Living With Kids: Tracey Willey

By Gabrielle.

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?

P.S. — You can find all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

48 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Tracey Willey”

  1. Oh, this one got me right in the heart. I used to feel awkward when people would say that Lily is blessed (she was 13-months-old when she came home), but now I embrace the comments because it’s true: she’s blessed and so are we. And, frankly, I need the encouragement!

    We also have a son who was diagnosed with autism; more challenges, but he’s wonderful and we’re finding our way.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful story and home.

  2. SUCH an inspiring family story. Thank you so much for sharing. And I really appreciate the reminder to celebrate the moments!

    1. It’s a great name, isn’t it?
      ps-the chicken holding thing is a daily occurence…I never imagined I’d be yelling “get the chickens off the trampoline”, alas…it’s kinda great.

  3. Ahhhh! Another one. I LOVE these home tours. They are so special because of the accompanying interviews (of course, the pretty houses don’t hurt)! This family makes me ache with happiness. I have always wanted to adopt, but we’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding since we got married 9 years ago- so it hasn’t been a possibility up to this point. I love Tracey’s brutal honesty. Every part of parenthood is CHALLENGING- but also so rewarding.

    Thank you for sharing! I LOVE your home & your style, Tracey! And your family is beautiful. :)

  4. WOW…”He needs time at home with his mama,” as only a mama would know.
    I now have to go back and look at the picts of your home, I was so captivated by your family’s story I didn’t really pay attention to them! I have a good mama that I’m taking care of due to progressive dementia and I am a mama of two little people I celebrate… but if I had to pick another mama I would hope it would have been you for me or my little people. Just WOW again and again, and again…

  5. This house is so lovely, but I will have to take a closer look at the pictures again, because what I was most enthralled with was Tracey and her family’s story. I am so encouraged and inspired by her words. 4 beautiful boys! Also, I only have one boy so far, but have already incorporated no decor on coffee or side tables :). Thank you so much for this; it has made my day! And now, I have a few friends that I must direct this way…

  6. I love this! Last year, with four boys of my own, I had one in private school, one in homeschool, one in public, and one in preschool, because they all had different needs. And it was just right for our entire family!

    Beautiful home, beautiful family. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Love this! So good to see that adoption was your family’s Plan A. We are currently on our adoption path- 2 years in and one failed placement down, we are holding onto hope that this is what we are supposed to be doing.
    Thank you for sharing your family and your home with us!

    1. Continue to hold onto to the hope…it will happen. My heart breaks for your loss. We recently experienced a “failed placement” ourselves…few were able to comprehend the sadness of loosing a baby that was never “technically” ours. My heart aches for you.

  8. Hi Tracey, what a Blessing to see where the Lord is taking you and your family..
    Your Family is Beautiful in and out!!!!

  9. LOVED reading this, then went straight to Tracey’s blog and LOVED it even more! What a gorgeous family! Tracey, you are beautiful (inside & out), witty, and so very wise! Oh, I have 3 boys of my own… my coffee table is either blank or piled with folded laundry waiting to be put away!

  10. Once again, your questions are incredibly timely – I just got off the phone from talking with my 18 year old on his way home from Barber school. He called to tell me about doing his 1st straight-edged shave on another student (he left his face in tact, I am happy to say) and to ask if I could make enchiladas for dinner). I told him I wish I could have a picture of that (since I can’t really be there). I could tell he was so proud of himself. It really touched my heart that he wanted to call and tell me about his accomplishment. (on a side note, as a single-parent, one of the TOP things I so resented about their father deserting our family, was that, because I had to go to work full-time outside of the home, he took me away from my sons, even at 15 & 17. I lost that time with them. But today helped make up for it just a bit.

  11. Looooved Tracey’s home and family. All of those boys are just too scrumptious. She will look back at the hard times with such love and memories. Being outweighed by testosterone in my home as well, I love her touches of femininity.! Thanks so much.

  12. I have a new baby at home and a three-year-old, and we’ve had a bumpy transition to being a family of four. There are days when I feel totally overwhelmed. Many of them. So I love this: “The bad gets better and the better is better than I ever imagined.” Thanks for being honest and hopeful! Made me smile.

  13. What a beautiful family! My husband and I are parents via adoption, and I always love reading about others who’ve come to parenthood through adoption.

  14. Tracy you are truly an amazing mother. I stopped breathing at few times while reading your story because your strength and wisdom astounded me.

    Where do such beautiful and wonderful woman like you come from, please?
    Thank you for sharing and giving us such awe inspiring story to live by…

  15. Oh, what a beautiful family! Now that my two are 7 & 4, I’m able to understand what you mean about things getting better. It was overwhelming in the beginning, and I wish I knew how awesome it would become.
    And your point about each child needing something different is just spot on. I knew that, on some level, but your interview made that make sense.
    Thanks – health and happiness to you and your beautiful boys!

  16. Tracey- quick (personal) question and I HOPE HOPE HOPE I don’t come off rude or impolite. Your boys hair looks natural and grown out. Do you get criticism/comments from African Americans about the way you are styling and cutting their hair?

    I ask because I am a teacher (white and young) in a all black school in the inner city. We have a few mixed race adoptions at my school and the hair issues (how the white parents choose to style their black children’s hair, more so the girls) is causing issues. Are you running into that issue?

    1. I had to laugh at this…because I have been far more concerned about my children’s hair not looking like a “white mama” styled it, then they have.
      I can honestly say we have not run into this issue.
      It’s taken me some time to learn some tricks in maintenance, but I think I’m almost there. :)
      Early on were approached by 1 or 2 African American women offering to help me…but no judgement, ever.
      Don’t get me wrong, there are days I opt to not spend the hour combing out his hair {and I’m sure people shake their head in pity for my poor boy}, but most days…we both suffer through.
      Feel free to pass on my contact info to the parents of your students. I’d love to support them on their journey!

  17. Your story really touched my heart. I have two girls, both my biological kiddos. But I’ve been feeling this little tug at my heart. A tug that tells me that my family isn’t quite complete. I don’t plan on being pregnant again. That would require emaculate conception. :-) But I have tossed around the idea of adoption or fostering.

    Thanks for sharing. My girls loved reading your story and seeing the photos of your boys.

  18. Pingback: monday best of last week | The Misadventures of Kelly and Kelly

  19. What a gift you are Tracey Lynne Willey!! The layers of beautiful just keep showing up. I continue to learn a lot from you as you celebrate life and stay at it in the wee hours and in the trenches to emerge out even more complete and content and grateful. I am so grateful for you in my life. love,mom w

  20. Tracey: Your amazing and beautiful story brings so much joy and hope and beauty. Thank you for taking the time to share this. That is such a blessing for all who read it,and that includes great-grandmothers!! Your home is incredably beautiful and so cozy. I wish I could get curbside “stuff” and make it look so great. You have so many gifts and they certainly are obvious in the pictures. Your “mommyness” comes through loud and clear as does your “hubs” support and love. We are so proud of you–Grandpops and Noni

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