Living With Kids: Karie Wagner-Stetson

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You get to meet Karie today, and I know youll love her. She is a mom of three teenagers, and shes a school librarian, raising her family in a suburb outside of Dallas, Texas. Her story is one youll relate too life taking unexpected paths, but becoming something truly beautiful along the way. And youre going to love getting a peak at her home, which is overflowing with art and books and feels like the kind of place where you could get comfortable and stay a while. Karie is a wise, kind soul. Welcome, Karie!

Our family consists of my husband Will (45, Sales Engineer), our three children, Parker (19), Kate Winter (17) and Maggie Wilder (12), myself (44, K-12 IB Librarian), as well as a small menagerie of pets.

Ill talk more later about the kids, but before I go any further, I have to talk about Will. He is the kindest, sweetest, most patient and cutest boy I know. Hes a true partner in life raising our children, keeping our house in order, and the person with whom I want to share everything. He is always up for a run to Costco or Trader Joes, never asks why I need one more piece of artwork, chocolate, or plant, and tolerates me listening to Taylor Swift over and over while I make dinner after work. He would do anything for me. Hes just the best. I still cannot believe in all the serendipities of life that led to our paths crossing. Speaking of which

I suppose our story starts almost 25 years ago when Will and I met. It was August 1995, Will was 21 and in Texas and I was 20 living in Vermont. Our family had gotten a computer and it had internet access. It was my first night to get online. I stumbled upon an AOL chat room to try to figure out how this world wide web worked. Will was online and we talked a bit, he showed me how to make smiley faces and roses with various characters. Never did I ever think hed still be my IT support two and a half decades later.

At the time, I was to start my second year of college, but had to make a last minute change of plans due to finances. The new plan involved a move to Massachusetts for a nanny job during which Will and I continued to chat online and on the phone. That was in the era of long distance rates and dial up internet. We had phone bills that were embarrassingly high. He flew up to Boston a few times, and that December I went to visit him in Dallas. A month later, I got a job and moved to Dallas.We married a year and a half later.

It was crazy how fast it all happened, especially for people who met on the internet! It was a time when meeting on the internet was not popular or really a thing. For once in my life I was a trendsetter. Our families and friends thought wed lost our minds. But when you know, you know.

Nine months after we married, we moved back to Vermont so I could finish school. The following year, we welcomed our millennial baby, Parker, into our family. He is our Vermonter through and through came home from the hospital to a fresh cover of snow on everything. Hes kind, honest, loyal, a great friend, loves music, and history. Today that 8th generation Vermonter is 19 and currently in college in Texas. He is studying business but his true passion is music so he is taking classes to earn an audio engineering certificate.

Shortly after Parker was born, Will was offered a job in Massachusetts. A grown-up job with grown-up pay. It was a big deal, so we said yes to another new adventure.

The following February we welcomed Kate Winter while living in Massachusetts, close to the New Hampshire border. Our 2nd baby to join us during a snowstorm. Kate is both our comic and our serious researcher. Shes wicked smaht as they would say in Massachusetts. She is currently 17 and a college student (after graduating high school a year early), and she volunteers at the local animal shelter.

When Kate was one year old and Parker three, we moved back to Vermont where we thought we would live forever and ever, but things didnt go as planned. We needed to move back to Massachusetts for Wills job or find a new job in Vermont.Long story short, the real estate market was unattainable in Massachusetts and the job market in Vermont was nonexistent.We had to come up with a new plan.

We knew the North Texas area the schools were great, housing was affordable, jobs were abundant so Texas seemed like the right solution. That meant purchasing three houses in three states in just one year.

Actually, the funny thing was Will agreed to the move because he thought I wanted to and I moved because I thought he wanted to move. Really, neither of us figured wed be here more than a few years. Five years max. That was 16 years ago.

Three years after moving to Texas, we welcomed Maggie in May of 2007. No snowstorm for this baby. She and Will are the Texans of the family. Shes 12, loves horses, dogs, making movies with her friends, and is a future author in the making. She would like us to embrace the Texas lifestyle and move to a ranch to raise horses and all sorts of farm life.

Since living here, weve adopted four amazing rescue dogs: Edison, Einstein, Echo, and Everest. I was never a dog person growing up, likely due to us always living in rentals, but I am so glad to have these guys as part of the family. They are in addition to our two guinea pigs (Newt and Hagrid) and a gecko named Geico.

We live in a suburb 30 minutes north of Dallas. Our town has almost 200,000 people. Our home is part of a large subdivision with 74 different neighborhoods with homes that range from single-story ranch style homes to multi-level mansions. They range in price from the $200s to over 2 million.

Within that youll find our neighborhood. Many of us bought when the builders were still on-site. We actually bought our house site unseen! I found a husband online, so buying a house online was practically expected.

Its hard to imagine, but whats now our colorful home was at that time a very beige house. So much beige. And grey. And tan. Will tells me he moved us to the ugliest part of Texas. But its not ugly there are nature trails and pretty spots to be found, and there are places 30 minutes from us that have a more natural terrain.

