By Gabrielle.

Goodness, but I adore Julie. She seems like the sort of person who’s incredibly happy with her everyday; that friend who pinches herself during even the littlest of mundane moments. Like loving any excuse to say that something or someone is “in the barn.” Isn’t that the cutest? And then there’s her mixed feelings when her youngest pops up in the middle of the night; we’ve all wished for a good night’s sleep, but when it’s almost nearing reality…sleepless doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

Friends, I think you’re going to be quite taken with this tour – with both the open spaces and the open answers. Welcome, Thomas Family!

Q: Please tell us about the family who lives on this gorgeous piece of land.

A: Hello, and welcome! I live with my husband, who also happens to be my college sweetheart, and our three full-of-life sons.

Hudson, ten, has a big heart, is a passionate football and basketball player, plays the guitar, enjoys the outdoors, is a great big brother, and a fun all-around guy. Noah, seven, is our resident comedian, creative and thoughtful, loves to whittle (yes you read that right), wows us with his Lego building and video gaming skills, and plays the piano with gusto. Lincoln, four, is a sweet, happy little boy who stays busy keeping up with his brothers, is crazy about sports, and has daily make-believe football and baseball games – all in which he is undefeated.

Q: How did this house turn into your home?

A: For many years we dreamed of a country home with property where our boys could have some wide open spaces to play and explore. My husband would imagine late summer nights, catching up with our sons around a bonfire. I dreamt of a place where the boys could play freely without me yelling, “Car!” every few minutes. (The last road we lived on had become increasingly busy!) We hoped for a mini-farm where we could learn together the joy and responsibility of caring for some animals. While our house was spacious, we had outgrown the yard. We were looking for a place with additional outdoor space that would be welcoming for our extended family and friends.

Over the years, we looked at many houses, but the doors always seemed to close due to possible job relocation, finances, timing, didn’t quite feel right, etc. During this time, I struggled because I knew I had so much to be thankful for and didn’t want to be materialistic…yet the dream for a change in lifestyle for our family was so strong, I could almost taste it. The challenge was to continue to hope, dream, and trust without becoming discouraged or discontent.

When our real estate agent showed us this home – with over two acres of mostly fenced, flat land, a charming country house, a barn, and a chicken coop – we knew that this was it. It was all that we had ever been looking for. And can I tell you how glad we were that none of those other places had worked out? It was truly worth the wait. Though I know happiness is not a place, not a day has gone by that I haven’t whispered a prayer of thanks.

Q: What makes you love where you live?

A: I love that my parents and my sister and her family live close by; we have a wonderful support system here. I love that each time we drive home down the long gravel driveway, we can exhale and breathe more freely in our own space without worrying that we are too loud or are bothering the neighbors. We are not a quiet family. I love watching the boys run through the yard with their new puppy, Charlie. (They had asked for a dog each Christmas for years… and we were so happy to be able to give them one this year.)

I love any excuse to say that something or someone is “in the barn.” Kind of ridiculous I know, but that phrase just makes me want to pinch myself! I also love all of the windows in the house: we get a lot of natural light, and living in the Seattle area, I can’t underestimate the importance of this!

Although the Seattle area is not inexpensive, it is more reasonable to live here than Orange County, California where we moved after getting married in 2000. I don’t think living at a place like this would have been possible financially for us there. Like, ever!

I love that there can always be more dreams here…for special gatherings, additional animals, and home projects.

Q: When does your home work best for your family?

A: Besides when everyone is sleeping peacefully in their beds (ha!) I think our home works best on the Saturday mornings when we’re in no hurry to get dressed and gone. Whether we are eating breakfast as a family or each doing something different that we enjoy, we are home and happy to be greeting the new day together!

Another time our home works well is when the boys’ cousins come over and a great big game of Capture The Flag ensues. They take off running, laughing, and screaming through the barn and pastures, and we are reminded how happy we are to be here.

Q: How intentional are you in making sure each living area adds to your boys’ lives (and yours, too!) Have you edited at all so far to make a room more livable for you all?

A: When I decorate, I like to think about how a room or a home looks and feels. Is it warm and inviting? With my boys, I ask a different question: what will they DO in here? As their Great-Grandpa says, “Busy boys are good boys!”

And it’s true. They are active and most times need to be busy doing something. With that in mind, Hudson’s room has a whole wall turned chalkboard for him to draw football and basketball plays and to keep score for darts. In Noah’s room, he has a Lego table, with buckets of Legos stored beneath.

In Lincoln’s room, he has a football and baseball field mats for his train table that he can play games with his mini sports figures.

