Living With Kids: Jennifer McDougald
Have you ever wanted to achieve the perfect look in your home but just couldn’t quite find the piece that fit your budget and had the style you were looking for? Well you are going to love Jennifer, a mom of three and a small-business owner who has built her home and business around doing just that. Her home is full of charming, farmhouse flair and unique pieces, many of which were made or thrifted in her Texas hometown. And she’s pulled them together in such a lovely way.
Our home consists of my favorite people (and animals) on the planet. My husband, Shannon, works his full time job then clocks out and stops by our store every day after work to see how he can help out there too before heading home. I own a small home décor and furniture boutique in Pearland, Texas (the big suburb right outside of the small-town Manvel, Texas that we live in).
If you ask him about my business, he will tell you that I’m the brains and he’s the muscle behind it all (and that’s pretty accurate lol). I’m full of ideas and inspiration, as well as the business knowledge, but I prefer someone else to do the hard labor for me and that’s where he comes in! My husband is my rock and my support system. There isn’t a wish or dream I’ve concocted in my mind that he hesitated for even a split second to fully support. My dad and my husband are phenomenal at teaming up and taking my “unrealistic expectations and ideas” and making them come to life.
I have 3 beautiful children that I adore with all of my heart. Ashleigh is 19, Ashton is 12 and Aidan is 10 years old. Ashleigh is attending a local college in pursuit of her teaching degree. I have her about 35% convinced she doesn’t really need to ever “leave home” and that together we can build a tiny house in the backyard for her to live in until she gets married one day. She’s always been an outstanding kid who is always willing to help out her family anytime she is able to. In her free time, she and her long term boyfriend enjoy rock climbing and camping in different parts of Texas.
Ashton is my “grandpa child”. He has always been an old soul, sensitive with a soft spirit concerned about taking care of nature and the environment. He’s very much an old man in his mind even though his body is only 12 years old. Two years ago for Christmas, he asked for only two things…a heating pad and a quilt (not a new quilt — he wanted a really old tattered and special handmade quilt handed down to him). When we inquired about the heating pad request…well “sometimes his back just hurts him” lol.
Aidan is the definition of the word BOY. His days revolve around sports and hot wings. I can bribe him to do just about anything if I use a 12 pack of spicy buffalo hot wings as my bargaining chip. He’s also obsessed with The Ellen Degeneres TV show and watches it on her Youtube channel every day.
Maci is our family dog that we rescued from a local shelter several years ago. We’ve been told numerous breeds that she is a cross of…but we really have no idea what breed she is, but she has been a great family dog and the kids love her.
4 ducks. The kids and I bought them for Shannon’s birthday last year. Their names are Elvis (because he has a big poof/birth defect on his head that looks like an Elvis hairdo), Clyde, Betty and Afflack (yes named from the old commercial).
2 pygmy goats, Cooper and Charger. They were added to our tiny farm, well just because they are adorable and I just had to have them after I saw a precious Facebook video of pygmy goats and got it in my head that I “needed” them in my life. While they are goats and certainly live up to their reputation of trying to eat EVERYTHING in sight, they are also very much like 2 toddlers and keep me on my toes most days, crying when they see me leave for work, they won’t give me 5 seconds of silence if they see me outside, want constant attention and get into everything in sight, not to mention they don’t mind going to the bathroom on me if I happen to be in the wrong position at the wrong time.
Penelope our floppy ear bunny just joined our family this past Christmas when Ashton asked for her as his gift. She has since become the local photographer bunny model for kids’ Easter pics.
As I mentioned, we live in Manvel, Texas where the population is around 7,000. We moved to Manvel from Pearland, when Pearland grew substantially in the 8 years we had lived there. Manvel doesn’t have a grocery store yet (or many stores of any kind yet) so we frequent Pearland often when we do have to go to the store. Our home is in the cul de sac of a quiet community with only a few homes on each street due to each home having several acres of land. Our house is situated in the middle of our 2.5 acres with gorgeous 100+ year old live oak trees and we have a large pond on our property where our ducks can almost always be found.
Daily we have animals stop in at our yard and pond in the mornings, including other ducks, owls, red cardinals, humming birds and many other birds (that I’m still learning the names of) and hundreds of squirrels. When I have the opportunity in the morning, I enjoy quietly sitting out back with a cup of coffee and my camera, watching to see who comes by for some pond time and if I’m lucky, getting some photos of them.
