Design Mom http://www.designmom.com The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:17:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-255/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-255/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:17:08 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55174

New York

By Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I flew home from New York last night. My book tour events in Boston and New York were fantastic and I’ll be posting about them next week, but right this minute, I couldn’t be happier to be back in Oakland. Coming home is the best feeling! And I’m really looking forward to the weekend. How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to?

I’m stepping away from my laptop to get working on post-trip laundry, but here are a few things to keep you entertained over the next few days:

- A little boy takes flight.

- Exciting changes for some of my long-time online friends: Big announcement from the original Mommy Blogger. And what will become of SF Girl By Bay?

- The Pink Tax.

- DIY marbelized ribbon.

- The hidden reason for global poverty. It’s the best TED talk I’ve seen in ages.

- Giraffes at the pool.

- Woman walks the Paris Marathon with a bucket on her head.

- This is not a well-researched claim, but the idea of real live books making a comeback made me happy anyway.

- 7 lost American slang words.

-  The value of terrible female engineers.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Artifact Uprising Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/artifact-uprising-giveaway/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/artifact-uprising-giveaway/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 16:30:53 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55196

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I guarantee you do NOT want to miss this giveaway. It’s a really good one, and it’s perfect for creating gifts for Grandmas and Mother-in-laws for Mother’s Day. The giveaway is sponsored by Artifact Uprising, and the prize is a $250 gift certificate!

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Do you know Artifact Uprising? They are a small company dedicated to preserving the beauty and the stories that are sitting on our phones and in our digital cameras. They are “inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible” and they’re driven by the belief everyone has a story to tell. That dedication and inspiration translates into simple, gorgeous photo products — photo books, prints, and cards.

They offer about fifteen options, and each one is perfection. So you can’t go wrong, and you won’t need to spend hours deciding what to pick. I love that! It means one less barrier to getting those photos on paper, so that you can preserve and observe them in a tangible way.

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I chose two items to give as Mother’s Day gifts this year. First, this Wood Calendar. It comes with 12 sheets, featuring 12 different images, printed on beautiful paper. Then you clip them onto the board and switch them as the months go by.

There are two things I especially love about this product. First, you don’t have to wait until January to use this, because the calendar is printed on a rolling basis. Meaning, you place the order, and the first sheet of paper will display the current month.

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Second, the clipboard comes with a magnet on the back, so you can pop it on the fridge instantly!

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The other item I chose is a the Wood Block plus Prints. It comes with 12 photos, again, printed on luxe paper, that sit in a handsome wooden holder. And the wooden block is handcrafted using reclaimed beetle pine from Colorado forests. You can switch around the photos as often as you like — by the month, by the year, heck, by the hour!

I used images from a recent family photo shoot — a combination of portraits and candid shots. Some feature the kids individually, and some feature the family altogether.

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I’m so impressed with the quality of these products! And I also want to note, that Artifact Uprising designs many of their offerings with a square format, which is ideal for using Instagram photos. And if you use Instagram photos for these projects, uploading them takes mere seconds. Which means you could have your Mother’s Day gifts sorted, uploaded, and ordered in a snap. (Speaking of Instagram, Artifact Uprising’s stream is one of my favorites!)

To enter the giveaway, enter your email in this widget. The contest is open until April 30th. Good luck!

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What Do You Want for Mother’s Day? http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/what-do-you-want-for-mothers-day/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/what-do-you-want-for-mothers-day/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 05:35:15 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55180

aqua vespa profile

By Gabrielle.

Okay you guys. I know I should wait until it arrives in a few weeks, but I’m too impatient. Ben Blair just bought this vintage Vespa! Isn’t it gorgeous?!! He says it’s a Mother’s Day gift, but honestly, we rarely ever buy gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, so I know we’re just using Mother’s Day as the excuse. But I don’t mind at all. Hah!

I have wanted an old school Vespa for years and years, and he has been keeping his eye out all this time, waiting until he found a good source. I’m so excited about it. I can’t wait to see it in person!

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I’m sure I will be inundating you with photos when it finally gets here. It will be Vespa overload! But for now, enough about the adorable scooter. Let’s talk about what YOU want for Mother’s Day. And then, let’s see if we can get PayPal to #paypaylit it to you for FREE.

Not kidding! For Mother’s Day this year, PayPal wants to give moms exactly what they want. So they launched a really fun social campaign: Share the gift you’re wishing for on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, starting today through Wednesday, May 6th, and tag the post with #ultimatemomsday. Then, PayPal will watch the hashtag and randomly gift moms the item they tagged! How cool is that? Oh. And they want you to think BIG. So presents can be small or large — and feel free to include why you need/want the gift you’re asking for.

I’m partnering with PayPal to get the word out about this campaign because I think it’s a great way for them to celebrate mothers, and it’s a perfect excuse for people to try PayPal if they’ve ever been curious about it. I’m actually a long-time PayPal user. I’ve had an account for a decade, and I’ll go out of my way to use websites that offer PayPal — I even favor certain airlines that allow PayPal payments, and Ben Blair used PayPal to buy the Vespa!

The first reason I love using it is convenience. I don’t have to have my wallet or purse nearby if I need to make a purchase. All my info is stored in PayPal, so it’s just a matter of clicking a button instead of inputing credit card info and expiration dates. I find it so much easier, that I realized I’m like 200% more likely to donate to a good cause if PayPal is an option. Seriously. It’s just such a time saver for me.

And the second big thing I use PayPal for is to reimburse family or send money to friends. For example, if someone picks up theater tickets for me, I can instantly send them money before I forget, and without having to stop at the ATM. It’s also a great way to collect funds when you’re working on a group gift or any sort of group purchase.

Anyway, I’m a huge PayPal fan, and if you do much online shopping, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try. But more then that, I would encourage you to post your Mother’s Day gift wish, and tag it with #ultimatemomsday! Wouldn’t it be awesome if they pick you?

Now it’s your turn. Do you know what you’d like for Mother’s Day, or will you need to think about it for a bit? And have you ever used PayPal? Also. What do you think of the Vespa? Adorable, right?

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Famous Names http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/famous-names/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/famous-names/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 11:00:06 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54945

Humans of New York - Beyoncé

By Gabrielle. Photo by Humans of New York.

