I am happy today to introduce you to Theresa and her family. Theresa lives outside of Houston in a beautiful home that she and her husband renovated and decorated. Her style is impeccable and you’ll love getting a look around. Theresa also talks openly about the struggles she and her husband had as they tried to build a family — from IVF treatments to lost pregnancies. Welcome, Theresa!

Hello! Living here we have Me, my husband Shaw, and our 2 sassy girls: Loghan (6), and Ava (3). This would be our third move in the last 3 years and the fourth home that we’ve renovated. Loghan, our oldest daughter, has lived in all 4 homes and can give you a distinct description of each place. Both our girls think it’s a travel adventure and enjoy moving from one home to the next.

You would think this is what we do for a living but it’s not — it’s just our creative outlet and side hustle. Outside of this, Shaw holds down the fort in our home and constantly encourages me to pursue my passion while supporting any and all of my endeavors. He is currently the Head Of Technology for an oil and gas company. I am currently a stay at home mom and, when time permits, I continue to update my home while helping other clients with interior design projects around their homes.

I hold a ton of degrees, but none of which are in Art and Design. I started my career as an Accountant in the Oil and Gas industry, and years later created my own Womenswear clothing line as a way to cope with infertility.

After the first successful IVF treatment and having Loghan, I turned my womenswear line into a Mommy and Me coordinated clothing line called TP Mini Me, which was inspired by none other than Loghan.

We continued to struggle with infertility after Loghan and through several more rounds of IVF treatments, we were blessed with our second child, Ava.

At the time I was juggling a full-time, demanding Corporate career, a toddler, a newborn, a Fashion Design start-up, and my own home renovations and moves. All of it was becoming overwhelming, and I was spread too thin. So, with Shaw’s encouragement, I decided to leave my corporate job to focus on my design business.

I was terrified as this was the first time leaving my safe comfort zone. Everything I had worked up to in my corporate career would not be behind me, and I felt insecure starting over as a business woman/designer, in a field where I had zero education and industry experience. But I was a natural in this environment and felt brave/fulfilled for the first time in my life, while a dialogue in my head was saying “welcome home”.

I continued the Mommy and Me line for the next couple of years until it too became a struggle. The girls were growing up too fast, and I wasn’t as present as I would have liked to be for them. What really struck a chord was when Loghan’s academics became a concern. To re-prioritize, I decided to close my Mommy and Me shop to invest more time into my family and my home.

These days, Shaw and I continue to dabble in DIYs, home renovations and designs, but we do it as a family. He’s brilliant with multi-tasking, is great with his hands, gives me heartburn with his all his risky ideas, but encourages me to always do what I love. Now, I’m slowly helping him do the same. 

We currently live in a small neighborhood called Hedwig Village, which is one of four subdivisions of the Memorial Villages in Houston, Texas. We absolutely love this area, from the laidback feel to the down-to-earth and welcoming neighbors. Price tag in this area? Rarely anything under a $1 million — and that’s just referring to the lot value! But there’s certainly many other great reasons that brought us here.

Our top three are: land and trees, schools, and location. Shaw loves to have enough space to have privacy, and prefers when the houses aren’t stacked up on top of one another. He loves for our girls to be able to run wild and free, which he thinks promotes curiosity and creativity. I love the space for gardening and the feel of “farm life” here in the city. It’s safe to say we’ve accomplished that on our .7-acre lot.

Trees are a must for us when buying a property and there’s an abundance of them here in Memorial and on our property! We have a mixture of oaks, pines, and magnolias surrounding our home — all of which are at least 70 years old! Trees provide shade (especially in the Houston heat), while adding charm and character to the property as a whole.

We love the public schools this area has to offer. When we are investing in a property, we aren’t able to afford both a great home and private school tuition, so our best bet is to find the most run-down home in a neighborhood zoned for the best schools. That way we get value not only in our properties but more importantly in our children’s education too. The elementary school that Loghan currently attends has a 16:1 student teacher ratio which is much smaller than the last school she attended which had a 26:1 student teacher ratio, and even smaller than most private schools.

