The first time I saw photos of Tracey‘s home, I thought that there is no way this is a house that holds four boys and all of the dirt and noise they carry with them. It’s far too beautiful, far too white, and with such healthy doses of femininity! But then I read her story. And with every answer to my every question, I learned that this gorgeously decorated house has nothing on the beauty that’s happening inside this family’s hearts. There’s no way this house can’t hold those four boys and all of the dirt and noise and goodness they carry with them! Sheer loveliness and a pretty unbelievable story of how this family came to be, straight ahead. Please enjoy it!
Q: Please tell us about the family who makes this house a home!
A: Within these four walls resides a family of six. Two amazing, doting, giving, selfless, magnificent, parents (wink wink) and four adorable, energized boys. Josh, the hubs, is an amazing father and supportive husband. Our boys idolize him and I adore him. He built the chickens a dollhouse-styled coop, all because he knew I would love it. He’s a keeper.
Shy, our oldest Thing, is eight. He came to us when he was just three, an absolutely adorable terror. Now, he’s still adorable and has outgrown most of the terror! He is my mama’s boy, already planning out how he’s going to take care of me when I’m old. Ari, Thing 2, was 15 months old when he came home. He is our sweetheart who just wants to love and be loved. He is also our muscle man, and conquered the monkey bars at two years of age. If you are wondering, Shy and Ari are biological siblings. Bryce, Thing 3, is four. He showed up to the party nine months after we brought our oldest two home. OOPS! He is the family cuddle bug, social butterfly, girl crazy, knight/superhero/tiger, resident expert on everything. Last but not least is Cooper, Thing 4, who just turned two this summer. The boy is always on the move, determined to keep up with his brothers. If he’s not scaling a wall, tackling the pup, or chasing the chickens, chances are he is reading a book or cuddling on someone’s ear.
And then there’s me, Tracey Lynne: wife, mama, blogger, amateur photographer, beachaholic, party thrower, DIY enthusiast, reception coordinator/designer, and boogey monster chaser. I wear dresses as often as possible and love pink, bows, and ruffles. Cupcakes are my favorite.
Q: How did this home come to be yours?
A: Shortly after our family of two jumped into being a family of five, we realized we had outgrown our home overnight! We went back and forth as to whether or not it was the right time for us to make a move; newborns and new adoptions don’t lend towards easy transitions. The ultimate decider was a knock on the door from a neighbor who wanted to buy our house. Yes. That really happened. House Hunt officially on.
We knew we wanted more land, more house, and more diversity in the neighborhood. So, we set up a house tour in an area that had everything we were looking for. We only had to tour one. A spacious center-hall colonial, nestled on a secluded cul-de-sac, surrounded by forest and baseball fields. It needed some work, but it was totally us. We love it. It’s home.
Q: Four boys! Each of whom came to you via a different path. Will you tell us their stories?
A: I always knew I would adopt. Of course, our plan on how that was going to unfold was slightly different than what actually transpired. I was working at a Children’s hospital as a nursing assistant when I first met Shy. He was barely two at the time.
Fast forward six months. Me: “So…Babe, there’s this little boy at work who needs a family…” Hubs: “No.”
Fast forward one week. Hubs: “Let’s get some more info about that little boy.”
Next day. Me: “So…he has a little brother that needs a home too.” Hubs: “No.”
Fast forward one week. Hubs: “Let’s look into bringing home those two little boys.”
Fast forward three months. Me: “Can you believe we’re parents?” Hubs: “Nope.” As two little boys giggle away in the backseat while we head to Friendly’s for our first family dinner.
Fast forward two months. Me: “I’m pregnant.” Hubs: “?!?”
Fast forward seven months. Me: “Can you believe we have three boys?” Hubs: “Nope.”
Feel free to insert tears, joy, panic, laughter, frustration, regret, blessings, depression, and fear in between these lines! Don’t be fooled. We are not super heroes. It was rough. REALLY, REALLY rough. Especially those first nine months, with a surprise pregnancy and two little boys that didn’t feel like my own, constantly needing from me. I struggled with guilt and the desire to quit. God blessed the hubs with the strength to hold us all together. Our friends and families surrounded us with love and support and we made it through…barely!
I remember those early days when strangers would remark, “These boys are so blessed to have you,” and in my head I’d be responding, “I know, right?” Now, we still get the same remarks from strangers. Only now I am responding, “Nope. I’m the one who is blessed.”
It’s nice to be on this side of the story. Not that we are past the point of struggle. The older boys will always have questions about their adoptions. Why? How? Who? The younger boys may question the legitimacy of our family and fear that somehow they will be taken from their birth parents, too. So we’ll be here to hold them close, wipe the tears, and talk for as many hours as they need until they are satisfied. Just as we vowed we would before that fabulous day that ended with a new family of four dining at Friendly’s.
Q: How would you describe your style? Has it changed since your house has been overrun by testosterone?
A: I’ve self-defined my style as shabby french-american farmhouse with a touch of mod. Whites, blues, greys. Worn, distressed, unique. Comfy, cozy. Hidden pops of color and sentiment. All of it feels like home. Lucky for me, the style works well with boys. Knicks, bumps, and scrapes only add to the charm of the already lived in and loved in look of the decor.