Apparently, I am the last person in the world to read the Humans of New York story about a school girl named Beyoncé. She says:

“Sometimes I hate my name because it always draws attention to me, and I’m not a very social person. My family moved this year from Pennsylvania. I was so scared the first day of school that someone would notice me. I wouldn’t even adjust my seat because I thought it would make a noise. One time I really had to cough, but I held it in. When the teacher started calling attendance, I got really nervous, because every time people learn my name is Beyoncé, somebody starts singing ‘Single Ladies.’ And some did, of course. But the second day of school wasn’t too bad. Because everyone knew my name.”

The comment section on the Facebook post is pure gold. If you need a grin today, I highly recommend taking a look. : ) Of course, it also got me thinking about my own name. It’s not a famous one, but when I was growing up in St. George, Utah, “Gabrielle” was considered unusual. I remember every first day of school, as the teacher took roll, there would be a conversation like this:

Teacher – “Gaww-breeee-ellle?” (Always said in an attempt at an accent.) ”Is that how to pronounce that?”

Me – “That’s me, but you can just call me Gabby.” (I always offered this because Gabrielle seemed hard for people to pronounce.)

Teacher – “Gabby? Why? Do you talk to much?” (Cue laughter from classmates.)

Me – “Well, actually…”

And then in 7th grade, which was the first year I had different class periods with different teachers, I had the realization I would need to have that conversation 7 times in the same day. And I totally did! But I didn’t mind the name Gabrielle, or Gabby. Other than the first day of school, people rarely gave me flack about it, and I ended up liking the fact that I had a memorable name.

It made me wonder, do you, or your kids, or maybe your siblings, have names that have dual meanings, or sound famous, or are memorable in one way or another? And if yes, did you like having a remarkable name? And when you named your kids, did you search for, or avoid, remarkable names? I’d love to hear. I get such a kick out of name stories!

P.S. — Remember when we talked about nicknames?

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Living With Kids: Blythe Grossmann http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/living-with-kids-blythe-grossmann/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/living-with-kids-blythe-grossmann/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:00:36 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55078

By Gabrielle. Photos by Bela Lumo Photography.

If you’ve ever been tempted to move to Florida but were waiting for just one more sign that it’s a brilliant idea, here’s your sign. To convey to you as accurately as possible that Blythe loves Florida, I would have to write it like this: BLYTHE LOVES FLORIDA! Although I’d need a few hundred additional exclamation points and maybe a few billboards to really get her point across!

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To me, it’s pure delight when someone loves the place they live; I always seem to gravitate toward those people, don’t you? Blythe is no exception. She loves her plot, is over the moon about her family and career, and has such a fresh approach to the how and why she decorates her family’s home with meaningful-to-them objects. Oh, and the way she describes teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to her students gave me goosebumps.

This is a good way to spend some time today, Friends. I really hope you enjoy Blythe’s tour.

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hi, readers! We are the Grossmanns: Nathan, Blythe, Cora, and Cassandra.

Nathan is my husband, our provider in the most literal sense: he spends any free time he can out in the woods or on the water, trying to lure in whatever animal he can! He justifies this hobby by saying he’s harvesting and contributing to our dinner table, and using the animal products in the most extensive way he can – more on that later – but essentially, he is just a free spirit who needs to connect with the wilderness on a regular basis. Nathan is thoughtful in a quiet way, spending lots of time teaching Cora how to work on a boat, or to crack open a coconut, or painting her nails. He and I started dating back in high school. Even then I was drawn to his quiet strength, his appreciation for our home state, and his odd sense of humor. Those things haven’t changed, nor has my affection for them.

If I’m going in chronological order, I’m next. My name is Blythe and I teach English at our local high school. It is a calling as much as a career. I absolutely love books, love sarcastic, boisterous, bighearted teenagers, and I absolutely love my job. I am also a mama, obviously, and this certainly doesn’t come secondary, although that comes as a bit of a surprise to me. I never thought I would need to have kids – Nathan and I both were doing just fine without them – and yet, coming to feel so passionately about parenthood has been the sweetest surprise of my life.

On to the kids! Cora is four years old, and never fails to astonish me with just how thoughtful she can be. Case in point: my grandmother succumbed to a long illness last night and when I told Cora today that she had passed away, her first response was, “Mama, we need to keep visiting her house. All of her friends [she lived in a small assisted living facility] will be sad and we need to take them cupcakes and maybe sing to them.” Of course, she’s right…but the fact that her heart always goes towards others is something that I find both inspirational and comforting. In addition to being tender-hearted and generous, Cora is many other things, including dramatic! Nary a day goes by without her losing her mind over something: the house burning down, getting stung by a bee, misplacing a marker, or me looking at her the wrong way are equally tragic and ALL garner the same reaction. Loud crying. Yeah, it’s…awesome. Not at all exhausting. Perhaps one of the things I love most about Cora is her lack of squeamishness. This is maybe a classic case of nurture beating out nature, but Cora is very casual about catching lizards, playing with earth worms, and eating dirty carrots straight from the garden. Cora is so in tune to nature and has such a great appreciation for every living, growing thing; she knows where her food comes from, delights in helping us grow it in our backyard garden, and I think that’s just cool.

Last but certainly not least, there’s Cassandra, more often referred to as Tickle Baby or, and I’m sure we’ll regret this, just Tickle. For whatever reason, Cora started calling her that when I was pregnant and it just stuck! It’s hard to describe an eight-month old’s personality, but so far Tickle seems to be the calm in our storm. She has just started crawling, so she’s into EVERYTHING, but she almost never cries so long as we’re around and is just a cheerful, complacent baby in general. She’s a bit of a Mama’s girl as of now – I think nursing encourages that – but she is so interested in Cora and our dogs and the world around her. We don’t plan on having more kids, and something about this baby…maybe knowing she’s our last has made her first months some of the sweetest ones I’ve known.

Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home?

A: We live in Merritt Island, a smallish community on the east coast of Florida. It’s one town over from Cocoa Beach, which is more widely known. Nathan and I are both native Floridians and we grew up on opposite ends of this same county. We knew we wanted to stay local. I had grown up having Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house, complete with the whole extended family, and I knew I wanted that for our someday family. So, straight out of college, we split the difference and bought a home smack dab between our sets of parents and called it home.

It was the stereotypical starter home: 1700 square feet, 1970s construction, and in need of lots of TLC and lacking things we’ve now come to crave (like a garage!), but it has worked for us. The selling points for me were the ginormous walk-in closet and the fact that the kitchen was relatively open. Every other house we’d seen that fit in our newlywed budget had a tiny galley kitchen and I just couldn’t picture people congregating in there. For me, the kitchen is the heart of the home and I wanted our heart to be open, busy, and full of loved ones!

