Every family can be busy and hectic in their own way, but I was struck by how many complicated moving parts Cortissa and her husband are managing. They have 5 kids. Cortissa homeschools them. They produce, run, and star in a home design YouTube channel. And one of their kids lives in another state to attend intensive dance training.

But they seem to manage it all with grace and dignity. Cortissa’s home is a lovely and you’ll really enjoy getting to hear about their unique and fun family. Welcome, Cortissa!

In our home, my husband Larry (of 19 years) and I are enjoying life with our fun, frenetic, fabulous, five kiddos.

Zoe, our eldest, is 16 with an engagingly big personality. She has an extraordinary gift for making both friends and strangers feel special. Ballet is her passion, and for the last 2 years, she has been pursuing a professional ballet career at a Pre-Professional Ballet Conservatory in the Chicago area. I’ll share more about that unique journey in a bit.

Our second child is Brinley, age 13. She is the most socially, mentally, and physically mature 13 year-old I’ve ever met. Everyone, including her peers, think she is 16 or 17 years old. I truly believe she could mange the household and care for her brothers if charged with the task. She does have a funny, sarcastic side to her personality and is a loyal, caring friend. Her passion is volleyball, and she would love to play for a Division One College in the future.

After a long unexpected seven-year break in the action our third child and first son, Hezekiah, arrived. I turned 40 a month later! We were thrilled to finally have number three. However, I have to admit that starting all over at 40 took me a little time to wrap my mind around. Hezekiah (age 5) is extremely smart and creative. He loves challenging himself to build new complex creations with his Legos, and he’s really good at it. He is also always ready with a ninja/karate move to fight off any bad guys.

Fourteen months later came Jeremiah (age 4), who was a welcomed surprise. I really wanted our first son to have a brother to grow up with. Jeremiah is our cuddle bug that loves hugs, kisses, and playing with his brothers. He is probably my most sensitive and affectionate child, but also the most physical (completely opposite…I know). He loves to tackle, wrestle and play a really physical game of tag!

A few months after a stressful move from Chicago to Southern Illinois by myself with a newborn, a toddler, and two tweens, we discovered I was pregnant with baby number five, Nathaniel, now age 3. My husband went ahead of us months earlier to help open a new store location for his previous company. Nathaniel was a surprise in more ways than one!

First, I thought to myself, “I am too old for eggs to be dropping this fierce!” Second, after four healthy children we were told at my 20-week ultrasound that our son has a serious congenital heart defect. The right ventricle that pumps blood to the lungs is not developed.

This obviously was devastatingly shocking news to our family. We relied on our faith to get us through. We had no idea what to expect. The cardiologists told us that it could be far worse than just a non-functioning right ventricle. He could have problems with other organs and overall development. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t know for certain till after he was born.

No matter what the outcome we chose to see this child and circumstance as a “Gift from God”. His name means “Gift of God”.

The one word I can use to describe our son Nathaniel is “miracle”. He has been exceeding doctor’s expectations since birth. Just looking at him you would have no idea that he’s had two open chest heart surgeries and several “minor” (they are all major to me) heart procedures, with more soon to follow.

Speaking of surprises, two years ago we were pleasantly astonished to be relocating to the Nashville area for my husband’s new job with Amazon. The funny thing is that it almost didn’t make the list of our three location preferences. Both Larry and I had heard good things about it and thought, “Why not?” Well I’m so glad we did.

We live about 20 miles east of Nashville in a town called Lebanon. Tennessee is our favorite of all the places we have lived. We absolutely love it here! Tennessee has friendly, kind people; lush green grass and trees, beautiful rolling hills with gorgeous natural rock, warm weather, and tons of family friendly activities.

We love our location. It is ideal, because our town is quaint with unique local shops, a beautiful state park, an old school theatre, and other wonderful offerings — but still close enough to access all the cool things Nashville has to offer.

The one thing we did not realize before moving here is how much the Nashville area has increased in popularity over the last 10+ years. We assumed since it is in the South we would get more for our money. Well we were sadly mistaken.

Our original plan was to find some land for our brood with a property we could fix up over time. Those expectations were quickly dashed. During the first conversation with our realtor, he told us, “About 100 people a day are moving to this area. So, if you see something you like act fast or it will be gone.”

I thought he was exaggerating, but soon found out it was reality. We would schedule to see a property and by the next day it would already be under contract. We acknowledged that we needed to increase our budget and change our priorities.

After a slightly frustrating and hurried house search, we decided on what has turned out to be the best option for our family during this season of life. To avoid spending more money on, and time in, temporary housing, we chose an “As Is” new-build property that was about three-quarters of the way complete. That meant we could not make any additions or subtractions to the building specifications.

The original buyer contract fell through, which opened the door for us to get this home that was ready one week prior to us needing to be out of our temporary housing. The timing was perfect.

Our home is just shy of 3,000 sq. ft. with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Our first floor layout is open and gives the boys plenty of room to run and play, including a clear runway from the front door to the sunroom. The boys love to push each other at high speeds back and forth in their Fisher Price “Cozy Coupe”.