Lastly: location, location, location! Every property we’ve owned we’ve considered an investment — and not just from a financial standpoint but from a personal growth aspect as well. Shaw and I love to rehabilitate old homes, but in order to keep it going we had to position ourselves in a way that would allow us to be able to quickly liquidate our home at any given point in time in order to fund the next home.

This is crucial as it continues to give us the opportunity to learn from our experiences while honing in on our crafts, and allowing us to sustain our passions and dreams. Sure, we have to move every so often, but we see it as a short-term sacrifice for long-term fulfillment. 

Shaw had been eyeing this property and scoping it out for at least 6 months before he introduced me to it. The trick is not to tell me too soon or too late — he has to time it just right! If he tells me too soon and I love it, I would want to jump on it right away which would ruin his plan. I’m impatient like that.

On the other hand, if I don’t like the prospect, he’ll need enough time to talk me into it without taking too long to persuade me so as to miss out on the opportunity.

It was hard talking me into moving to a completely different area especially when we were in the heart of the city and everything was centrally located, not to mention it was another highly coveted neighborhood full of charm and character. Only problem was, there wasn’t a whole lot of land and the school that Loghan was attending, looked great on paper, but was overcrowded, and she wasn’t getting the proper attention and academics she needed to thrive. The Memorial area, on the other hand, had more land, and the school met all of our criteria.

When Shaw first took me to see this house and showed me the price tag, I nearly had a heart attack! Like, did we win the lotto that I didn’t know about? I also thought there wasn’t much work that needed to be done to the house, so how much value could we get from this? They staged it so well that it had fooled me, but Shaw saw through the cosmetic surface and knew it had a lot of structural issues — so much that the entire interior needed to be gutted.

With that knowledge, we made an offer at practically land value, which was substantially less than the original listing price, and it was rejected. I guess they slept on it and had a change of heart because they came back and accepted our offer the following day!

Let’s just say the stars all aligned and it was perfect timing — or as I’d like to think “it was meant for us”. This house had been sitting on the market for over a year, the seller (by that point) was motivated to sell and was ready to move on, and we were willing to purchase the house “as is”, without further negotiations. The only contingency (and challenge) was getting our then current house listed and sold within 2 months’ time, which was the stipulation by the seller. This was so risky; we were either going to have it all or lose it all but it was definitely worth the fight.

Immediately after our offer was accepted, we went straight to cleaning, organizing, and restyling our house to have photos taken then finally listed it within 3 days! Shortly after listing it and hosting an open house, we received 4 offers — the best offer went into contract 5 days after listing and we moved out within 3 weeks’ time.

Getting to this point was totally stressful and nerve racking but incredibly rewarding. This same routine happened to both transactions prior! To think, this would be our fourth renovation-and-flip and yet the nerves just don’t seem to subside. 

My design inspiration definitely comes from my travel experiences, whether its domestically or overseas. When I travel to different places, I get to submerge myself in the food, culture, lifestyle, and new ways of living. All my senses are enhanced and that’s when inspiration comes to life.

Every idea I love, I get to take home with me and incorporate in my everyday living. If I could live in the French Countryside for a few months out of the year I would be the happiest girl in the world but that’s just not reality right now. And, since I’m not able to be there, I’ll just bring its essence and charm back here to the comfort of my own home.

For example, one of my favorite things to see when I’m in Paris is the French architecture, specifically, its rooftops. I imagine how glorious it must feel to be up there gazing across the horizon or peering down into the cobble stone alleys. So, I take that sentiment and expresses it in my daughter’s bedroom design. I wanted to re-create a world of whimsical wonder for them.

When I came across this Anewall Parisian Street wallpaper from Kathy Kuo Home I knew it was going to bring my vision to life. And, with a few greenery vines and florals dangling over their beds I would have my girl’s feeling like they’re on top of the Eiffel Tower. The same can be said of the black Signature Hardware stand-alone tub in my Master bathroom. I wanted to bring in the French countryside feel to that space — something that was both elegant yet cozy and laid back at the same time. I chose the black tub as a statement piece and a focal point and designed the rest of the details around that. 

I want our home to feel incredibly warm and cozy — on days when it doesn’t look like a tornado had gone thru and vomited toys all over my house. I think just having a mixture of new and vintage things throughout the house really lends itself to feel I’m going for.