In our last house, we hardly used our formal living room. I didn’t want that to happen again. So, in this house our living room is used for many things from piano and guitar practicing to video gaming.

I am thankful to have a large laundry/mud room. Since I spend a fair amount of time there, we dedicated the bottom large built-in drawer for small toys like cars, planes, and animals that can easily be accessed and quickly put away. There is also a small basketball hoop that the boys enjoy when not shooting hoops out in the barn.

We use the hayloft portion of the barn for a rec room. There’s a ping pong table and foosball table up there, and we imagine this space will get increasingly used as the boys get older and have their friends over!

Q: With so much space, what are the rules your boys must follow when out exploring? Any danger preparedness happening?

A: One of the first things we did was nail the hay loft door shut. It had a scary drop to the cement below. We also had a security system installed in the house, which chimes each time a door is opened or closed. I love this feature! Keeping track of everyone became a lot easier.

I can check on the boys easily from the many windows that look out to the yard and pastures. But, since Lincoln is only four, I am usually still with him while he is outside, especially when his brothers are in school.

Q: What do you love most about living on so much land, and what scares you, too?

A: Although we enjoy the country feel, we are under 15 minutes drive to the boys’ school and our church, and 30 minutes from Seattle. So, we are not what you would call remote.

But I will say that we are far enough out that the darkness at night was an adjustment. We were used to streetlights and neighbors close by, which lit up our street at night. Here, it is very dark at night and I felt a little lonely once the sun went down – especially the first few weeks. Now we are used to it and on clear nights the starry sky is incredible!

So far, I haven’t been frightened by any critters…but come spring, we will see! I have traded my high heels in for Muck boots, which seem to give me an added sense of security should anything try to attack my ankles!

We are just far enough from a grocery store that I think twice about going. I try to tie in shopping while I am already taking a trip into town.

Q: What do you hope your boys remember about their home and especially you during this time in their childhoods? The good, the bad, and the sometimes not-so-cute!

A: I hope my boys remember childhood with a sense of wonder. I hope they think of home as a warm place they always felt wanted, accepted, and loved. I hope they remember being celebrated each birthday.

I hope they know they are my heart and the very best part of me. I hope they remember how much joy they brought their Dad and me. I hope they remember how we loved being with them. I hope they don’t remember how busy and tired I sometimes feel…just striving for balance in the carpool lane! If they do, I hope they remember me through the filter of how much I love them.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own children? What has shocked you the most about being a mom?

A: My favorite part of living with my own children is the deep love and connection we share, along with comfort and the freedom to be ourselves.

I also love the energy and life that our boys bring to our family. We may be exhausted, but we are never bored or lonely these days! I am always surprised that the pace of life rarely slows down – school projects, sports practices, music lessons, art docent, and on!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me to remember to be in the moment and to look forward to each new stage in my children’s lives.

I have had seasons of motherhood where I have really struggled with mourning the passing of babyhood, toddlerhood, and various childhood milestones. I think it is fueled by the realization that my children are growing up so quickly. It’s also that I love these days of togetherness and childhood “magic” so much. It’s hard to imagine any other time in life will be quite so wonderful (though let’s keep it real – there are some VERY hard days and nights mixed into these wonderful years!).

I woke up the other night hearing the patter of little feet and saw the sweet mop of bed-head coming around to my side of the bed. As I reached down a hand to help our four-year-old up, I thought how we are on the tail-end of these days. For so many years I have dreamed of a good night’s sleep and we’re almost there…I got so sad.

I think it’s natural for these realizations to hit us as moms. What I don’t think is inspiring is when I let myself park there for too long. I certainly don’t want to waste the time I have with my children now!

One way that I’ve found that seems to slow down the clock is to be emotionally present in the moment. Sounds easy, but is hard to do as a busy mom. When I choose not to let my mind multi-task and do something like play a short baseball game with my sons in the front yard, I can soak up their cheers, their stride as they run the bases, and all the details I would have missed had my mind been wandering. These are the moments that become memories.

So while it can be hard to watch my babies growing up, the truth is I love who my sons are becoming.

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Oh, Julie! Yes to filters on our kids’ recollections of us – here’s hoping Valencia is still around to add even more magic to their memories! Thank you so much for adding your sweetness to our day.

Friends, I’d love to hear if an out-of-the-way home thrills you or scares you. Would you miss the streetlights and the glow of your neighbors’ houses at night? Do you dream of your own wide open space, or do you prefer living close to others? Personally, I think Julie’s set-up is just right: not too far and not too close! Oh! And since some of you expressed an interest in seeing the family behind the home tour, here is the very cute Thomas family over the holidays!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.