One of the features that attracted me to our house was the huge, old live oak tree right in the middle of our street. When blacktop was finally poured on our street a few years ago, they built the street around the old oak tree, so it now splits the road. Every day we are blessed to be able to drive through what looks like a postcard with tons of large oak trees hovering over the street creating a story tale image. It’s the most peaceful and beautiful part of my daily drive and I make sure to take a second every single day to appreciate its beauty and our blessings.
When I spotted our forever home online, I had been off and on browsing homes for sale for about 4 years, more out of curiosity about what was out there than anything else. I wasn’t in a hurry to move because we were perfectly fine in our old house, but we were tight on space with the kids getting older and I knew we would benefit from having some additional square footage eventually.
Property values had not been where I needed them to be in order to make the move. I had purchased my Pearland home as a single mom starting over before I met my husband, and had put every penny I had into my down payment to make sure it was something I could afford to do on my own. I wasn’t willing to take a loss on that investment simply because we desired a larger house and the real estate market hadn’t been as high as I needed it to up until then.
I had a pretty lengthy list of “wants” for my forever home and all of the houses I had found in the past fell short on a few of them. I took my time and stood my ground on not moving until we found “the house” and until the property values were high enough that I was comfortable selling our existing home. We had been living in a newly developed, nice neighborhood, but it was a tight suburb community with small yards, busy streets and very little privacy or space.
I often hesitated to let my boys play outside because of my fear of them being hit by a car, but had dreams of letting them be able to run and play and have fun boy adventures outdoors. They were getting bigger by the day and I knew the day of them being “too old” for those adventures would creep up on me before I knew it so it was time to take action and make the change instead of just referring to it as “one day”. One day had become today. We knew we would move to Manvel for our final home because it had everything we were looking for…acreage, the small town feel and was still close to Legacy.
My dream house fell into my search but it was well outside of my price range (isn’t it always?). When I found out it had been on the market for almost a year…I knew I had a bargaining chip on my side and if I played my cards right (and if it was God’s will) it could possibly turn out to be within my reach financially. Since I had been so diligent the years prior on how I handled our budgeting , we could purchase a home that was double the price of our existing home, and our outgoing monthly expenses would only increase by around $400 per month.
Our house was at an all-time high for its property value and all the cards fell into place accordingly. I worked feverishly for 48 hours de-cluttering and staging my home, after all I wasn’t about to put my house on the market being a local “home stager” without it being properly staged, and the sellers understood that and let us make an offer on their house before we had even listed our house for sale.
We negotiated the price of the house we wanted to purchase until we agreed on a $470,000 sales price and after de-cluttering and staging our home, we listed it on the market, had the first tour show up within 30 minutes of it hitting the internet and 2 more tours within the next 2 hours. Tour #1 and #3 both made offers on the house the same day and within a few hours we had accepted Tour #1’s offer of $225,000 which was $5,000 above our list price.
The next day I woke up and said, “Oh my gosh…did all of that just happen in 3 days?? What in the world have I done and am I ready to go from city girl to country girl in about 3 weeks??” There’s never a dull moment in our lives.
My home is a true reflection of my personal style as well as my family’s lifestyle. We are a highly active family that thrives in organized chaos. Our home is truly a retreat where we can relax, put our feet up and have fun making memories together. We rarely have the desire to go on a vacation, because we feel like coming home every day is a vacation. I would describe my home’s design plan as unique, practical, durable and budget friendly.
Designing practically, within a tight budget and with durable materials that hold up well with children and animals are all aspects I consider when designing (for myself or for my clients). I’ve always had a budget (and usually a pretty tight one) to work within, so that’s really where my skillset is, as it’s forced me to always find the most affordable and creative options in order to achieve the look I’m after with very limited funds. I enjoy the challenge of aiming to achieve a desired look while also staying within a modest budget.
Glass pieces are used sparingly in my life…both in my home and in my store. Sure, it’s less stress worrying about children being children and something inevitably getting broken (or someone being injured), but let’s be honest here…I’m not so graceful myself! If the kids don’t break it…I’m sure I will, so I keep those pieces minimal and when I do use them, it’s not usually on an end table or high traffic area.
Children come into my store daily and they’ve never broken anything that I can remember. I do remember a husband of a shopper breaking a glass item one day…but no children lol. Moms want to be able to shop with minimal stress and live the same way and my store and home are both supportive of that. Distressed furniture is the best with kids! Distressed furniture not only looks amazing, but it also hides minor accidents and dings from the littles.