It also helps to add personal touches here and there, like the hand painted tiles on the kitchen backsplash, and the lemon citrus vines climbing inside my walk-in pantry — both of which I stenciled myself. I get asked all the time why I put so much of my personal efforts and details to the home, especially with the possibility of us selling it at any given moment. And the answer is simple: because for the time being, it’s still my home. I want it to look and feel charming and inviting and be able to enjoy every bit of it before passing it along to the next homeowner, and I hope that they’ll find the same appreciation for it as well.

Looking back on dealing with infertility, it wasn’t the five rounds of IVFs that were difficult, or the hundreds of injections that I had to endured or even the 90 something thousand dollars that were spent on it. The part that I struggled with the most was feeling like I had to put “life” on hold just to give THIS a full shot, no pun intended.

But honestly, it was the best decision we could have made. As weird as this sounds, after a while, all of it becomes sort of like business — it’s mind over matter and you stop taking it personally. It is what it is, now you just have to do something about it. Shaw and I both had physical conditions that prevented us from conceiving naturally — what are the odds right? And with time and older age, our issues would worsen which would limit our having any chances at all. We were told that IVF was our only chance at having a baby.

I’m glad we were proactive about it at an early stage and gave our all to the process. With our first IVF round, we got lucky and ended up having Loghan, but the journey was no walk in the park for me. Several weeks after finding out I was pregnant with her (which was on Christmas Eve by the way) I thought I had miscarried because I had bled heavily. We were devastated, because we had finally come so close to having a baby. And yet a part of me, despite this tragedy, also felt grateful to have come this far — I at least got to see a positive sign on the pregnancy test stick and heard the baby’s heartbeat! Miraculously I didn’t miscarry but what I had was called a subchorionic hemorrhage, which was a massive blood clot hidden behind the baby sac trying to make its way out.

I had all day sickness throughout my pregnancy, lost 5 pounds (before I could gain weight) from not being able to keep food down and bled the entire first trimester — but it was still the best experience of my life! You would think that given all the hoops that I had to jump through to get here that I would live in fear and overprotection mode but it was quite the opposite; I enjoyed my pregnancy just like any other healthy pregnant woman. Whatever happens will happen so why should I rob myself of this full experience by living in fear?

My fertility specialist told me to continue on with my usual activities and not to miss a single beat. So, I did! I continued to golf, until my belly got in the way and ate raw sushi and steaks from high quality, reputable places. And Loghan came out to be a happy and healthy baby.

After that, Shaw and I thought this was a cake walk. Knowing that IVF worked well the first time, we assumed that it was going to be breeze going forward — but we couldn’t be more wrong! The following three IVF rounds failed, and we found out that our medical conditions had worsened with time and age. Two years had gone by, we were losing hope and was beginning to accept that Loghan was going to be our only child.

Then with one last attempt, just so we didn’t have any regrets, we sought out the best doctor in town, and underwent extensive procedures to try to improve our conditions for a better chance at success. Usually, Shaw is with me at all of my appointments and procedures, but for this last one he couldn’t be. Due to the extent of our treatment, we both had to be under the knife, at the same time but at different facilities. My sweet sister ended up picking Shaw up from one hospital, then pulled around and picked me up at another clinic afterwards. We were both sedated, in pain, and we weren’t able to take care of one another.

From this round of IVF, we were successful at having Ava, AND we kept seven remaining embryos stored away. We were terrified and stressed out! What are we supposed to do with 7 more potential babies? At one point we were sad at the thought of not having children, and now stressed (and feeling ungrateful) at the thought of possibly having 9?!

After many discussions and prayers, and 6 months after giving birth to Ava we decided to try for a third baby by having 2 of the 7 remaining embryos transferred into me. To our dismay, our attempt at having baby #3 was unsuccessful, AND none of the remaining embryos were able to survive after the thaw. Just like that our fate was determined.  

If I could share my two cents it would be to reconsider putting your career before having children, especially if there’s an inkling of hope in wanting a family in your future. From my experience, there is an expiration date to having children, whereas the expiration date does not seem as stringent with a career, passion, or dreams. And oddly enough, having children actual gave us a greater sense of purpose, and gave our lives more meaning and fulfillment.