So we took the leap, bought the house, ripped out all the flooring, put on a new metal roof, rewired, painted, knocked out some walls, and the house slowly but surely evolved. When we first moved in, we figured we’d be in that house for three or four years, then sell it to move on to something bigger. HA! Here we are, 11 years later, and we are still in the same home. However, we are soon closing on a new house: a change that makes me excited and scared at the same time. Leaving the home where we started our family and in which we’ve invested so much of our time, sweat, and dreams will certainly be bittersweet.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: Oh my gosh, prepare yourselves, because this is a topic I could go on about for LIFETIMES.

I am passionate about Florida in general: where else do you have swamps, pine forests, fresh water, salt water, brackish water, hills, coral reefs, hammocks, scrub habitat, cowboys and space shuttles all co-mingling? (If there is such a place, don’t tell me; I’m perfectly content where I am!)

I once read a poem with the lines, “Florida, Florida, land of euphoria” and I couldn’t agree more. Thinking about the beauty of this state makes me euphoric. I grew up eating oysters straight from the river, spending weekends at mullet frys and crab boils, and Nathan and I both have a deep regard for Florida’s waterways and wildlife, so much so that we both got tattoos a few years back paying homage to this odd state: his is an outline of the state, and mine is a mullet jumping across the top of my foot. People look at our tattoos and either a) can’t fathom WHY we chose them, or b) get it immediately. I think that’s very representative of people’s reaction to Florida in general: either you love her, complete with the drenching humidity, tempestuous weather, and persistent mosquitoes, or you just can’t wrap your head around why people don’t immediately jump on 95 and head back north!

I love being able to put our boat in the water and within 20 minutes we’re either gazing at gators, relaxing on a sandbar with drinks in hand, or heading out deep to sea: we are within 15 minutes of three different waterways, and each has a very different ecosystem. I love that at random times I’ll hear my windows start to rattle and I know it’s because a rocket or (formerly) a space shuttle has just taken off from Kennedy Space Center. I love that I know every one of my neighbors, and that I can’t go to the grocery store without running into someone. For some people, this would be their worst nightmare, but I find it comforting. I love feeling like I’m a part of something bigger than myself.

We also have an awesome zoo – one of the top ten in the nation! – that was built by volunteers. Yes, volunteers! And beautiful beaches, and an extensive library system, and great schools. You may suspect bias there, but truly, our schools are amazing: they always rank at the top in the state in terms of test scores, but they also have so many programs that go beyond what can be tested. The cost of living is reasonable, the pace is slow, and the people are kind. What’s not to like?

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? Has it changed since you found yourself in the throes of babyhood?

A: I would describe our aesthetic in several ways. First, I would say it’s very earthy for lack of a better word. As I started packing our belongings, I noticed that where other people would maybe be packing china, I was contemplating how to bubble wrap hornets’ nests and horseshoe crabs! In every aspect of our indoor life, the outdoor comes creeping in. There are mason jars full of shells collected on trips to the beach, alligator hides laying across the living room floor, urchin skeletons stacked in the bathroom window. Even the colors in our house seem to be earthy.

I would also describe our aesthetic as being very tradition-bound. That’s an odd word for an aesthetic, I know, but so much of what we own has a story behind it. My dad and uncle made our coffee table as a wedding present. As if that wasn’t meaningful enough, they used wood from our old sailboat’s hatch, our first motorboat’s bench, and my grandparent’s wine rack – could it possibly be more imbued with meaning? The Indian screen that we use as a headboard was my mom’s, a keepsake from when her parents took her to India as a teenager.

The farm table in our dining room is another family heirloom and its history has been detailed on its underside, courtesy of my grandfather and a pen! Every time I get under the table to add or remove a leaf, seeing his handwriting warms my heart. I could go on and on. In our adult lives, Nathan and I have only bought three pieces of furniture: our couch, our mattress, and a bench. Everything else has been given to us by family or pilfered from the trash, and while at times this has felt constricting and challenging in terms of fitting others’ undesirables into our aesthetic, I think in the long run it has made our home a more meaningful place.

Having kids hasn’t changed our aesthetic too much. At one point we attached plexiglass to the front of our bookshelves, but we abandoned that practice pretty early on. Baby-proofing gave way to being more watchful and less attached to our stuff.

Children have certainly added stuff to our house, though. Everything Cora sees is potential for an art project, so she hoards it away. She also has an elephant’s memory, so it’s difficult to discard anything without getting busted! Weeks after I’ve streamlined her art bin I’ll find her furiously digging, looking for a specific pipe cleaner or popsicle stick. My bad. Now she tries to check the trash before I take it out, so I’ve taken to sneaking out loads after her bedtime!

I’ve done my damnedest to make homes for all of her stuff – tupperware for dolls and ponies, bins for crayons and clay, shopping baskets for play food, etc. I want the kids to have easy access to everything they love, but there is just nothing more painful than stepping on one of Barbie’s stilettos barefooted and nothing more aggravating, to me, than picking up the same notebook for the fiftieth time that day!

I am excited about the day we can get rid of some of the baby things – Cassandra’s exer-saucer’s days are numbered and I will run that thing down to the consignment shop before you can blink! Other child-centric things will always have a place in our home, though. I love displaying homemade art work and holiday crafts brought home from preschool and finding homes for Cora’s collections – we can always find a place for more shells or flowers!

Q: What are some of your favorite pieces in your home?

I absolutely love the girls’ room. That was the first room where we started fresh. Oddly, no one in the family had an old crib or changing table, so it was a blank slate when we first turned it into Cora’s room.

Nathan drug in that giant cedar post and I was like, “Ummm…no. What are you doing?” Next thing you know, there’s a tree in Cora’s room! And, as he eagerly demonstrated, it was even strong enough to climb!

The sign that holds her name is actually a mangrove root system. Mangroves are amazing trees with these intricate roots that provide protection to juvenile critters in the river, and Nathan had found that dead bundle floating along years ago and had been saving it for the right project. Our baby was the right project, for sure! Over the years, little odds and ends have found their way into the sign, mostly things that hold significant memories of little outings. I wanted Cassandra’s sign to echo Cora’s, but not too closely. I couldn’t find any decent driftwood, nor did Nathan have any lying about, so I set my mom and aunt on the task. After a few days of beach-combing, they found the perfect piece.

Q: Tell us about your work!

A: Nathan and I both work outside the home. He is a fire inspector which means investigating fires, checking buildings for safety compliance, reviewing blue prints. It’s quite glamorous! Not. As I said before, I am a teacher. I teach ninth and tenth grade English as well as AP Literature in a public high school. I also occasionally teach a night class at the local community college, although I’ve put that on the back burner since having Cassandra. I’ll probably start back up in the fall, though.

