I didn’t have any holiday home tours planned for this year, and then two of the most interesting and entertaining women just up and appeared in my inbox. Rachel is one of them, and I’m so excited to share her with you.

I love seeing festive decor in other people’s homes, and this tour shows us how Rachel does it in a rather sunny, snow-free climate. Think holly berry wreaths and bright signs and colorful garlands hanging here and there. I love how friendly and fresh it all looks. (Even the two shots that show Barber House as it might look on a random laundry Wednesday! You’ll grin when you see them.) I hope it will inspire you, too.

Next week’s tour is total opposite in temperature. I can’t wait for you to see. Until then, let’s enjoy our time at Rachel’s!

My name is Rachel Haack and I’d love to welcome you all to our home: Barber House!

We purchased this 110 year old house in 2014. It was built in 1905 and first owned by a man named Charles Barber. Charles worked as a janitor for the local high school. I believe houses, no matter where you live, are even more meaningful when given a name. We decided on Barber House in honor of Charles the janitor. I like to imagine what life was like for his family here way back yonder.

I married my high school sweetheart, Tyler, at the ripe old age of 20. I can say without a doubt that this man is the single greatest, most undeserved gift I’ve ever received. I’ll never know how he puts up with me. We were practically babies at the time of our marriage, in the middle of our sophomore semesters of college, and utterly ignorant and confident (as my Grandpa would say). Growing up together and growing our family has been the best adventure of my young – and now older – life. We’re going on 13 years of marriage this year and have four daughters. We are also expecting our fifth baby this May.

Tyler is an Professional Engineer by trade and manages a precast concrete manufacturing company. I am currently a stay-at-home mom full time, and a part-time student completing my Masters in Clinical Psychology. I decided that after the work of full-time motherhood and marriage I will need to spend the rest of my adult life and career regularly surrounded by a team of therapists. Ha!

During my early college years, I spent too much money on eventually unapplied credits as an interior design major. I had a personal epiphany that my love of design had more to do with the psychology of design than anything else. A professor once reminded me that design is psychology. I couldn’t agree more, and for me, my deepest interests lie in knowing more about our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as human beings.

My interest in cultivating a space has everything to do with how it makes you personally feel, how it makes you think, and how it helps you grow.

My husband has been an amazing team player all along, supporting every one of my future academic and career goals. We first put him through school full-time while he continued to work full-time as well – the poor man rarely slept – from his undergrad in Civil Engineering and through an MBA.

I taught piano from home to supplement our income and continued my undergrad work in between pregnancies and babies when I could until I finished. Now, he handles our kids and dinner/homework on my class nights. Life is busy, but it’s all we’ve ever really known!

I plead guilty to being an overly-gushing mother, but man, our daughters are where it’s at for us.

Lily is ten, a lover of science and adventure. She’s kept us on our toes since day one as parents: brilliantly curious and always up for a challenge.

London is eight: an avid reader, introvert, and deep thinker. But despite her shy tendencies, she has a remarkable proclivity for excessive, dramatic dancing when listening to any music.

Ellie-Jane is six: all sass and spunk and pure joy. A total firecracker. We joke that we should have named her Ellie-JOYne, because she brings excess levels of it with her into any room.

Emerson is four, and by far the most cuddled, babied and pampered child to have been in this home. There’s something anchoring about the youngest child in a family that you can’t help but gravitate around. She is both a total love-bug and a mischievous comedian at heart. She’s always up for a snuggle, climbing trees, living barefoot or completely naked, and swirling through our house like a manically destructive, happy tornado. She gets away with a LOT, surrounded by her big sister fan club.

We have yet to find out what baby number five will be. Of course, the big question from people is always if we are trying for The Boy. Occasionally I feel a nagging urge to remind them that we are no longer living in 16th century Tudor England, and as such won’t consider our fertility a failed endeavor if we only produce females.

This isn’t an either/or proposition for us. It’s entirely a both/and. We will be thrilled if we can get a boy. We will ALSO be thrilled if we get a fifth girl. You can’t venture into having five children without being forced to just let go and enjoy the ride. For us, God knows best and we will trust in that.