We do not have the space for a dedicated playroom, so in several rooms within our home we have storage for toys and open spaces for play. I am a big believer in maximizing the functionality of your home. Since you are paying for it, you should get the most value out of every square inch of your home.

We live in a development. It’s a wonderful friendly community of homeowners that are helpful resources for each other with just about everything. Although being part of an HOA does restrict Larry’s creative nature, the upsides are the fun events throughout the year for all the families in our community.

Our specific street has only seven houses and we are thankful to have really great neighbors. We’ve never lived in a development before, but heard that the level of camaraderie here is not typical. The homes in our area range in price from high $200’s to mid $400’s.

We still hope to one-day move to a home with lots of land for our three boys to run free and a picturesque view. 

We have always been a homeschool family. When we started 13 years ago I knew nothing about it. I met a few moms who were homeschooling and loved the results I saw in their children. However, (full disclosure here) one of my biggest concerns was never having time to myself. Homeschooling is a huge commitment.

We weighed all our options and determined this would be the best fit for our family, and my husband was committed to helping me have much needed breaks. Although now with five children, Larry working a lot, and not having family close, by those lovely much needed breaks are non-existent.

I confess I do really need more balance in that part of my life. I’m committing to that in 2019…2020, but it is so much harder than I thought it would be to pull away from it all.

The things I love about home education are the flexibility it offers for our family life, that I can easily craft a different educational path for each of my children that helps them to soar with their strengths, and that it gives our family more time to volunteer and the children to pursue other interests.

Actually, what I have grown to love most about homeschooling is the precious time I get to spend with my children. As we all have seen and/or heard, the time goes by so quickly.

However, as in every part of life, not all homeschool days are perfect. We have many difficult days that cause me to question my decision. At the end of those days, I remind myself that for now, the benefits far outweigh any downsides for our family.

My advice to anyone considering homeschooling is to do your research and talk to other homeschoolers. Just like anything else, choose the curriculum and style of home education that works best for your unique family and individual students. Do not get discouraged if you have to try a few curriculums before you find the right one, what is best one year may not be right for the next year. Get connected with a good homeschool community. The relationship opportunities and resources it provides are invaluable.

To add to all the fun and frenzy that presently exists in our home, not long ago we decided to start a YouTube channel. Our channel is called “Make Your Space” where we show people how to create spaces in their home that they love and enjoy on a budget, while at the same time encouraging them to invite other people to enjoy those spaces with them.

We also include videos of how our crazy family does life. I always get comments on how much people like how we’ve decorated our home. I’m not a designer, nor do I have any skill, training or ability in that area (nor much money). I felt if I could do it, anyone could do the same in his or her own home.

The original motivation to create the channel was birthed out of a need to help support our daughter financially in pursuit of her ballet dreams. One day the idea for the show just came to me as I was cleaning my guest bedroom. In thinking more specifically about how I approach decorating my home on a budget, I was able to synthesize it into “7-Simple Steps”.  I had never done anything like this before and I dreaded being in front of the camera.

My husband and I do all the production of the videos, which includes idea generation, writing the content, lighting, filming, and creating a detailed shot sequence list for editing. Then our dear friend in Minnesota, Tamara Nolen, adds her editing magic and completes the physical editing process for us to then upload the videos on YouTube.

Our super cute logo was created by another dear friend and genius graphic designer, Kamaca Champion in Chicago. It’s an incredible amount of work, especially considering that my husband works full-time, and I manage our home and homeschool our five children.

That being said, one important piece that we have not been able to execute well on is the social media marketing. There is so much time and energy put into production that there is little left for that important piece. So, that is our next big thing to tackle.

We have learned so many things in this process. The most significant being that you can do just about anything you set out to do with a tremendous amount of hard work and determination.

Our ultimate goal for this project is to see the show get picked up by a major network, where homeowners receive a small budget then Larry and I help them using our “7-Simple Steps” to makeover a room in their home — while following our crazy clan on our own unique journey.

We truly desire to help people realize that they can have the home of their dreams right now within their budget — it’s about real people making spaces they can afford and enjoy at whatever stage of life they are in.

Earlier, I promised to elaborate more on the fact that my eldest daughter, Zoe, is pursuing her dream of becoming a professional ballerina with a premiere Ballet Company. What a challenging and exciting adventure this has been.

At age 14, she was offered an opportunity to live with a host family (that we know personally) during the school year to continue her training at the Ballet Conservatory she attended when we lived in Chicago. This was a huge decision for our family that we didn’t anticipate having to face this early on.

We knew this would be an opportunity for her to get the best technical training needed to reach her goals. But it was awfully hard releasing our daughter at such a young age. Although, it helped greatly, knowing very well the family and ballet environment she was going to be in.

For me personally, having to manage the logistics of her life and homeschooling long distance has been far more arduous of a task than expected. The most difficult part for our entire family is saying goodbye at the end of every visit. This decision to be separated has actually nurtured even closer relationships within our family. We treasure our time together immensely. In addition, this experience has fashioned wonderful opportunities for Zoe and has helped her grow and mature in numerous ways.