Teaching is such a fulfilling practice. Every day I get to ham it up in front of teenagers, to hear about what makes their worlds go ‘round, to talk nerdy to them about stories that have changed my life. I am an extremely social person, and teaching has also given me an outlet to talk and engage and let my sarcastic self have full reign without having to worry about wearing Nathan’s ears out.

We are finishing To Kill a Mockingbird in my freshman classes today – this is my 11th year teaching the novel and I STILL get excited about reading it with them. That’s the beauty of teaching; every year is a new year, where I can reinvent myself and improve on who I was the year before. Every group of kids is a new audience, a new sponge that you get to help fill and wring out and fill again. And that collective gasp when they finally meet Boo Radley…it just never gets old.

Our home’s location, in a way, has impacted my professional life. Our backyard backs up to the practice soccer field, so there are always soccer and lacrosse players yelling ‘hey’ when we’re out back. Our old basset hound, Bob, even famously lapped the cross country team one time as they cut through our yard! More than anything, our home is a refuge from our professional lives. Teaching is an easy career to bring home with you, but I try to separate the two to some extent.

I try to leave grading at work and to find things to talk about other than my students, but there is definitely evidence of my job at home: we have an ungodly amount of books threatening each surface and I’m pretty proud of that! We seem to read every day, which I’m sure is the case in many homes, but I think Cora will be quite a reader if her current interest in books is any indication. I truly hope both kids turn out to be readers because I think reading is not only a joy, an escape, a solace – it’s also a way to build empathy, which is so important. Stepping off my soap box now!

Q: Okay. Taxidermy! It’s all over your home!

A: I totally get the resistance to taxidermy. I don’t know that I love it – just that it has become a part of our story.

My parents are collectors of sorts. Growing up, we were constantly picking up bird bones, fish vertebrates…they seemed as much like treasure as flowers and cool rocks did, so I guess in that way I was prepared to not be grossed out by dead animals. When I met Nathan, he was into surfing. I got that; my dad is an avid surfer, so much so that he won’t make plans with you for the day ‘til he’s checked the surf. Nathan also fished. Well, fishing on the river turned into duck hunting. That segued into deer hunting out on the river banks. And hog hunting. And then, all of a sudden, there was gator hunting and I was like, how on Earth did we arrive here?!

If you had told me 15 years ago that we would have skulls in our home and gator meat in our freezer, I would have given you a weird look, for sure. When Nathan started hunting, first it was all about the meat. I learned how to cook wild game and, honestly, I enjoyed the challenge. I love cooking and this appealed to my need for creativity. I take a lot of pride and satisfaction in knowing that the meat we eat comes from an animal that was allowed a good, full life – a free life. I know what I’m feeding my kids is as natural as it can be, as fresh as can be, and that it was killed in as humane a fashion as is possible. I’m not trying to romanticize what is indeed a violent act…just explaining that, for me, this is the best possible scenario for an omnivore.

However, Nate was dismayed by the waste. The hides, the bones…they were just being disposed of. And Nate is a creative soul fueled by a deep curiosity. He is constantly making things for around the home, sometimes ornamental but usually functional. I think for him, taxidermy was a natural extension of hunting and a way to master something new. First he learned an old Native American method of tanning alligator hides. He started using the leather for all kinds of things, from making bracelets to coolie cups. Then he started preserving the skulls.

Now, things often show up on our doorstep – people drop off snakes they’ve run over, coyotes they’ve shot, birds they’ve found on the side of the road. Nathan tries to make something beautiful or useful from all of it. He has given so many things to local educational groups, from Outward Bound, which my sister works with, to friends who work for Parks and Rec. He has a real passion for education and uses his alligator claws and teeth to teach both children and adults about the amazing biology, adaptability, and endurance of these reptiles. Did you know alligators grow teeth within their teeth? So that when they lose one, there’s another right there ready to use? How cool is that?! (Humor me: it’s cool, right?)

I guess some people could come in our house and think it’s a little morbid that there’s a gator sporting deer antlers hanging out on the counter, or that Cora’s comfortable inviting a stuffed raccoon to her tea parties, but no one has voiced that opinion. From a stewardship standpoint, I think it’s kind of cool that we’re trying to use as much of the animal as is possible, and that our kids will be very aware of what it means to be a meat eater. We’re trying to be good stewards and to face our actions, in a way, and somehow that has snuck into our aesthetic. I do hope that our skulls and hides demonstrate a reverence for God’s creation – in all stages – and that people don’t perceive it as an insensitivity to death.

I do have to say, though, I told Nathan that this new house will have a few less hides! The garage will be housing some of his larger projects.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

A: As I said before, I never felt that I needed to have kids. We were married seven years before we even discussed the idea at length. I felt like life was full enough without kids. And yet…oh my gosh, I can’t imagine going back. I guess my favorite part has been the constant, consistent love. Cora told me once, “love never leaves” and isn’t that true?

My heart is full to overflowing with love for our little family. I’ve loved getting to eavesdrop on Cora’s imaginative play, hearing the words she makes up to explain or describe things, and feeling needed on a daily basis – which is a double-edged sword, but it makes me feel alive. I’ve loved re-learning the importance of everything, from making cookies and waiting for a carrot to get big enough to pick, to counting down to a grandparent’s birthday. For Cora, it is all equally amazing and worthy of notice.

I’ve also loved getting to see Nathan as a father. Even when he and I are at odds, he is always tender with our daughters. We’ve been together our entire adult lives and there have been trying moments where insecurity has overwhelmed me, but seeing him with our kids serves as a constant reminder of how big his heart is, how constant his commitment.\

Maybe the most surprising thing about being a mom is seeing how intentionally I channel my mom. I spend a lot of moments not just hearing my mom come out of my mouth, but TRYING to hear her! My mom is an endless fount of patience and good humor, and so I am constantly trying to summon her words, her reaction. Whenever I can add in a dose of my mom, it certainly only makes life better!

Q: If they could remember just one memory from this childhood home – and you as their mom – what do you hope it would be?

A: I hope they remember being given free reign. I don’t want to be a micromanager or to place too many restrictions on the kids’ play. I love doing things with my kids, but I want them to have plenty of time and space to let their own imaginations roam. I don’t want my personal narrative to get in the way of theirs.