We live in Redlands, California. It’s a community east of Los Angeles, known as the Jewel of the Inland Empire. We moved here from Reno, Nevada and absolutely fell in love. I’ve always had a passion for classic books, antiques, old movies, and anything with some real depth and history to it, so Redlands was like taking a step into the good elements of the past.

It is a community that has taken good measure to preserve its large inventory of old homes. Some are in pristine condition and others need work. It’s so exciting when we see new owners move in and get to work on older homes in need of rejuvenation.

Many of the most stately homes were built in the late 19th century, as wealthy families from the East Coast came here on the railways to spend winters in a milder climate among the scented orange groves. The community benefited from wealthy donors of that age who supported the building of an amazing local library (that is still beautifully preserved and so fun to visit), as well as the cultivation of various parks filled with an amazing varieties of trees.

We have a thriving old YMCA building that is still bustling with community activities. They have hosted a special kids circus for the past 70 years and it is the cutest, most well done community event I’ve been too. They have also run a special holiday home tour for the past 50 years for charity. We were completely honored this year when they asked us to open up our home for a tour. We had over 800+ people come through our home at the beginning of the month. Only a mildly stressful event to prepare for – Ha! Right! I’d never do it again but am also so glad we did.

The only reason I have pictures to share today is because it’s quite literally the only time every room has been clean simultaneously. A true Christmas miracle!

The house prices here are much like what you expect in Southern California: daunting! We were fortunate to get this home, and honestly were only able to do so because it was in need of work. It had been banked-owned for a few months so they were offering incentives to buy. It had a musty smell, an absolutely terrible kitchen, and a very boxy layout downstairs. (You can see more here, if you’d like!)

The first thing we did was open one wall and remodel the kitchen. We actually moved the kitchen into the original dining room space, which allowed us to convert an adjacent empty closet into a pantry – old homes are always low on storage space!

We’ve refinished the original wood floors, painted all the rooms and stairway, installed a new banister upstairs, and have slowly been working our way through plumbing fixtures and other various repairs.

We re-landscaped the yard this last summer, and that made a huge difference. It’s been a TON of work, and expensive, but there is a deep satisfaction that comes with bringing old things back to life and making a home your own.

Living in a older home is so fun! There is definitely a special charm to it, a certain good spirit that lingers inside a place that has been preserved. However, you have to be willing to let go and appreciate the quirks and imperfections, because there are many.

All of our rooms are much smaller than our previous homes, but what they lack in space they make up for in coziness and unique angles. I love the upstair’s slanted ceilings and doorways.

Our large, wooden windows are an absolute favorite feature of the house, but they are not energy efficient in the slightest. Our air conditioning system could use a serious upgrade but it’s more than we can afford right now. Also, we’ve had funky plumbing issues that have arisen: our water heater failing was the most recent Christmas present!

Our bathrooms are rather ugly but functional. My girls complain that their bathtub is weird. Ha! Divas! It’s just very small and stained beyond repair, even after a good cleaning.

I do our laundry on a dark back porch that has been boarded off with plastic siding. I certainly can’t wait for the day we remodel the bathrooms and create a laundry room.

You can never rest satisfied that all the work is completely done in an old home. I’ve had to make peace with an ever open to-do list, even when my personality is one that prefers everything done, and done now!

The single greatest delight has been feeling like we are raising our children more simply in an older area, hopefully teaching them that new and bigger and flashy isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be! Valuing our roots and celebrating tradition can be amazing and rewarding.

I have a very, very small potatoes blog. I’m like a local Mom and Pop shop kind of blogger. I started back in the day when everyone had blogs, and quickly became addicted to the space it gave me to reflect and celebrate my own life.

I like to share publicly simply because I appreciate it when others share with me. I love seeing other lives and perspectives; the plurality and beauty is so inspirational to me.