We are again facing a new curve in the road on this journey, confident that God will direct our steps. Soon, she will be off to a different Advanced Training Program for the school year and living with a new host family in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Upon entering our family of seven’s home it may look and feel as though you are entering a party of 20 or more people. Our choice to create an open, airy, tranquil layout and feel works well to encourage and balance the high-energy in our family. It allows for the boys to sail the seven seas on a pirate ship couch in the living room, the schoolroom rug to become a dance floor for our teenage girls, or a quiet area in the sunroom to enjoy conversation with friends.

All the spaces in our home are created so that adults and children alike can fully utilize and enjoy them.  

People always ask, “How do you keep your home nicely decorated when you have 5 children (3 of them boys ages 5 and under)?!” Here’s how I do it:

First, keep valuable/sentimental items up high. Second, don’t waste money on expensive furniture and décor. Then, have a few basic house rules, and be diligent about reinforcing them (i.e. no jumping on the furniture; you can run just not into the walls or furniture).

I always make sure everything has a “home”, a place to go when you and your children are done using it. And finally, keep a tube of super glue handy (learning to live with the imperfections of life have added character to my home and life).

We have a very eclectic style in our home. Our one income family budget requires that we work with and build off what we already have on hand. I love what we’ve been able to achieve in our home with minimal resources.

Over ninety percent of the items in our home came from one of the following sources: free second hand, estate sales, consignment, Goodwill, craigslist, garage sale, discount retailer, on clearance, on sale, or DIY. As you can see from our photos, it is possible to use these inexpensive resources and still create a lovely space.

As part of our “7-Simple Steps”, I work with designer Dell Karp from Dell Karp Interiors (Lebanon, TN) for 1-2 hours on each project, to review my design plans that I put together using steps 1-5 of our process. You can benefit from the talents and expertise of a designer even on a small budget.

My philosophy on home is that it needs to function optimally for your family, be filled with colors and items that have significant meaning to you, bring you joy, and help to tell your family’s unique story. I believe when you look around your space it should bring a smile to your face! 

Design is a journey, and we still have a little ways to go in our home. Since there is minimal budget for home design we are working through our home one room at a time. We’d love to have a completely decorated home, but it’s also fun to regularly have new things to be excited about and enjoy in the process. You are welcome to follow us on this journey by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

I hope our children remember all the beautiful memories we made, the immense joy and laughter we share as a family daily, and the many times we have invited others into our home to experience that with us. I hope they remember that loving/serving God and people unconditionally is where they will find fulfillment, true joy, peace, and contentment in this life.

I hope they forget all the times we were impatient, raised our voices, and did not take the time to consider the situation from their perspective.

I love my life with kids, but don’t always “like” every aspect of my job. When I’m facing those more challenging days or seasons of parenting I stop for a moment and try to refocus on what’s most important. It’s the little moments in between the craziness. The sweet smile, contagious laugh, funny face, tight hugs, out of context comments, quirky little habits, or conversations while driving in the car that add to the real richness of our life with kids.

I think having a daughter leave our home four years early to pursue her dream, and a son with a serious congenital heart defect, has helped sharpen my perspective on “life with kids”. I have to remind myself almost daily to embrace the moment; don’t let it slip away, for it will never return. “Let not this day pass without something sweet to remember it by.”

People often comment that I must be patient because I have five children and homeschool. I’m actually not a naturally patient person. I do believe there are some people like that. Although for me, I have become more patient over the years, but still have a long way to go. I see patience like a muscle, the more opportunities I have to exercise it the stronger it will become (no pain, no gain).

I wish someone had told me, “Forgive yourself”. We ask our children to forgive us when we make mistakes, but we do not always forgive ourselves. As moms, we often hold ourselves to impossible standards and play the comparison game.

This journey of parenting is not about perfection for our children or us. I believe it is about being present, cherishing time together, loving, learning, growing, and changing for the better — to positively impact the lives of those you and your family will encounter daily. This will make your impact on this earth exponential.

I believe this: “You are equipped to give your unique children exactly what they need.” Which is why they are with you (whether biological or adopted) and not someone else. Trust that truth, and forge ahead in confidence, parenting with unconditional love and fair, honest authority.

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Thank you, Cortissa!

Her home is so lovely and so full of light. It seems like a pretty magical place to get to spend time together as a family. Those two white slip covered sofas facing each other are so beautiful — those rules Cortissa has about no walking on the furniture must be working.

I totally related when Cortissa said one of her fears about home schooling was not getting a break from her kids. I love my kids and I think they are wonderful and amazing, but sometimes I love when I’m alone too. Haha! It’s so smart that Cortissa talks about how it’s okay to love being a parent, but not necessarily like every part of it. Parenting is hard, and that’s okay.

What parts of parenting come easiest to you? Are there parts that you hate that you sort of just have to suffer through? How do you keep your focus on what you love?

SOURCES

Kitchen lighting, most of the kitchen accessories, family room sofa all from here

Living Room Sofas

Living Room side chairs

Dining Room chandelier


You can follow Cortissa on Instagram here or check out her YoutTube Channel. 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