I hope, more than anything, that both girls remember my love as being endless, limitless, unwavering. Cora made me a Valentine’s card that said “I love you because you are happy and smart.” While both compliments touched my heart, the former was so much more flattering. Before I had kids, I always hoped my future children would be smart, but now I think it’s more important to be kind. I hope the girls see that in me: joy and kindness and compassion.

I hope Cora remembers planting her garden each season, and being allowed to pick to her heart’s content. I hope she remembers lying on the boat out in the driveway at night, watching the satellites zoom by. I hope she remembers how much she has been loved by the people on our street. I hope she remembers caring for her chickens, camping in the backyard, playing soccer out on the field, and the family members who have graced our home.

I cheated: you said one memory, but that’s impossible!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I can’t think of anything I wish someone had told me. I have an amazing community of family and friends that prepared me pretty well for parenting, I think.

Instead, all that comes to mind are all the oh-so-true things people DID tell me: that it all goes by so quickly; that you will be able to love the second just as much as the first; that you will be terrified by feeling responsible for two little lives; that you will wish you owned stock in Band-Aid; that if you wait ‘til you can afford it, you’ll never be ready. I think I heard all of this along the way, but of course hearing these truths and living them are two very different things, aren’t they?

Aha! Maybe this: I wish someone had told me that being a mother would make me want to be a better person. If they had, I might have jumped into it sooner. Nothing has made me more desirous of acting with integrity, selflessness, and compassion than knowing my daughters are watching me. Their watchful eyes inspire me to do better, be kinder, laugh more, and forgive quicker. I don’t always succeed, but I try to get it right.

–-

Oh, Blythe! There is so much loveliness in your thoughts. They made my day better. I found your explanation of why taxidermy is such a big part of your aesthetic so fascinating and thoughtful; it’s completely reflective of how you’re living life, so of course it’s part of your decor! Authenticity is always on-trend. And I’ve thought about this line a lot: “I do hope that our skulls and hides demonstrate a reverence for God’s creation – in all stages – and that people don’t perceive it as an insensitivity to death.”

Friends, I have to ask: How many of you nodded your heads when you read that Blythe never felt like she needed to have kids and that her life was full enough without them? Whether you’ve ended up with kids or not, isn’t it funny when we think we know exactly how life should play itself out? There are surprises around every corner, don’t you think? Like Blythe’s thought “Cora made me a Valentine’s card that said ‘I love you because you are happy and smart.’ While both compliments touched my heart, the former was so much more flattering. Before I had kids, I always hoped my future children would be smart, but now I think it’s more important to be kind.” Lovely, lovely, lovely.

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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littleBits Review & Giveaway! http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/littlebits-review-giveaway/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/littlebits-review-giveaway/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 16:36:03 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55145

DMgiveawayBanner

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’m super excited for today’s giveaway, and I can’t wait to introduce you to littleBits Electronics. Have you heard of littleBits? Maybe you watched the Ted talk? Well either way, I’m thrilled that they are sponsoring today’s giveaway — because I’m super impressed with this toy, and I know you’ll love it. By the way, the prize is a $200 Deluxe littleBits Kit!

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I mentioned littleBits is a toy, and that’s true. But it’s also an amazing educational kit. It’s made of these small color-coded electronic modules that snap together easily via built-in magnets. Once you open a box, it’s pretty much irresistible to start messing around with the pieces to see what they will do, and what you can create.

After just minutes, Oscar and Betty had worked on module combinations that included actions like clapping to turn a light on, pushing a button to make a buzzer go off, fading a light in and out, and adjusting a light to be different colors by turning up or down the different RGB dials. They have had zero previous experience with this sort of thing, so littleBits was completely eye-opening for both of them.

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At first, we just started messing around with the kit, but the kids got really excited when we checked out the projects that the littleBits community has made. Things like sending a text message when someone rings your doorbell, and a remote pet feeder. We didn’t get into anything that ambitious — the closest we got was Betty making a pineapple sign that spun around and around on it’s own. Hah! But the grin on Betty’s face when she accomplished her goal? The best!

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As a parent, my favorite part was watching Oscar and Betty test things and figure out how they worked: “Ooh! what if we make it so a red light goes on when we clap?” And, “Let’s try to make it buzz and spin when we push the button!”

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Little Bits feels like the ideal educational kit — our kids learn as they use it, but it definitely feels like play. And the reward is seeing (or hearing) whether putting the pieces together worked how you thought it would.

To enter, visit Little Bits and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear if your kids have ever shown any interest in the “making” movement. Would they enjoy a toy like this? The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

——-

Amy D. is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Boston & New York http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/boston-new-york/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/boston-new-york/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 15:48:23 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55137

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Seth Smoot, styled by Kendra Smoot for Design Mom.

Oh my goodness, our reading weekend was awesome! In fact, it was so good, that ideally, we will repeat this twice a year. Some of you have asked for more details, so I’m working on a little post with an itinerary of what we did. But first, a little Design Mom Book reminder. For any of you in Boston & New York, I want to make sure you have all the info for my tour stops this Tuesday & Wednesday (that’s tomorrow! and the next day!).

First up: Boston. On Tuesday, April 21st (again, that’s tomorrow), I’ll be signing books at Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street from 7:00 PM till 9:00 PM. The brilliant Christine Koh of Boston Mamas will be co-hosting the event, and she is all prepped to interview me with some Design Mom Q&A. Plus, there will be treats and gifts for attendees! Crossing my fingers you can make it.

Then, on Wednesday, April 22nd (that’s day after tomorrow), in New York, there will be a Book Party at DwellStudio in Soho, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The always fabulous Christiane Lemieux will be co-hosting. Join us for cocktails, a parenting discussion, and a book signing, too. Something extra special about this event: A proceed of the book sales will benefit Every Mother Counts, a cause near and dear to my heart! If you can join us, please send an RSVP to kmargolis@dwellstudio.com today.

I think that’s it for now on book news. Off to pack up for the trip!

P.S. — Thanks again for those of you who have added reviews to the Amazon book listing. I appreciate it!

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-254/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-254/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:00:44 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55033

Betty Blair

By Gabrielle. Image by Kristen Loken.

Hello, Friends! What are you up to this weekend? We are trying something new: Ben Blair planned a weekend family-read-a-thon (gosh, Ben Blair is the best). And to make sure it happens, we’re all headed to a nearby hotel.  If we’re home, we’ll end up running kids to practice, doing laundry, tackling some yard work, stuff like that. But at a hotel, in theory, it’s easier not to get distracted. We’ll see how it goes, but I have high hopes. I think it will be great!