I’ve been very influenced for the better by other’s incredible lives and examples, and I’ve learned to think far outside of my usual box. Over time, my blog has become the only family record I’ve ever consistently kept. It’s entirely self-indulgent really. I don’t advertise or seek sponsorships, mainly because I’m too lazy and incompetent to figure it all out, but I also like to tell myself it’s because I just want the freedom to stay completely true to my core motivation: story-telling, home-life, reflection, and creativity.

I am also slightly afraid of large audiences, because they always seem to come with your new signature set of haters. I don’t know how all the big, amazing bloggers do it. I’m not dignified enough, nor do I have the good sense to let certain things be ignored. Any harsh words about my kids and Mama is gonna throw down. So, for the sake of the internet and humanity (as well as my own sanity), it’s a small-ish media world for me.

My favorite things to write about are the inside things: anything to do with consciously cultivating gratitude, awareness, and the celebration of the ordinary life around me. I love writing about being a parent, too. Kids are truly just the funniest, most bizarre creatures. They supply infinite material worth recording. Writing gives me the chance to express parts of myself that otherwise stay hidden. I like to write about vulnerabilities too: days when motherhood just totally bites or when I’ve become overly neurotic or confused about life. It can be clarifying to get it out.

More than anything, my hope is that when my children are grown they can someday read and get an idea of the truthful, beautiful story they gave me. I hope they will write their own stories.

I’ve met some amazing people through blogging. One friend I met online was another blogger who I actually had a terrible online fight with to begin. It happened years ago, and it’s the only gloves-off fight I’ve ever gotten into online. It was over a political issue (wah wah, face palm). I went insane briefly and we exchanged back and forth publicly, completely at each other’s throats.

I was easily the worst version of myself: attacking another person I had never even met and doing so publicly. It can be easy to lose the human in the fight over an idea. You can falsely feel more brave because you are behind a screen and can carefully craft your words to inflict the most sarcasm and damage.

Later, she emailed me privately and said, “I just need to tell you I’m hurting.” It was like a ton of bricks slammed me. The humanity there, the courage to say something so vulnerable and real. I immediately broke with shame and told her how terribly I had felt over the whole thing and how I had been too afraid to apologize. It turned into an amazing, redemptive exchange.

We still differ in our opinions in a lot of ways, but it was the best lesson for me. There are ways to talk and ways to disagree that can be healthy and even expansive, but it takes a boatload of self-awareness and discipline. We can dissect ideas without dissecting other human beings. I sincerely LOVE this writer, even when I disagree with certain opinions. I am always excited when she posts something. She’s brilliant and feisty and says what she thinks. I celebrate that now and hope we do better as women in general about appreciating the goodness in each other even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.

I have become addicted to long walks and exercising by myself. I listen to music (sometimes classical, sometimes meditative, other times entirely inappropriate jams that I would never allow my children to listen to but love because it makes me feel just a tad rebellious and alive) and meander through my neighborhood or favorite park. Sometimes I have to bust a move. It’s all a very sexy scene: me, pregnant, at 6:00 am, dancing in sweatpants and old sneakers behind a large bush in the park. I need this therapy daily if I have any chance of surviving our life.

Decorating for the holidays for me is all about the gluttonous joy of a full home! I fill it up, and every season allow myself to add one or two (or three) items to our growing collection of holiday decor.

Our holiday ornaments are my favorite. Every year my mother-in-law gives us each a new ornament. We pull them out and can remember each year and the memories while we decorate our tree. I like a more traditional look downstairs but upstairs in the kids’ area I love to add lots of color and cheer. After the New Year I’m so ready for the great home purge: I overhaul, edit, minimize, and reorganize everything.

I hope my children remember a general feeling of their childhood more than lots of specific details. I want it to be one of comfort, freedom, and that lovely, deep-seated belly warmth when they reflect on their young lives.

But if they do remember details, I hope it will include all the good times spent on the tree swings their Dad made and the sound of our creaky wood floors. I hope they will remember our sweet, elderly neighbors who love and look after them and wave hello every day. I hope they remember regular traditions we try to keep, like baking cookies on rainy days, family movie nights and reading Harry Potter or Little House on the Prairie books together.