I own a home décor and furniture boutique (Legacy Home Staging & Furniture Painting, LLC) to cater to my client’s retail décor need,s and I also offer my services in decorating, home consulting, home staging and organizing. I’ve handpicked the best local makers to be vendors that sell their products in my store to help me keep it stocked with unique, budget-friendly home goods. It’s very rewarding to be able to provide a platform for so many talented local vendors, including my own parents (who are both very talented makers themselves), to sell their products and enjoy the opportunity to make a full-time income with the freedom and flexibility of working for themselves.
I left my corporate job over 3 years ago after working hard to build my business on the side for about 6 months. My focus and determination came from my burning desire to do whatever it took to simply “be there”. I wanted to be there for everything…big or small. I didn’t want to continue to fight traffic 2 hours a day round trip, barely make it to the daycare in time to get the kids, do spelling tests in the car on the way home and rush through homework, baths, dinner and bedtime because we were trying to cram so much into the very small window of time working families have together on weeknights. When I felt like my most used word had become “hurry” I decided I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live anymore.
What I was missing daily — those tiny precious and sacred moments, because I was rushing everyone through a checklist — were moments I would never get back, and I knew I would one day regret rushing through. So I decided to make a drastic change and began implementing my “plan of escape” from the life I was living to retreat to the life I dreamed of having.
My business initially began with only offering my home staging services, but I quickly found there was a high demand in my market for my niche of offering affordable, unique home décor, furnishings and services. The Lord has blessed me with a very supportive community and I’ve even had the opportunity to showcase some of my design skills on a local TV show as well as being featured in a few publications.
My favorite project in my home is my daughter’s shiplap DIY headboard and vintage garland strand adorning it. Everything about that project has my heart. It was very inexpensive, it was a unique feature in our home that would be a charming story to tell, and my daughter and I did it side by side all by ourselves, which is very rewarding and memorable.
I had purchased the shiplap from someone tearing down a 100+ year old house. We left the nails in it and just made sure they were driven into the wood well because I liked the character the nails added and I adored the fact that the nails were hand driven in that old house one by one, long before nail guns and air compressors existed. My daughter and I cleaned and dried out the wood and she painted it. We designed the frame and finally assembled it.
One weekend around the time of this DIY project, we were at my mother-in-law’s lake house for the weekend and she was purging some of her old craft supplies. Most of the supplies were still in the original (1970s maybe 80s) packaging and not widely used supplies in today’s crafting, but before she threw them out I went through them just in case there was something we could use or upcycle as a keepsake that would be meaningful to always have. I took several rolls of old ribbon, lace and plastic pearl strands and came up with making the strand of garland as a way to soften the look and lines of the shiplap headboard. I think the absolute best DIY projects are free, repurposed, beautiful and meaningful…and it turned out to be all the above!
I’ve often been asked, “how do you do everything you do?” This is my “normal” so if I wasn’t asked that question so often, I would have believed that everyone lives the way we do, but because I’ve heard it so many times, I realized that might not be the case. The truth is, I wouldn’t be able to do a fraction of the things on my plate if I weren’t extremely organized and very efficient.
Being organized and being efficient are both considerable time savers. By creating efficient and easy to use organization systems, I’m able to find things when I need them, even if I haven’t used them in a year, I know exactly where they are because everything has a place that makes sense for it to be. This helps not only myself, but my entire family because if I’m not around and they need to find something, they would be able to locate it in less than a minute because there’s a rhyme or reason to where everything goes.
We don’t keep a lot of clutter and as soon as things are no longer needed, no longer fit, become damaged, etc., we part with them right away instead of holding onto things for extended periods of time that are only cluttering our closets, lives and minds. Clutter creates stress. The less you have packed in your closets, cabinets and drawers the less time you waste going through things looking for what you need. It’s important to have systems that are practical, realistic and easy to use so your family will succeed at making your systems become routine habits.
Efficiency can be exercised in a few different ways. If there is an opportunity to double up on something now that will save me time and/or work later, then I try to always take advantage of it. For example, we almost never run out of anything in my house that isn’t perishable. When buying products that we are most likely going to need to buy again soon, we always buy 2 or more of them. One is for use now and the other to use when we run out, so we are never left having completely run out of anything and in a crisis situation in the morning that throws off our entire morning routine because we must run to the store before school/work causing added stress and probably some tardiness (ex: deodorant).
I work more hours now than I ever did at my corporate job, but now (thanks to technology) a lot of my work can be done at my kid’s games when they are off the field, sitting in my car in the school pick up line and sitting in the backyard listening to the birds chirping while getting some sun on these legs of mine. I use every single minute that would normally be seen as “wasted time” to most people, and turn it into productive time that I can use to chip away at things on my to do list, like replying to messages so they don’t pile up on me and stress me out.