Now the big question: What should I read? I’m for sure planning to gobble up Katherine Center’s new novel, Happiness for Beginners. Katherine is a friend, and I hear this is her best novel yet! I want a few more titles too. Any suggestions? I need them. I have barely made time for book reading in the last 12 months and feel so out of the loop book-wise. I really need recommendations!

I’m off to go pack everybody up, but before I do, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

How much water do you drink?

Sarah Silverman doesn’t think the wage gap is funny.

- How long can your sign hold a grudge?

- I’d love your thoughts on these new #partyhardmoms Hefty commercials.

- And then I’d love your thoughts on Baddie Winkle — the 86-year-old Instagrammer and model for LA-based Dimepiece.

- From an Art Director: Why I wear the exact same thing to work everyday.

- A save-the-date video that feels Wes-Anderson-esque. Thanks, Azra.

- NEW STAR WARS TRAILER!

- This 1991 Sizzler commercial is so epic it’s hard to fathom.

- One company’s new minimum wage: $70,000. And I heard they partly made it happen paying the CEO much less. Which I think is super admirable. It also gets me thinking: if a huge company that oftens employs the underserved in our country (like any fast food place or Walmart/Target), raised all of their employee’s salaries to a minimum of $70,000, how much would their product prices rise overall? Would they be 10% more expensive? Less than that? More?

Lots of videos this week, huh? I hope you have an amazing weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Betty (pictured at top) has been feeling crummy for a couple of weeks. She’s been to the doctor, but there is no diagnosis. The suspicion is that it’s an unusual virus working its way through her body. I don’t think it’s serious (I certainly hope it’s not!). But I’ve never had a sick kid that didn’t have specific symptoms that led to knowing just what the sickness was, with a course of action to get healthy again. Poor thing. Have your kids ever had a mysterious sickness?

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Call It A Day: Sara Fritsch http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/call-it-a-day-sara-fritsch/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/call-it-a-day-sara-fritsch/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:00:42 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54967

By Gabrielle. Family photos on bikes by Lily Wanderlust. All others taken by Sara.

Sara Fritsch lives in Amsterdam with her husband Oliver, their six year old son named Winter, and a daughter who is five called Penelope. After two years, Sara freely admits the city has her heart, but there’s still a possibility for a return to Portland, Oregon, which has the family’s heart as well. Expat life is tricky like that.

And there are a lot of details during her day that will make you want to dream a little harder about living somewhere far away. Or just dream of owning a bike that can hold five of your favorite little ones! That would be wonderful, too.

Come see what a day in Amsterdam looks like, will you? Welcome, Sara!

Q: Good morning! How does your family wake up?

A: Goedemorgen! My favorite way to start any day is with a really early run. Ideally I finish my run and shower before anyone else in my family is awake. I love knowing that I accomplished a little something for me without impacting any of them.

I have two girlfriends, also working moms, who I run with. We meet up around 6:00 am, sometimes earlier, and crank out several miles as the sun comes up, laughing all the way.

My kids and hubby usually wake just after seven. The hour we have to get ready for school always feels a bit rushed, in a hectic yet fun way. We try to sit together for breakfast at the table. It is usually Oliver and the kids at the table as I buzz around like a spazzy hummingbird making lunches, packing up backpacks, finding shoes, remembering library books, begging Penelope to let me put her hair up, and generally tweaking out that we are going to be late and forget everything.

Q: Can you share a typical breakfast?

A: We try to make healthy choices in terms of food. We lean towards fresh and organic products when we have the choice, but we don’t freak out when we don’t have the choice. We keep meals very simple and try to ensure they are well balanced.

I ate toast and a banana today, which is my morning meal every day. I was never a toast girl before moving to Amsterdam, but the access to daily fresh bread has me hooked. The kids ate Cheerios, an extremely special treat because you cannot buy Cheerios in Amsterdam. Oliver smuggled some home in his snowboard bag after a recent trip to Tahoe.

We eat most meals at home and I do most of the cooking. I don’t actually love to cook, but having kids has pushed me to embrace cooking because I recognize that it is important to know what we are eating and to eat food made with love and good intentions. Oliver and I also try to be good food role models; this is easy for him to do, but for me it requires that I wait until my kids are asleep to gorge on ice cream. Just truth telling! You want this to be honest, right?

Q: What’s next? How do your kids get to school?

A: Oliver is French, and our kids go to the French School in Amsterdam. We get there by bike. I have one of those cool Dutch cargo bikes, called a bakfiets, that can carry several children at once.  Wow, do I love this bike. I can carry up to five kids at one time on my bike, which comes in handy for carpooling and playdates.

We toured a few schools when we moved to Amsterdam, and we fell hard for the French School’s sweet simplicity as well as the chance to immerse our kids in their French heritage in an authentic way. And bonus! The location is amazing! It’s in a really funky, cool neighborhood.

Q: Tell us how you spend an average day at work. What are the challenges to working from Amsterdam?

A: I work for a boutique Business Consulting firm called ACME Business Consulting, which is based in Portland, Oregon. I have been with ACME nearly nine years. The first seven were spent in Portland doing traditional business consulting work, leaning on my education in Mechanical Engineering and my experience. When we moved here for my husband’s job, I was able to adjust my role at ACME to accommodate the move. ACME’s willingness to work with me through a global relocation is reflective of the firm’s innovative approach to solving problems and the value they place on their employees’ needs.

Currently I run our marketing team, an opportunity I love as it lets me pursue my creative potential from such an inspiring city, without straying too far from my technology and business roots.

I work at least two hours every day, but it’s often more like six. I find it very, very hard to turn off!

Speaking of creative, making this gig work from afar requires some funky scheduling! There is a nine hour time difference between Amsterdam and our ACME offices in San Diego, Portland and Seattle. I can do a lot of work independently while my kids are at school.  However, this nine hour time gap requires a lot of late nights on my end as well as flexibility from my teammates. This recent thought leadership piece, which I authored, focuses on the sweet spot where my home life and work life align.

Q: Do you have lunch plans? Do you talk to anyone that really makes your day better?

A: I love a good lunch date and, lucky for me, I have made some ridiculously fabulous, interesting, diverse, multicultural, and funny friends here in Amsterdam. I adore friends and colleagues who can make me laugh, and I surround myself with people who can deliver.

Today I had lunch with three girlfriends, and we talked about the very likely possibility of upcoming moves for all of us. Expat life is extremely transient, and we all have to get comfortable with uncertainty and goodbyes.