I also not only want, but expect them to know how lucky they are. Living in this free country, living in a home, having good food to eat, with parents and a large family who adore them: all of this comes with the responsibility of not becoming an unaware, entitled bunch of divas. I expect them to contribute and live outside of themselves.

I hope they forget about how unhinged I became on certain days. I hope they forget the time I completely lost it when they smashed blueberries into my new rug…or screamed at everyone on our way to church when I discovered someone ate my lipstick…or literally drove two year-old Lily to my parents’ house and said “TAKE THIS MONSTER” when she dumped our cocoa powder all over the sofa.

I hope they forget all the times they are late to school…or how I bribed them with our entire stock of ice cream in the freezer to leave me alone and stop speaking for at least 30 minutes. Oh gosh, there’s so much I hope they don’t remember!

I’m a passionate Mama. This comes in the form of full blown, enthusiastic joy while parenting them in good times AND the corresponding, sometimes embarrassing loss of self-control of when I’m running on high levels of stress and low levels of sleep.

I’m working on it.

I’m afraid my children may accurately say someday, a la Dickens, She was the best of mothers, she was the worst of mothers.

The absolute best thing about living with my girls has been observing the separate personalities. Tyler and I experienced this incredible gift of infinite love for each of these individual, unique girls.There are no words for the staggering levels of cute that have graced our home, the little girl giggles and voices, the silliness, the pure goodness.

Strangers always tell Tyler how sorry they feel for him, a man with four daughters! If only they understood the magic.

We got lucky.

I already miss their small, rounder faces and their pudgy toddler bodies. I’ve become conflicted over recording home videos because every time I go back and watch them I cry and ache. I miss their little-itty-bittyness already. It’s been such a good ride.

I wish someone had told me that so much of the good advice is actually incredibly hard to implement, and sometimes no matter how you apply it you come out feeling like you’re still coming up short. Advice like “Just say no more often“ and “Simplify” and “Take care of yourself first.”

Sometimes these separate bits of advice are just flat out contradictory, given the circumstances. There are instances when I need to remember “It’s not about me” and other times when I need to “Put myself first.” There are times when it is good to simplify and others when special details make all the difference.

And the worst realization has been that there will be no magic wizard directing me which situation is which.

I feel guilty a lot, for all the things left undone or people I had better intentions for. There is always a running list in my mind of things I’ve failed to do: thank you notes that went unsent, classroom events I didn’t help with, books I haven’t read to my children, exercise that didn’t happen, the unpaid library fine, a friend who could have used more time and attention than I gave, or the unacceptable current state of my toenails.

Just last night, when I recounted to my husband the stress of the past week, he replied in characteristically husband-like fashion, “You just need to say NO more.”

I had no choice but to press him on it: I get it. I get the theory. But WHAT do you propose I say no to? I’m going to need specifics here and not just fluffy ideals.

Do I say no to getting the teachers gifts for Christmas for all the teachers who are doing such wonderful jobs with our children, attending our children’s two separate award assemblies on the same day, helping with the class party that is short on staff, supervising homework, walking in the morning (my one thing for me!), sex with you tonight (odds aren’t in your favor right now, pal), feeding our children regular meals, the charity drive at the school for the family in need, paying the bills, mailing the packages, washing our stinky laundry pile, getting groceries for our now empty refrigerator, answering the 42 text messages about the girls’ upcoming schedules?

PICK WHICH BALL I SHOULD DROP, GUILT FREE.

I’m still waiting for the wizard. I think, in the meantime, the answer must lie with compassion. Towards myself. Towards others. I’m trying, you’re trying. We are all trying. And that is good enough. It’s got to be.

–-

Favorite two lines I had to separate into their own paragraphs just so they’d get the attention they deserved? The first is “I’m working on it.” And the second is “We got lucky.” I almost feel like they’re mantras of sorts…”I’m working on it” to be uttered during that late-afternoon time when the day is trying to unravel, and “We got lucky” whispered at the very end of the day after it hasn’t. Not fully.

Rachel, I loved this time with you so darn much. It was a gift and a joy. Perfect way to ring in the holiday, I have to say.

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.