It took me a while to be content here. The weather was different, there were no mountains, no trees, people thought I was weird, I thought I was weird, our house was decorated different than everyone elses, and while I liked it, it felt like an oddity. Wills job had him on the road most weeks and it was hard being in Texas alone.

In New England we met our dearest friends at libraries and parks. Here, people met at preschools, churches, and neighborhoods. I tried so many parks and libraries but struggled to find my people. I had friends in our neighborhood but most of the time I felt I did not belong. I missed my family, and our kids missed my family.

Time went on. I found kindred spirits and made those lifelong friendships that I had missed and needed, I found things that reminded me of home, and 8 years or so later, I started to feel like I belonged. By then, we had a couple of options to leave but the kids loved their friends, they had brilliant teachers, and it was never the right time to move.

16 years later and we stay because we love our neighborhood, friends, our schools, our jobs, and we like our life here. We long to move back to Vermont because we miss the mountains, the trees, the seasons, and of course family.We look at weekly and day dream, but really we are good here. Life is 90 percent awesome and thats pretty darn good.

I love our home. When I enter, I am happy to be there. I think it is calming, fun, and inspiring. Our home is a home for all ages. Everyone is welcome. If you are 2 or 92 weve got a spot for you. There is always music playing, we are always baking or cooking. Its tidy and organized with lots of art on the walls. Theres always a basket of crayons ready for an art project or a cake stand with muffins. I hope people feel at home and relaxed when they visit.

When we bought our home it was new construction, priced at $250K, in a fairly unknown town. But it was on a corner lot, had a nice kitchen, lots of space, a great floor plan, and hardwood floors. There was plenty of shopping and things to do in surrounding areas, but not much beyond the small downtown historic district in our actual town and a few local playgrounds.

But years have done by, and the area has grown exponentially, so according to our taxes, the home is now worth $450k. When you look at the numbers it was a good investment especially compared to the real estate markets in New England that we left. We saw our former home in Vermont on the market last year, and it sold for barely more than what we sold it for 16 years ago!

If you are looking to move to North Texas, homes are abundant. Prices have gone up as another large corporation moved here recently, but you still get more house for your money than in other areas. The newish freeway systems make travel in and through Dallas much more accessible than most cities.

Dallas itself has a lot to offer, including the Dallas Zoo, Dallas World Aquarium, Perot Museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Locally, we have a great farmers market, Chestnut Square (think Little House on the Prairie), and a nice historic downtown area with local shops, an amazing art community, almost 50 parks, two libraries, two water parks, gorgeous walking trails, and wonderful schools.

I was home with our kids for 15 years. I loved every minute of it and I was good at it. It was my jam. I really did not intend to go back to work when I did. There was no hurry and we thought I would stay home until our youngest was in middle school, or maybe later. I started subbing at their school and was only going to sub two days a week. That turned into a long term librarian sub job. At the end of the school year I was offered a 4th grade aide job.

It was a new school, grades K-12, and all three kids were there so it seemed like a good fit. Right before school started a 5th grade teaching job was offered to me. It was exciting to be wanted and appreciated after so many years at home and I said yes. The librarian job opened up for the following year, I applied, and I got it! It was dreamy and exciting.

I still cannot believe I have such a job. I love my job, I see the difference I make daily. Its one of the perks of being in education. I teach 31 Kindergarten-5th grade classes every week and work with grades 8-12. I work at a diverse K-12 International Baccalaureate school with the kindest, bravest, most uplifting, and inspiring people. I love the people I work with, I love my short commute, and I love the connections I have made with students.

Its a funny conundrum as I miss being home but I love my job. I loved volunteering at my childrens schools and having energy when they got home from school to be involved with homework, or conversation. I was not prepared for the exhaustion from working and then coming home and not always wanting to talk to anyone.

There are times when I think I made the wrong decision. I wonder if I should have waited longer as an opportunity to work would have always been there.

When our daughter needed to enroll in an online school and was taking college classes but too young to drive, I had a lot of mama guilt that I was not able to do more. Will works from home and got her where she needed to, but I felt bad it was not me, and being home would have made things easier.

When our son needed to leave college unexpectedly, it was my husband who helped pack up his dorm room and flew with him home. When the kids are sick and I am not home I feel the guilt; when they have school activities that that I cannot attend the guilt gets me.

I would like to think my kids see the joy that my job brings me and the difference I make. I worry that they may remember more of my tough days/weeks that are filled with tears and frustration. Education is rewarding but is also exhausting and overwhelming. I am excellent at overthinking a day and worry more than I need to. I think a lot of educators do this well. Send your teachers a note this week. Tell them what they mean to your child and your family. They need to hear it.

Finding balance as a mom is something Im working on. Ive wanted to take a pottery class for over 10 years. I finally made it happen. I met a potter at the farmers market and with that connection she helped me get a spot in her class. Its in the evenings after work.

Normally, I would not make plans during the work week as were all about family dinner, homework, getting ready for the next day, relaxing, and getting to bed.I wake up at 5:30 and I like to be in bed by 9pm. This time around, I feel confident that I can balance my day and attend.