For those with an Amsterdam visit on the horizon, my favorite lunch spots in Amsterdam are Bakers and Roasters, CT Coffee and Coconuts, and the Amstel Hotel patio on a sunny day.

Q: How do you errand?

A: Food shopping happens every day, by bike. No car means that rain or shine or sleet or snow or hail (we see it all here!), I am on my bike. I absolutely love it. Between school and home is the Albert Cuyp Market, which has pretty much everything anyone could need: bread, meat, fish, produce, flowers, household items, etc.

I food shop every day for a few reasons. Food here is sold fresh and ready to eat, so it doesn’t last several days. Since my bike is my only vehicle, its size is a limiting factor on how much I can buy at one time. In our home, we don’t have American appliances and amenities like a large refrigerator, extra freezer, or even a pantry. And truly, I am not organized enough to meal plan in advance! I tend to buy what looks fresh and delicious and prep/serve it the same day!

Q: Do you carve out any personal time during your day? Do anything to recharge a little?

A: The daily early-morning run is definitely my jam. In addition, I do a painting class every other Wednesday morning and I am in an articlub (like a book club, but we focus on articles) that meets once a month.

At the end of each monthly discussion, we pick the curator and topic for the following month. Last month, I was curator and the topic was clutter: all types of clutter, including digital, physical, mental, etc. I hosted the discussion at a minimalist Ramen noodle bar because it felt on theme. Coincidentally, the bar was in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, which inspired our topic for April: Prostitution!

Q: When do you meet back up with the rest of your family?

A: School ends at 3:00, and I do pickup by bike. They usually have football or swimming or judo or a play date or a park session, so we pile into the bike, often with some extra kids, and roll to the action.

We get home and eat about six, usually around the table with Oliver.  We also try to squeeze in some homework if we have the time.  Although, at ages five and six, I have a hard time making homework a huge priority; it usually ranks fourth after fun, rest, and family meals.

I am decent at French, but my kids are better than I am. Every day it gets harder and harder to help them with their homework. Today, luckily, it was math homework. My engineering degree pays off in the weirdest ways. My qualifications to help with French homework may be questionable, but I am extremely confident in my ability to do math with a six year old.

Q: Describe your evening rituals for us. What makes the end of your day special?

A: At dinner we always play high-low, which is a chance for each person to share their high and low from the day. Winter’s high is the same every day, always related to when he played football. Today his high was when he played football in the shower. We have goals and balls all over the house – even in the shower, which I realize is very dangerous.

Post dinner it is bath, books, and bed for the kids. This is usually coordinated by Oli.

Once the kids are down for the night, I break out a pint of ice cream and we both work for a few hours, connecting with our Portland colleagues.

We get out pretty often, too. We have a solid network of babysitters and we love exploring the city at night. Our favorite date spots in Amsterdam are Foodhallen, De Kas, Rijks, and Tempoe Doloe. I’m eager to try Taiko and Fou Fow!

There are a few kid-friendly dinner spots we love, too: The Good Chicken Society, Salsa Shop, De Pizza Bakkers, and we’ve heard good things about Van T Spit.

Q: Please finish the sentence: The last thing I usually think about before falling asleep for the night is…

A: Yikes, you really want to know what goes through my head when it hits the pillow? There is a lot of gratitude, especially as I dream about where our next vacation will take us. The world is so accessible when Amsterdam is your base. Cortina, Italy to ski the dolomites is our next adventure. Pinch me.

But there are insecurities, too. Are we doing this right, this parenting thing? Are we juggling too much? Are we exposing them to enough? Are we exposing them to too much? Should we live near family? Will it rock their world when we move again? Will it rock ours? Will we move again? I don’t want to move. Yes I do. No I don’t. Am I ambitious enough professionally? Is it selfish to be ambitious? Am I too ambitious? Are my kids spoiled? Are they grateful? Are they kind? Am I grateful and kind? Will the kids struggle with English when we return to the USA? Am I spending enough time doing things I love, and can I scale back the time spent doing things I don’t love? How do I do that?

Are we smiling and laughing enough throughout the day? I think we are. La vie est belle. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

–-

Ahh, the insecurities! Yes, they do seem to roll in just before we fall asleep, don’t they? Thank you, Sara, for your honesty! And thank you, too, for the insider dining recommendations. Is anyone headed to Amsterdam soon? I hope you can pop in to one of these restaurants; they all look pretty great.

Also, I’m pretty motivated by Sara’s articlub. It sounds so much less daunting and time-consuming to me than a book club, and somehow even more inspiring. I’m adding that to my list. Tell me if you’ve ever been to one – I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it!

P.S. – You can see all my Call It A Day posts right hereAre you interested in sharing your day with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! 

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Pro Tips: All About Estheticians http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/pro-tips-all-about-estheticians/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/pro-tips-all-about-estheticians/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:55:17 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54493

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

Remember when we chatted about beauty tasks that we’ve never tried, and I mentioned that I’d never experienced a facial? (Still haven’t!) Well, Rachael Weesjes was kind enough to leave a comment about at-home options that work just as well as spa services. I almost didn’t believe her, but she should know: she’s been an esthetician for eight years! We emailed back and forth, and I asked her if she would share her expertise with us all. Happily, she agreed.

You’re going to love what she has to tell us, and you’re going to love even more the facial concoctions and remedies we can whip up at home to help with dry skin, acne, and aging. I can’t wait! Let’s start with a little background and insider tips first, shall we? Friends, please welcome Rachael!

Q: We’d love to know what it takes to be an esthetician!

A: Hello! I’m Rachael. I’ve been a certified esthetician for eight years. Everyone always wants to know about my training, maybe because we’re all on the hunt for amazing skin! I completed a two year make up artistry program, and then took a one year esthetics course. I do both now, but mainly esthetics with bridal make up thrown in during wedding season.

I started my career in a spa right after graduation that exclusively used high end skin care products from Europe. I stayed for almost seven years, but lost my job after the birth of my second child. I searched for another job for a few weeks to no avail. A woman with whom I had worked left to start her own spa a few years prior; when she heard that I lost my job, she invited me to work with her.

I always admired her. She wanted to work in an environment where she could make the majority of her skin care products, without any pressure to sell creams for hundreds of dollars. When we worked together at the first spa, we had agreed almost daily that it was too hard to sell budget-killing products we didn’t truly believe worked best. We knew that clients could get fantastic results at home without spending a ton of money. So our goals for the spa were very alike. She relocated to another city, and I now run the spa by myself.

