real in depth conversations with my teenager now as he tries to figure out the world.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me that I CAN’T do it all; not that I don’t have the ability, but that time and energy prevent it from happening. Even though I know people are trying to be nice when I’ve heard myself being referenced as someone that does do it all, they should know that I do what I do because I have chosen not to do something else. I can’t do it all. No one can.
Every time I choose to do something, I’m giving up doing something else. Life is a balancing act, and to think that I don’t have to give up on some smaller goals so that others can thrive is just wrong. What I love most and what I value most gets the most effort, and things fall down the list from there.
I guess I just wish that someone had told me that the things that I thought were so, so important when I was young would change as I got older. And that it was not just okay, but it would be an important part of growing up – a sign of maturity and knowing truly who I am as a person. I think this is universal. We can’t do it all, but we choose what we want to do. It’s the choices between one thing or the other that defines us in the end.
Candice, I’m so grateful for the holiday cheer you sprinkled all over your tour, plus your wise, wise reminder: “…we always know when a first is happening, but we never know when a last is happening until we look back on it.” I always seem to forget this, no matter how much I try to keep a close eye out for lasts.
Truly, between Candice and my sister, I feel like I really need a black room in The Treehouse! Would you ever?