Continued from What Makes Your House A Home (Part 1)
Stephen saw the possibilities and they moved in with nothing. They first cut down the big tree and removed boards that covered up the large arching living-room window. Soon, people actually noticed a house was there. They painted, bought a carved Indonesian teak wood couch and chair from an auction and began setting the stage for offspring. “We talked a lot about how to raise the children.” Karen said. “We planned a lot, and tried to bring into the house all the things that we loved and felt were important.” They had plenty of creative background to draw from. Karen’s mother was a ballerina and her stepfather an opera singer, so her childhood was filled with days and nights at the theater.
Stephen’s mother was very hands-on promoting his musicianship, to the point of actually carrying his entire drum set to school when he’d forgotten it. Stephen was passionate about the martial arts, as well. A few years after their first daughter, Tiffany, was born he left his “regular” job in Orange to teach martial arts for a living. He’s had his own school for 13 years now.
He also teaches the only sports-related classes at the Orange County High School of the Arts, a program in tai kwan do that he created. More offspring were on the way. Brittany came next, and then little Emily. The girls were taught piano at the behest of Stephen’s mother, as well as arts of all kinds. They were allowed their choices, but narrowly defined ones – very little TV and computer play, and lots of family time and talking. They also learned martial arts. Both Tiffany, 16, and Brittany, 14, are second-degree black belts and Emily, 9, is a brown belt.
“You have no idea the kind of confidence it creates, especially in girls,” Karen said. It shows. All three girls are the epitome of politeness and confidence. The older girls attend the arts high school and are in the piano conservatory. Brittany even played us a personal composition, “Winds of Hope,” that would not seem out of place on a store-bought CD. This ability to be passionate about creating is clearly the product of a home filled with not just physical attention, but emotional connection as well. “Stephen is so good with the girls,” Karen said.
“Any time something is wrong he sits right down with them and talks to them about it. We both do.” They also give their daughters the physical tools and atmosphere to feel comfortable, safe and creative. A lovely Kohler & Campbell piano sits in the living room, not just as a showpiece but to constantly beckon a petite piano player. Stephen has his electric drums in plain view in the sun room – complete with headphones so as not to disturb the cozy atmosphere. And elegant photos taken of Karen in her teenage modeling days hang in discreet places, charming and humbly placed.
Continue to What Makes Your House A Home (Part 3)
Originally Printed in Orange County Home