Another piece of advice for anyone struggling to conceive is to have the male test for infertility done first before the female. It’s much quicker, painless, and non-invasive, and you’ll be able to eliminate 50% of the battle right off the bat and know exactly what you need to focus on. We made the mistake of having me tested for everything under the sun, and still couldn’t understand why we weren’t able to conceive until we got Shaw tested too. It would have saved me half the procedures, time and money if we’d had Shaw tested first. 

For me, I think my mom superpower comes from the creative aspect! I recall when Loghan was just two years old and she saw me wearing a dress that she really liked and told me she wanted the same. This particular dress happened to be one that I had designed and made for myself so, I made a matching, mini-me version for her with the leftover fabric! And then she wanted more, which just made me so happy.

When Ava came along, I thought she was going to be different from Loghan — that she may not be as girlie or want anything to do with my particular type of creativity, but I was (happy to be) wrong. She took after big sis and had the same appreciation for my designs and anything I created.

These days, I enjoy seeing them play dress up in all the dresses that I made for them, and in the spaces that I created specifically with them in mind. Growing up in this environment also makes them feel like everything is normal. Like, it’s no big deal to wear the fanciest silk or lace tulle dresses to school on an ordinary day. 

Loghan already refers to this home as the old and messy house that became new and pretty, with a big pool and lots of room to run and drive her car and bike around. As a matter of fact, she has a unique description for each of the last four homes she’s lived in.

I hope my kids remember this home as another adventure, that they enjoy every moment spent here and forget all the times I’ve lost my patience with them.

They won’t always understand why our family has moved from one house to the next, but as they get older and wiser, I hope that these experiences will shape them into the person they want to be. And that we, as their parents, have served as inspiration on their journey in life.

My absolute favorite thing about living with my kiddos is the simple fact that I actually get the opportunity to live with them. Before we were lucky enough to have our girls, we didn’t know any different. Living life with just me and Shaw alone was good — we enjoyed each other’s companies and we were happy. But it’s a different kind of happiness and completeness when we were finally blessed with children!

Now we indulge in the warmth, noisiness and chaos that they bring to our home, and the free entertainment we get from watching them being silly. Our kids have a way of driving us nuts, like we could go from normal to losing our minds in a split second. But at the same token, they can also make our worse days seem trivial.

I used to be a control freak, and in some ways that’s still in me, just reprioritized. Living with kids is a lot like learning how to cohabit with your spouse when you first move in together. It takes flexibility, adaptability, and some compromises to make a harmonious environment. It’s the same thing living with kids. Kids can be messy and dirty, especially in their toddler years — and I was such a stickler about it. But I learned early on to reprioritize – for my own happiness, for Shaw’s, and for the kid’s as well. It’s not important to have the house in order at all time. That’s not a home; it’s a showroom.

I pick and choose my battles, and sometimes I let my girls take the lead and learn from them. I’m embarrassed to admit, but both my girls still sleep with me. And as much as I would like for them to start sleeping on their own, I know I’m going to miss the snuggles and our girls “slumber party”, as they call it, once they’re in their own beds. I know that at some point, they’re not going to want anything to do with me so why not take advantage the moment now while I still can? 

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Thank you, Theresa! What a perfectly beautiful home! I’m so impressed with the willingness to move every few years and start over to renovate another home and do another project. While it must be exciting and fulfilling, I am sure there are days that it is exhausting too. But I also admire and respect anyone who goes after the things that make them happy and fulfilled, even if they aren’t always the easiest.

I also really appreciate Theresa’s honesty about the challenges with IVF. Infertility is such a complicated, emotional and tricky thing to deal with, and even when you have the financial means to pursue IVF, it still isn’t without it’s difficulties and heart break. Everyone’s story is full of unique challenges and blessings, and I am really glad Theresa was willing to share her story.

SOURCES

The show stopping black bathtub

Parisian Street Scene Wallpaper

Birdcage Wall decal

Girl’s bedroom rug

Master Bath Wall Tile


You can check out Theresa’s design business on her website or follow her on Instagram. 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