They jokingly call themselves the “Brad and Angelina of little people” – for the size of their brood and the mix of biological and adopted children from foreign countries – and the “real-life seven dwarfs.”
But now you can call Amber and Trent Johnston – whose family was the subject of a PEOPLE profile in 2012 – TV stars.
Their new series, 7 Little Johnstons, debuts on TLC on Tuesday, March 31, at 10 p.m. The network, which aired a single episode on the family in January, has ordered 10 episodes.
“The Johnstons have already captured the hearts of our viewers,” Nancy Daniels, general manager of TLC, tells PEOPLE. “The family is extremely relatable as they take on life’s challenges with a can-do spirit and a sense of humor. TLC is ready to share their adventures.”
Amber and Trent – along with their children Jonah, 15; Anna, 14; Elizabeth, 13; Alex, 9, and Emma, 9 – all have achondroplasia dwarfism, a genetic condition. Jonah and Elizabeth are the couple’s biological children, while Anna, Alex and Emma were adopted from Russia, Korea and China, respectively.
Amber and Trent tell PEOPLE they are “excited” about the show and hope to share their message of self-sufficiency.
“There’s a lot of little-people shows, but I think our bigger message is nothing stops Trent and I,” stay-at-home mom Amber, 35, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.
“We have no problem taking on obstacles that probably 5-ft.- and 6½-ft.-tall people would be like, ‘Hell no. I’m not going to do that,’ ” she says. “We don’t let size get in the way.”
“Amber and I do everything ourselves,” says Trent, 38, who is the grounds supervisor at a local college. “There has been one or two times we had to ask a neighbor for help to tote something in the house but that’s about it.”
But they also have a lot of fun.
The show will see them tackling everything from teaching their kids the birds and the bees to the rules against close dancing (the Dirty Dancing segment is priceless) – all of it while renovating their home from top to bottom.
Last year, the couple sold their home in Barnesville, Georgia, and bought a true fixer-upper in nearby Forsyth, Georgia, at – typical for the thrifty couple – a rock-bottom price: around $100,000.
The 6,000-sq.-ft. house was built in 1891 as a church and became a residence in the 1940s, says Trent. It needs pretty much everything done. The couple had to tear out the electrical wiring and redo it before they could even move in last March.
“When we moved in, the bottom floor was the only thing that was livable,” says Trent. “We redid all the plumbing on the first floor.”
For a while the kids all slept in mattresses on the living room floor, but now the girls each have a room and the boys share a room.
“We wanted a house that would give us plenty of growing room,” says Amber. “Not that we’re expanding our family in any way, just the fact the kids are older and need their own space, their own rooms. When we’re finished we’ll have seven bedrooms and four bathrooms.”
That won’t be for quite a while. They figure the renovations will take another two to three years – which gives them plenty of fodder for the show, should it air that long.
Still, the couple, who have been married for 16 years, don’t plan to let their newfound fame change them or their thrifty ways. Amber will still cut everyone’s hair, and Trent will help her do her highlights at home.
“Life still has to be everyday normal life for the kids,” says Amber. “My kids are not going to walk away from this or start behaving in a manner like, ‘I’m on TV so I don’t have to do this.’ ”
Or, as Trent says, with a laugh: “Our heads are already big enough. We don’t need them any bigger.”
TLC’s 7 Little Johnstons premieres March 31 at 10 p.m. ET.