Katie and her family who live in Friendswood, Texas. It sounds like the perfect place for Katie to live, because reading her profile you’ll see how friendly she seems. She’s a mom of 5 younger kids and was staying home with them before the pandemic even started, so she has some good perspective on keeping kids involved.

Also, it was interesting to learn that Katie has an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos, which was something I didn’t know a lot about. It affects her thyroid which is what regulates all the hormones in the body, so it’s something that can have big challenges and requires a lot of care. One more thing I should note: Katie’s house is totally gorgeous! You’ll love peeking around. Welcome, Katie!

Hi! We are the Chandlers! My husband Ben and I met in Austin, Texas at a college bar (but through a friend). We started chatting and the rest of the night I felt like we were in our own little bubble. I knew I was going to marry him right away, he was not like anyone I had ever met!

He was living in San Antonio and I was still at UT, so he drove 15 hours back and forth the first week we dated! So I figured he must like me too.

I had already planned to move to Chicago after college, and told him he should come too (after only dating two months!). He eventually made his way up North and we were engaged the next year. We got married five months later and then moved to Houston two weeks after that to be close to our families. We often wish we had stayed in the Windy City a bit longer — probably because we were going on fun dates all the time!

Ben’s a finance guy and works in oil and gas here in Houston. I studied creative advertising, worked in media in Chicago, and have a little Etsy business where I hand make items and do digital design work. It’s mostly for me to have a creative outlet and feel like an adult. Oh, and I act as the contractor when we are doing any projects (sometimes a full time job)! 

My main occupation is to parent our 5 kids! I have realized that staying home has evolved for me… from spending every waking moment with my first born, to just making sure everyone is fed and occasionally bathed!  I think I was meant to have a lot of children just to keep me grounded and realize perfection is not attainable. 

I still battle finding the balance between homemaking, cleaning, and being a fun mom. Some days I am on one end of the spectrum, and other days, the complete opposite. 

Our kids are growing up too fast! Ella is our only girl and the oldest. She is more responsible than I am, super smart (probably more than me too), very organized, funny, and  just a joy to be around. She started making and selling masks during the pandemic to buy a bunny and loves her Meadow Rose!

Liam is 9 and is a passionate and competitive kiddo. He loves hanging out with his friends — so he’s enjoyed playing video games with his pals during the pandemic. I don’t mind when he begs me to play with him because he rescues me when I die.

Easton, our middle child, is easy going, loves to dance, has been an all star whistler since he was 2, and always makes us laugh. He only dresses in “handsome” clothes and strikes a model pose anytime I am taking pictures.

Maddox is 4 and has the most squeezable cheeks. I don’t want him to grow one bit! We only feed him candy and ice cream to ensure that he stays little and cute.

Jackson is almost 2. He makes us all melt and is obsessed with mowing and cleaning… typical toddler, right?! Ha! I can’t vacuum with him around, or he’ll steal it.

I love talking about our neighborhood. We live in Friendswood, Texas down the street from a creek and just a hop, skip and jump away from Sonic, the city park and, of course, Rise Cupcakes. We nailed it on location — smack dab in the middle of the little “downtown” area so we can still feel “hip” walking to things, but are in an amazing neighborhood jam packed with kids. 

There are only 40 something homes and over 60 kids in our little neighborhood. Our family still wins for the most kids — so we are the craziest! It is like living in a circle with a bunch of close friends. The moms in our neighborhood have been such treasures to me. We help each other out by watching kids on the fly, helping hang pictures, running together, and of course just talking about our crazy lives while our kids run around. When things are normal we usually have about 10 kids in our house on a daily basis, which I love.

The park across the street hosts farmers markets, movie nights, summer band series, Santa in the Park (complete with snow hill and tons of rides), Halloween festival, you name it. And all of the events are legit — they have been carefully planned and have taken place for decades to perfect the fun.

The street behind our house is the path for all the parades — we have the longest running 4th of July parade in the country and an awesome Christmas Parade (we were the nativity scene for our church’s float last year and won 1st place!).

Finding a church nearby where our kids would go to school with friends from church was also important to us. The schools in Friendswood are incredible. Teachers are always down on the floor building or working on experiments with the kids, singing, and colorful projects are hanging everywhere. It really is magical. It’s a teachers-stay-until-they-retire kind of place. 

Friendswood has all-around been the best move ever, I honestly can’t even think of anything negative.

Ben found our house online, because we always browsed houses for fun.  He was excited about the pool and trees. We took a tour and saw all sorts of potential, but knew it needed a lot of work. We decided to make an offer for a little over 340k, with the plan to eventually rip out and remodel the kitchen and downstairs area. 

Homes in our neighborhood have been selling for 495k, and all the houses are about the same size. Tips for buying in our area would be to find a house during an off-peak period. We put an offer on our house in February, before people usually start looking. Once you get into May and June, it’s hard to beat other offers.

After the inspection we learned that neither the furnaces or the AC worked. After moving in we discovered that the stove leaked gas, and the microwave and oven didn’t heat properly… so we decided to just go ahead and remodel ALL AT ONCE.