My sweet friend and I are going to go once a week. Going with a friend will be fun and hold me accountable to go. I have good intentions, and I would tell every parent to make time for themselves, but I am awful at it. As the kids have gotten older its gotten a bit easier, but I am super talented at feeling guilty when it comes to leaving my kids home or making time for myself.

When the kids were little we rarely went out, rarely got sitters, and rarely did anything without our kids. But I think your kids need to see you have interests and hobbies and a happy parent makes for a happy family.

Sometimes its hard to justify babysitter money, or an outing without your kids, or all the planning that goes into leaving your kids at home. One of my goals this year is to do more outside of our home. I bought a Cinemark membership so I am sure to go to a movie a month. So thats a start. Hah!

I am a great cook, baker, listmaker, planner, and organizer. I can plan out a day, meals, outings, or projects with ease and try my best to make the day run smoothly. I am not a musician or an artist but I appreciate art and music and try to encourage our children to express themselves in such a way.

All of our children have taken some sort of music lessons (piano, guitar, trombone, violin, and ukulele) or art classes. I think they all have artistic talents and we encourage that creativity.

I am also a great book finder. I love childrens literature and I have a knack for finding good books. Arent sure what to read? Just ask me. I hope my kids remember all the stories we read. I have fond and vivid memories of the books we read during different times of their lives. I can see a book title and instantly be reminded of a time in our lives that we read it. We read a lot. Like a lot. Picture books, chapter books, audio books we have read and listened to so many. I hope they continue to read and stay readers forever.

I hope they remember the traditions and experiences weve created for them. Will grew up a Baptist, and just a couple of years ago, learned he was Jewish. I grew up as a Jehovahs Witness and combining our beliefs was a bit of a challenge. I was not baptized as a JW and he does not attend a church but we still had to find a way to make traditions and celebrations meaningful and respectful to our own beliefs.

When you grow up not celebrating any sort of holiday it can be super weird to start such traditions. We did not celebrate any holidays until Parker was 4 and Kate was 2 and even then it was small and awkward. It took us a bit of time to figure it out but we now celebrate holidays with thought and make them about our family. I am curious as to what traditions they will carry on with their families if they should have them.

I hope they remember how much we love them and love each other. While there are so many things I could do better and improve on, we have a great marriage. Will and I are a great team and I hope they see our marriage and strive to find a partner that brings out the best in them, lets them shine, and balances them. Life is so much easier if you have a friend and partner that supports you.

I wish they would forget any moment of madness that I had. Anytime I made a big deal over something that would not have mattered in a year.

I miss the crafting, the music, the silliness of costumes and dress up, building train tracks and lego creations, the non-stop reading, park meetups, how close we all were when they were little. I was a great toddler mama.

I love that my kids are older, independent, and dont require so much help. It makes it easier to run to the store, go out for a quick dinner date, or have help around the house.

Parenting little ones is physically and mentally exhausting. Parenting young adults is exhausting in ways I never knew possible. I worry that I am not such a great teen/young adult mom. Theres constant worry, wondering if you did enough to make them strong, kind, helpful, and independent adults.

You want your kids to grow up, be independent, have their own thoughts, values, and to make their own adventures. There are times when you see them make choices that you would prefer they did not make or had taken your advice to make their life easier.

I had a dream a few weeks ago that I got a do over in life. Apparently, my do over was to graduate high school a year early, go to college right away and continue until I graduated. I told my husband and he said I should have invested in Google or Apple. The good news in my do over dream is that I ended up with the same family just a better education.

I stopped and started so many times and it would have made life so much easier had I stuck with it continuously. Most of my gaps were due to finances. I graduated in 2000 but was missing a Geography class so really I did not graduate until 2012. Everything worked out but things would have been easier and I would have more options had I continued with school in a more traditional way.

We tell our kids over and over to complete college, dont stop until you have what you want/need, and then start a family, or whatever else it might be. Get that education while you have the time, the support, and youth on your side.


Thank you, Karie! What a charming home. I always appreciate when someone has so much art that theyve got it layered and covering every wall. And you can tell from looking at the pieces that its a broad mix of flea market treasures, etsy finds, and more traditional pieces. The art in any home really says a lot about who lives there and I think Karies art collection feels eclectic and inspiring.

One thing Karie said stuck out to me: Anytime I made a big deal over something that would not have mattered in a year. Isnt that such a great filter? When we are in the daily grind as parents its easy to get caught up and frustrated in the daily details. And some of those details, certainly, are important and worth focus. But wouldnt it be great to try and let things go when you knew you wouldnt care about them a year from now? It gives you a lot of perspective to look at things that way and would likely save a lot of stress and anxiety.

Are you the kind of person who sweats the small stuff? Or are you good at letting things go? What tricks do you use to keep focused on the things that matter?


Vinyl Fireplace Tiles

Friends Door Accessory

Kitchen pendants

Various Pottery Pieces

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? Its 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! Wed love to hear your stories!!) Email us at

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