If I get stuck waiting for a train to pass (which is pretty regular in smalls towns like mine), I LOVE it because that means I’m going to be able to knock out several message responses before I even get home to get started on my work day.
Hubby helps me cut lumber, stain wood and some other things like that, so it’s technically work but we try to have fun doing it so it doesn’t really feel like we are working but more of a hobby we are getting to do together. One thing the entire family enjoys doing together is going junking, which is a fantastic way for us to help me get some work done, while spending time with my favorite people, who happen to be having an exciting time on a sunny afternoon.
When the kids find something great at the flea market, they even get to sell it in my store as a vendor so they can learn a little about entrepreneurship.
A typical day on our tiny farm begins with me getting the littles (that’s what I call my tiny humans) off to school (one in elementary and one in junior high), then coming home to feed all the animals and pick up any eggs that have been laid by the ducks that aren’t being tended to by a momma duck.
That one sentence is about 3 1/2 hours of my morning.
Then I tend to the flower, fruit and vegetable gardens, put in a load of laundry and check my work messages and emails for urgent needs before getting in the shower and dressed for the day.
Once a week, I visit a small family farm just down the road from us where I buy any produce I need that isn’t available in my own garden and I buy our meat for the week from the family owned smokehouse that operates at the farm. The farm is also one of our favorite family outings on the weekends because they have the fields open for children to go pick our fruits and veggies right off the plants themselves!
Depending on the day of the week it is, I will either work from home or work at the store for the day until it’s time to pick the kids up from school. When I work from home, I try to run laundry all day long on “breaks” so we don’t fall behind on it, which is easy to do with a large family.
On my work from home days, my preference if it’s not too hot, is to work on my laptop in the backyard under large shade trees so I can enjoy the outdoors and watch the ducks swim in the pond while I work. It’s truly a miracle that my wi-fi picks up all the way out by the pond, so as silly as it may sound…I am very grateful for that.
If it’s too hot, I do the same thing but from my living room sofa where I can have the same view but stay comfortable with AC (which we Texans love in the summer). If it’s a store day, I spend the day at the store, restocking, staging, helping customers with décor and furniture selections, working on updating the website, interacting with the employees, etc..
As I’m sure is true for most, our evenings are the most enjoyable part of our day. If the littles don’t have practice or a game, we can be found in the backyard feeding and playing with the animals, letting the animals roam around and watching them interact with each other, watching the boys play football, fish and climb trees, taking the kayak out in the pond and usually hubby grilling us some delicious meat for dinner.
My favorite part of living with my kids are the tiny unexpected moments…those unsolicited but deeply appreciated sneak attack kisses from the littles, being asleep in the morning and feeling a little person sneak under my blankets to snuggle for a few minutes before it’s time to get up for school because they set their alarm 10 minutes early just because they wanted snuggle time with mom, watching my daughter learn to “adult” and letting her try things on her own, but also being close enough to answer her questions when she wants my input.
My patience with children has surprised me the most about myself when I became a mom. It’s amazing how your unconditional love for this tiny person you had a hand in creating, can grow your strengths and develop even your weaknesses. I think most moms would agree with me when I say, I only thought I knew what love was… until I became a mom myself. There truly is nothing comparable to that feeling you have for your littles.
As my boys get older the “dance off” competitions and goofy performances they used to perform nightly have become fewer and fewer, which makes me sad to accept that season of their childhood might be gone forever. However, now that my daughter is in college, we have an even better relationship now than we did when she was in high school, because I’m not as concerned about her making the right choices since she has already proven to be a very responsible young adult.
It’s such a relief (I’m sure for both of us) not having to follow her around as a parental stalker making sure she is where she said she was…ugh who has time for that?? We goof around a lot more together and since she is going to college locally, I joke that I’m her “roomie”. Sometimes I even intentionally annoy her like roommates do, you know? So she doesn’t miss out on the experience (and because it’s kind of fun). On “girl’s night” we watch old Friends reruns and binge on junk food in her beautiful shiplap bed. I give her boyfriend and friend advice when she asks for it and try to not give it when it’s unsolicited.
I hope more than anything that my children remember the fun memories we are making together and they don’t forget those special moments as they grow up. I hope they remember how hard we worked to provide them with a good life and that we waited many years before buying “extras” and “upgrading”. We bought things we wanted as we could afford to do so, without going into debt to get them, even if that meant we had to wait a few years longer than their friend’s parents.