When we walked through the house initially, we kind of mapped out an idea that we ended up running with — we took down two walls to open the kitchen to the dining and living areas, and then we put up walls to enclose our new master closet and create a nook for our butlers pantry and to form our sunroom. 

I love how the new open layout works, and am so happy with how our vision really turned into a reality. It has been fun to get settled in more and fix up each space. It’s still a work in progress. I wouldn’t say remodeling is effortless, but it’s exciting, which outweighs the hard parts.

Having all that work done was a bit of a roller coaster. I loved designing it, but dealing with flaky contractors or having to be the contractor to make sure things were done right was pretty stressful. 

Half of our neighbors flooded during Hurricane Harvey and we moved in 6 months after the flood, so everyone was still recovering and having to rebuild during that time. But because we CHOSE to remodel, I felt like we had NOTHING to complain about. It was hard, but it was doable.

Living upstairs and having a make-shift kitchen worked until the carpenter started adding trim and covered everything in dust. But we live across the street from Sonic, so wacky packs happened quite a bit. I would buy frozen microwave veggies to try to add some health to our fast food meals. Ha! We didn’t eat super healthy but we knew it was temporary and we did our best. 

It was actually fun all being on the same floor as the kids. Ben and I had a TV in our room (which isn’t the norm for us), so sometimes we felt like we were in a fancy hotel watching movies in bed. I learned a lot about renovating and watched pretty much every step of everything the contractors did.

I was really happy with their work until one day they said they ran out of money, and then they started showing up less and less and eventually left us with a lot of work undone. Thankfully we found a crew to finish things up — and they are the same guys building our tree house right now!

My advice for someone wanting to remodel (especially a kitchen) would be to not live in it during the renovation if at all possible, especially with little kids. It was tricky because we couldn’t even use the pool or backyard with all the nails and tools everywhere. But if you have to live in the house, be sure to either change the air filter weekly or turn off the AC where work is being done. Create a “make shift” kitchen in a bathroom or available space with microwave items and lots of paper goods. 

It was tricky, but we just got creative and made things work. The hardest part for me was having all the stress in my head about dealing with the flaky contractor — it definitely affected my mood and patience.

Since the pandemic started, our life hasn’t changed too drastically. Their teachers made homeschooling easy by providing all the activities and realistic expectations. With summer, things are not as busy, but not too different. I guess we have been a lot less structured than past summers without “outings” we typically plan.

I’m usually worried I’ll go crazy during the summer, so I spend the last month of school planning fun things to do. I didn’t have any planning time this year, so it was kind of just a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants summer. And it’s worked fine. We drove up to our family cabin, which was a nice change of scenery and something the kids could get excited about. Thankfully we have a lot of fun nature to explore just outside our house, and I am SUPER grateful we have a pool. We recently decided to build a tree house for the kids to have a new fun place to hang out and create memories! 

Being in our home all the time just makes me love it more. I want to organize and finish projects that I haven’t finished!! I have slowly been replacing every door knob in this house. (And there are a lot because every bathroom has a tiny linen closet too!) I still need to paint Easton’s room and hang his pirate ship steering wheel. The list goes on… 

I was diagnosed with Hashimotos 9 years ago. My mom’s friend, who is an amazing natropath, told me I had no hormones. I was only 26, and I had no hormones?! I started to notice things more… I had almost zero patience, and I would get really frustrated easily, which wasn’t me. I had blood work done and I was diagnosed with Hashimotos, an autoimmune thyroid disease.

I was happy to know what was going on, but still had no idea how it all worked. It has taken me years and years to figure out several things… diet and exercise are huge for me and keeping my disease under control. I feel like if I’m not overdosing on veggies, I am a grump and can’t think clearly at all. 

The way I try to explain it is that the thyroid regulates hormones and when healthy it’s constantly working up and down based on daily stresses, etc.  But on medication your thyroid is operating on a level plane.  So stresses are harder to deal with because your hormone levels don’t fluctuate to account for the change. 

As far as how things have changed for our family — I feel like my husband has an incredible amount of patience with me, and I try to warn him when I’m not feeling well. When I’m not well I REALLY struggle with even small amounts of stress, so our home dynamic and atmosphere can really affect my mood/patience level. I usually need to be alone, so walks or drives help. 

It has been really nice having Ben home during the pandemic. Being home and less busy has also help me focus on self care — so I have been feeling great. I am always trying to learn more about how to be well and always happy to talk Hashimotos!  

I have always spent a lot of time with my kids, so I don’t feel like I’ve learned anything new during this time home with them — I have really enjoyed the time together on most days, and on others I feel like I can’t get anything done! 

But I just try to remember that little special moments are ones that count, and to not turn down a request to play. I think my favorite game is hide ’n seek because I can tidy while I seek! Ha! But really, when I stop what I’m doing and play, everyone’s buckets seem to fill up and they play better throughout the day. I forget this a lot, but I try to remember.

