Every October my photographer friend Gina dresses up her (now 4-year-old) daughter, Willow, in creative costumes. It’s always hilarious, and as Willow has gotten older the costumes have gotten more hilarious (she posts them on Instagram here). Often, Willow’s best buddy, Cooper, joins her for the pictures and videos, and occasionally Gina will pull in another kid or two to pull off something else.

In the beginning of October Gina asked me if James would be in a photo spoof of the TV show “Fixer Upper,” so we went by their house one afternoon to see if he’d be into it. You never know with James…he does what he wants. But he was so excited to play with Willow (and with a hammer) that he was in his element while Gina and her husband shot pictures and video.

James and Willow

A few days later, Gina posted the pictures and video.

A video posted by gina lee (@ginalee) on

I didn’t think too much about it until that evening, when my friend Megan sent me a text. “UM Joanna Gaines just re-posted the video on her Instagram and Chip and Clint commented!!!”

Okay so maybe now I should confess that I was confused because…I had only watched the show a couple times, and I didn’t know anyone’s names! But a quick Google search led me to realize that Joanna is one of the stars of the show, Chip is her husband (the other star), and Clint is their carpenter and the one who James had portrayed. Cool! The next day, there was a Fixer Upper marathon on, and I quickly saw why people liked the show. I also decided that my house is terrible and I need shiplap everywhere, but that’s neither here nor there.

Fast forward to a week or so later. My phone rang, and it was Gina. “Guess what?! Joanna and Chip LOVED the Fixer Upper stuff we did and they want to fly us all to Waco!!!” Me, “Really? …why?!” Gina, “Because they said the video and pictures made them happy!” I am pretty sure I made the most skeptical face EVER, and told Gina that while that sounded really cool, I’d believe it when it happened. Who does something like that just to be nice? There had to be a catch. But every day, little details kept trickling in. They were flying all three families there, renting us cars, putting us up in a house Joanna and Clint had fixed up…it seemed way too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited, but I just kept being like, “So…what’s the catch?”

The morning of the trip, the kids were SO excited.

flying to Waco

Luckily, their enthusiasm held up through a 2.5 hour flight and a two hour drive to Waco, TX. After hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the house. If you’ve ever watched the show, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was absolutely beautiful.

the house

The House

The kitchen

The house had a living room, dining room, kitchen, four bedrooms, and an office on the top floor, and then another bedroom, a great room, and a work room on the bottom floor. Each floor had an expansive deck that wrapped around the length of the house, taking advantage of the beautiful view. The top deck also had six hammock swings, and I’m pretty sure the kids would have slept in them if we’d let them (I loved them, too, of course).

Hammock Critters

coffee in the hammock

We discovered that Chip and Joanna had left us a few bags of goodies. Shirts for the kids, hats for the adults, a candle, a gift card to their store, and a signed copy of their book.

from Chip and Joanna

After spending a few hours in the house, we went out for a delicious dinner where we celebrated Gina – it was her birthday!

Rudy's BBQ!

When we got home, we tucked the kids into the various beds we had for them.

ready for bed

The next day was scheduled to be a big one – we were going to Chip and Joanna’s big shop and open-air market, The Silos. (More to come tomorrow!)