I hope they remember how important it was to us to put people and time together ahead of electronics and materialistic things and that they keep their priorities straight as they age. I hope they don’t remember when I made them help the yard guys with hauling piles of branches to the burn pile and we ALL wound up with the most terrible poison ivy rashes that lasted for several miserable weeks.
I wish someone had told me to have each child write a letter to themselves on their birthday each year about their life as they see it at that age and about their dreams for their future. I think having that to look back on and read with each child when they are adults, would be an amazing (and entertaining) experience.
I wish I had learned many years earlier “the smarter you get, the less you speak” and that some things really are better left unsaid. (Well, I’m still wishing I had mastered this one.) I also wish someone had told me that when it comes to technology…your kids are smarter than you and yes, it is possible for them to find an old cell phone (like really old…maybe even a flip phone) you threw in a junk drawer years ago and connect to Wi-Fi on it and download their social media apps to keep in contact with their friends when they are supposed to be grounded (seriously I had NO idea at the time that was possible…mind blown).
Above all else, I wish that I had learned the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in my life, which is to stop trying to do things my way and to submit to God and let Him do what He has planned for me in my life. In the end, He wins and His way will prevail so stop wasting time, resources and energy resisting His will because I think I know what I’m doing. As it turns out, His plan was better than mine anyways so just go with it.
Around 80-90% of the décor and furniture in my home actually came from my store and was all probably much less expensive than one would imagine. When I bought this house, I wanted to make sure that every aspect of it, was a reflection of myself and my family and we are Legacy.
As a small family business, every family member big or small, helps in one way or another in order to make it successful. What I love the most about the pieces in my home is that they are not only unique, but most are handmade or refinished by my husband and I or by people in my life that mean so much to me.
My dad is a phenomenal wood worker with the same OCD standards that I possess. He had never made a farm table before, but I begged him to make one for me (and it came out AMAZING as does everything he makes). Of course, I could have gone to a store and bought a nice wood farm table (boring), but that wasn’t what I wanted. I really wanted my own father to build it for me with his own hands… and I wanted that to be the table my family sits at for holiday dinners for generations to come. When he was finished building it, I had him sign the underside of it and date it for me. I’ve since recruited him as a vendor in my store and he builds furniture that I now sell.
My mom helps me so much with my store on a daily basis. I wouldn’t have been so successful without her help. In addition, she is also a talented vendor in my store and she makes wreaths (I have one for almost every month of the year), handmade signs and other décor pieces used throughout my home, including my scrabble tile collage.
The vintage painted furniture that fills every room in my home and the majority of wall décor and home accents I either made myself, found on the side of the road, repurposed or found at a junk store or were created by my creative vendors (who have become my friends).
Being thrifty by nature, of the few remaining items that weren’t hand crafted, several of those pieces I actually purchased secondhand but in pristine condition, such as the ornate sofa set in my Prayer Room, where I spend quiet time in my bible, praying and reflecting (or sometimes to just be in silence for 5 minutes lol). I only paid $800 for all 3 pieces for that set secondhand on a local Facebook garage sale site.
The chippy headboard I actually purchased from a local junk store owner that had built it but left it laying outside in over grown grass for months before I convinced him to sell it so it wouldn’t deteriorate. He was emotionally attached to it and had a tough time letting go of it but finally came to his senses.
Due to my style being predominantly unique and often handmade, aside from my store, Etsy is also a wonderful place to find handmade, vintage and repurposed treasures.
Some of my best purchases I found at local antique and junk stores… or just sitting on the side of the road! The hunt may take a little longer, but its less expensive and much more adventurous! Every piece truly becomes a conversation piece because there’s a unique story behind how you came to find it!
When I do shop online for new home décor pieces, I never find a better selection than at Wayfair. It’s positively overwhelming how massive their selection of options is.
Such wise and lovely words about one way to live a beautiful life. Be organized, work hard, be happy with what you have, be patient and enjoy the journey. I know that is something I definitely need to work on. Life can be so busy and demanding. And it is easy to get so focused on what we need now, that we sometimes forget that we don’t really need it, and it doesn’t need to happen now. Ha! Thank you, Jennifer, for this smart reminder that a little creativity goes a long way when making our homes beautiful.
Are you a DIYer? Do you have pieces you love even more because you crafted them yourself? Or is it easier for you to leave the crafting to someone else and buy what you need? Do you love thrift shops? Or are you more of a Target shopper?
Be sure to check out Jennifer’s shop and Instagram. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham – you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.