I wouldn’t say that COVID or being home has changed the way I parent either. Our only new routines are bringing masks if we leave the house and not spending time with our friends like we would normally. Oh. And watching more TV than normal.   

Sometimes, living with five kids makes me see my greatest weaknesses and cringe. But it makes me want to change and make those things better. I get impatient, unkind and anxious — but I am thankful that I can step back, refocus and start new each day. 

My kids inspire me to try harder and be better a little every day. They inspire me to walk the walk and to set an example for them. They inspire me to be creative and think of fun things to do! It’s really hard some days and I make a TON of mistakes, but I love asking my kids for forgiveness so they can see that I am not perfect. 

Sometimes I forget that I don’t have to do this thing called “life” feeling lost or alone (which sometimes, I’m there). My struggles have helped me to go to Him for patience and forgiveness. Knowing that I don’t have to carry my burdens and all the mistakes I’ve made, is incredibly freeing. We are all just people and all we can do is try our best each day to show others love.

I hope they remember the fun we have as a family, and feeling loved. I hope they remember stories, snuggles and songs from bedtime and not frustrations. I hope they forget all the times I lose it, and remember the sweet connections we all have. I hope they remember all the fun they had hosting neighborhood camps, swimming in our pool and exploring the creek. I hope they remember all the games we played, the fun we had, and not me getting frustrated about our house being a mess, or times that they got in trouble. I hope they remember all the fun dates we take them on and all our fun family traditions (we have a lot!).

I love hearing all the cute things they say. I love when they come downstairs in the morning and have huge smiles and say “I love you”. I love going exploring with my kids and experiencing new things together. I love chats about life and stories at bedtime. I love sewing with my kids, and when they teach me something new. I love laughing and playing games and building forts or pillow mountains. 

When I actually stop and just play, I am always so thankful and never regret the time spent with my kids. They get SO excited that I’m interested in what they are doing. I am thankful that I am reminded of cute things my older ones did when their little brother does the same thing, or something similar. I also am reminded of things I miss as they grow up — like Ella used to always sing when she was a toddler, and now she is singing with a local theater group. Liam has always been really fast (even as a crawler!) so I love watching him play football. I love hearing Easton whistle — which he has done since he was two — so maybe he will be a musician one day!  Maddox is a master snuggler, and I hope he’s always up for a snuggle and looks at me with his smiling eyes and says “I love you”.

I do miss their little voices and when they said things wrong like “hold you me” for “hold me” or “no away” for “go away”. It’s fun to still have a baby around, but he doesn’t have any cute speech impediments (like Liam did) and somehow he speaks like he’s a big kid (gosh he even has a deep voice!).  But he still says cute things like “help Dada mow” — which he says A LOT! When any of my kids smile or laugh they melt me.  

As a new parent, trust your instincts rather than others people’s advice. Don’t worry about doing things perfectly. All your kids need is love (and food, shelter and water! ha!)

I went into parenting thinking I should do things perfectly. I am 16 years older than my youngest brother, so I thought I knew the ropes pretty well. BUT I WAS WRONG! Nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights, cringing while nursing every time your baby latched (or didn’t), or catching baby poop mid air during a messy diaper change (happened to Ben). I felt like I couldn’t ask for help because I should know how to do it.

As a new mom you worry so much about your kid being “on track” with learning or potty training or sleeping or behavior. And all those topics become sore subjects. Any time I would get advice, I would feel judged and like I was failing. But really, it was fine. It was really hard, but we figured things out our way and did what worked best for us. 

Our kids still don’t sleep through the night and take 10 hours to put to sleep, but hopefully they will have fond memories of our evening stories and snuggles and songs. My kids have always dressed themselves (I only get to pick when we do our annual photoshoot) and Jackson is usually just wearing a diaper. He will either dump a found water on himself or help me water the plants, so clothes don’t last that long for him. And that’s okay. 

Having 5 kids has made me care less about the silly things that don’t matter. I just try my best to play with them, feed them and help them see the beauty in our world and other people. And to love them hard. 

——

Thank you, Katie! I appreciate so much Katie talking about her experience with Hashimotos. I had heard of the disease before, but I didn’t know a lot about it and it sounds like the kind of things that Katie needs to do to stay happy and healthy are the things that most of us can be reminded to do more often — vegetables, exercise, taking a walk. It’s great advice for all of us to keep things running on a more even keel.

I also really loved what Katie said about how kids really reveal our weaknesses to ourselves much of the time. Isn’t that the truth? You see your kids doing something frustrating and immediately recognize the root of that behavior is something they learned from you. Or you find yourself screaming at your kids and telling them to stop screaming. But like Katie says, we’re all just people and we try again the next day to do better.

Are there less-than-desirable behaviors you recognize in your kids that you just know they learned from you or your partner? How do you navigate around that? Is it hard to hold your kids to a standard that you struggle with too?

SOURCES

World Market Coffee Table

West Elm Pendant Lighting

Delta Kitchen Faucet

Ella’s Bed Canopy


Photo editing credit to Katie’s sister Megan. You can check out Katie’s Instagram here and her Etsy Shop here. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com