I did have to change one thing after adding children to our lives: no decor on the coffee tables. It’s pointless.
I manage to get my girly fixes in just about every room in the house. A ruffle here, a pink pillow there; just the right dose of girly to show a woman lives here too. Same philosophy goes with the kids. They live here, too. We have toys and children’s books everywhere. I like seeing glimpses of kids in the decor, using creative storage pieces to keep the kid-ness at bay. It’s no secret: crates, baskets, old drawers, pot racks, tool boxes, etc. are all the perfect solutions for clutter. They add charm and hide mess. I have them randomly placed all over the house.
Q: What’s the best way in which you use your home?
A: I’m a celebrator; any excuse for a party, I’ll take it. Our home hosts a great party. Just the right amount of openness and coziness to fit a large crowd and help them feel at home. One of my goals in decorating was to create a versatile space that welcomes. Each room is interchangeable with the next. Guests are able to flow naturally from room to room, noticing subtle touches of difference that don’t distract from their visit. The best is when someone who has been over a bunch of times surprisingly spots something for the first time, and I get to say “Oh, that’s always been there.” Success! I’ve created a feel and not an exhibit. Gets me excited just talking about it!
Q: Your boys all have different schooling systems; how do you manage it all? How do you find balance and time for yourself? Or is that even possible when you homeschool?
A: If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career in mommy-hood, it’s that I can’t manage it all. Some things just have to give. Still, we try to strike a balance between intentional and flexible. We map and plan out our days as best we can, but every once in a while things don’t go according to plan. That has to be okay, but sometimes I have to be reminded that it’s okay! Adding the additional responsibility of homeschooling this year has only increased my need to be flexible. It’s also increased the need for girl time. Ladies, take note! I’m not an expert on many things, but this I know: you matter and you need time for you. My boys will tell you that a tired, all work and no play, on the verge of being resentful mama is no good for anyone. Make time for you. The dishes will be there when you’re done.
As you mentioned, the boys are each in a different schooling system, one being homeschool. The decision to homeschool Shy was not an easy one. There were many pros and cons lists being passed around until eventually the pros outweighed the cons and we knew what we had to do. For us, it is about healing the broken heart of our son. He needs time at home with his mama. Time we did not have when he was a baby or toddler. We also hope to help him build his confidence and provide opportunities for success. With all the extra that he has to carry around every day, the pressures of school were too much.
Our other boys have different needs. Ari has been diagnosed with autism. The structure and routine in the classroom creates an environment where he can thrive, and he loves it! Bryce is only in pre-K so the lists are still being passed around, but thus far his classroom experience has been a great boost to his confidence both socially and academically. It’s quite adorable. Like I said, each option has its pros and cons. Nothing is perfect. We’re just trying to do what we feel is the best option for each of our boys. Even if that means four boys in four different schools. Yikes!
Q: What inspires you on a daily basis?
A: Is it silly to say I find my inspiration everywhere? Pretty sure the hubs loves when I interrupt the climax of a movie to point out, “Ooh! I love that sofa!” Wherever I am, I am always looking and always getting ideas.
I cannot drive by a beauty on the curb. Pretty sure the hubs also loves all the fancy piles of curbside freebies waiting for placement, scattered around the house. At present I have some rusty iron gates, a grandmother clock, a dresser, a chair, a rusted galvanized flower box, windows, a mirror, wall hangings, a metal milk crate, a light fixture, a bench, a puppet theater, and some table legs. All waiting for refinishing and repurposing. Most of the treasures in our home came from curbs. Furniture included. Paint can work magic.
Q: What is your favorite part of living with your own kids? What do you already miss?
A: This one’s easy. Seeing their achievements both big and small. The joy on the face of a little boy who caught his first frog is priceless. The achievements continue as they grow up, only I’m not there for all of them. I missed Shy’s first at-bat hit in baseball. That was hard. I wasn’t there when Ari read his first word. Hard. Silly mama…boys grow up.
Q: What do you hope your boys remember the most from their childhood home?
A: That they were celebrated. Most of our parties are just the six of us celebrating something special about one of our littles. We’ve had potty parties, first day of school parties, finished reading a book parties, imaginary friend birthday parties, fifth day of school parties. You get the idea. Napkins, plates, crepe paper, and bunting are always on hand because you never know when a day is going to end in a party. Life is full of moments worth celebrating. We try to catch as many of those moments as we can.
Q: Please finish the question: I wish I had known…
A: …that the bad gets better and the better is better than I ever imagined.
“Life is full of moments worth celebrating. We try to catch as many of those moments as we can.” Many, many thanks to you, Tracey, for sharing your sweetness with us! You’ve inspired me to look at today a little differently; it’s not just Tuesday…it’s also a lovely day for a party!
Another one of Tracey’s observations that resonated with me was this: “Their achievements continue as they grow up, only I’m not there for all of them.” I felt these words all the way to the center of my heart, didn’t you? Tell me: What major achievement in your child’s life have you missed seeing as it happened?