My job description includes manicures, pedicures, waxing, aromatherapy and relaxation massage, hot stone massages, facials, body scrubs and cellulite wraps, eyelash and brow tinting, and make up. Estheticians can also deliver lash extensions, spray tans, and artificial nails. The list definitely can be different depending on where you live and how far you take your education.

Q: For those of us who haven’t had an in-salon facial, what do you recommend for beginners? What sort of questions should we ask before our treatment, and what should we expect?

A: My best and first piece of advice is to get a recommendation from a trustworthy source before you book a facial. I know a $20 facial that promises to get rid of wrinkles sounds tempting, but I highly advise you to run far away from those. Most spas will have a few different kinds of facials, and I’d recommend beginning with a basic option that will hydrate your skin.

Go to reputable spa. Feel free to ask questions about tool sterilization. If there is any kind of resistance to them sharing that information, leave right away. The best spas who want to keep you as a client will be patient with your questions; the ones who don’t care if they never see you again probably won’t!

Your esthetician should have some kind of education. The esthetics course I took was very intense! I had to memorize three benefits each of 150 different ingredients, become knowledgeable about all the bones and muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders, and all the different layers of skin. And here I thought I was just going to be rubbing cream on people’s faces! Turns out, estheticians end up being skin therapists.

Your esthetician should make you feel comfortable during your facial. You’ll have to change into a gown so your clothes won’t get messy, and you’ll probably be draped under a sheet and blanket. Kind of like going to bed! He or she should be asking you questions about your skin care routine at home, why you came for a facial, and what you are hoping to get out of your appointment.

A lot of women are scared to get a facial because they fear they’ll be blotchy or red afterwards, but if the skin therapist is doing it right you should leave with gorgeous, glowing skin! The redness most likely happens during extractions because the therapist is too rough, so you should ask to skip those at the beginning of the facial if you’re at all scared of looking like you’ve been in a fight! But remember: with the right technique and a gentle touch, that redness should not be happening. If your esthetician is too rough or it goes on longer than five or ten minutes, you may certainly ask to move on to the next step.

Q: What can regular facial treatments do for our skin?

A: Facial treatments remove dead skin cells, improve circulation, clear clogged pores, and hydrate. Taking care of your skin is one of the first steps in maintaining health and beauty, and adding a scrub or mask once a week can result in glowing skin.

DIY facials have been around for hundreds of years, long before spas or even professional care existed. The benefits of at-home treatments is that you can completely customize your products, you save money, you know exactly what you are putting on your face (no ingredients that you can’t pronounce!), and you can do it when you have time – no appointment necessary! Going to a professional gives you access to their experience and knowledge of all things related to skin. Professional skin care products also have had years of research poured into them and can be highly concentrated, which will you give really good results especially if you suffer from skin disorders like rosacea or psoriasis.

Q: If we can do just one thing daily at home to improve our skin, what would it be?

A: This question is hard! I don’t know how to pick just one thing! Can I pick two? First, stop using products that have alcohol as an ingredient. Alcohol strips down your skin’s protective barrier, which is the very thing that keeps your skin healthy over time. Alcohol in your skin care products contribute to your skin aging faster than it should.

And wash your makeup off before bed. At night, your cell renewal rate is faster and free radicals can be destroyed.

Q: What’s your best, non-expensive advice for a teenager experiencing that dreaded teen acne stage?

A: Teens that suffer from acne should look at what they eat. Eating greasy food results in greasy skin. Drink lots of water, I know everyone says it but it’s really one of the best things to do! The oil cleansing method will work wonders for their skin, too. Acne products for teens are SO drying, which just makes the oil production go into overtime…which makes more pimples. If a teen has severe acne or cysts that do not go away, they really should go see a doctor. Sometimes there are other factors involved that skin care will not take of. And hands off! No picking, squeezing, or popping. That’ll just introduce more bacteria.

Q: What is your advice for women considering more extreme measures, like Botox or fillers? What are your thoughts on aging skin, in general?

A: I’m not at an age where I’d consider Botox, so I’m not sure I can give advice. If you are going to do it, do it through a licensed medical doctor. Don’t cheap out.

I just want all women to love themselves and love how they look. Remember, we’re all going to die and be worm food one day. If you get Botox, you’ll just be more expensive worm food! Harsh but true.

This quote by Donna Lynn Hope sums it up for me: “I’m not opposed to aging – even though society is kinder on men than women when it comes to getting old. How can I look at aging as the enemy? It happens whether I like it or not and no one is set apart from growing old; it comes to us all. Youth passes from everyone, so why deny it? I’m proud of my age. I’m proud that I’ve survived this planet for as long as I have, and should I end up withered, wrinkled and with a lifetime of great wisdom, I’ll trade the few years of youth for the sophistication of a great mind…for however long it lasts.”

That’s what I want to remember. That no one is set apart from it. Will having a smooth face and full lips make me enjoy life more? Will it make me a better mother, wife, daughter, or sister? I can have a pretty face and still have an ugly heart.

–-

Thank you, Rachael! I have to say, getting a facial keeps moving higher and higher on my try-this-list. Fantastic, glowing skin seems attainable, less stressful, and, thankfully, not necessarily expensive. Related, Rachael is helping me with a post about three at-home masks you can make with ingredients you probably have on hand! I can’t wait to share it.

P.S. – If you’ve got a few insider tips from your own career, would you be interested in sharing them with the rest of us? Let me know!

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Solar Panels on the Brain http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/solar-panels-on-the-brain/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/solar-panels-on-the-brain/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 23:47:47 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=55039

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By Gabrielle.

I’m partnering with SolarCity on this post and I’m geeking out about them. Have you heard of SolarCity? The company is based here in California and it’s a super high tech, really modern solar energy company. In fact, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX is their chairman. They’ve essentially disrupted the century-old energy industry by providing less-expensive, renewable electricity directly to homeowners. Their goal is to make solar energy easy by taking care of everything from design and permitting, to monitoring and maintenance.

There’s no upfront cost, you only need a good roof, because solar panel installation is included at no additional cost! Not kidding. You have a consultation and sign up, they install in a day, and the cost of the panels is worked into your monthly bill. Best part? Even with the cost of the panels worked in, your bill is still less than you’re paying right now.

So far, SolarCity serves 16 states and it’s growing fast — it signs up a new customer every minute of the work day. And hey, if you’re a California resident, they have a really good promotion going on: the first 10,000 new customers in California who sign up for SolarCity will receive a Nest Learning Thermostat for free!

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So why am I thinking about solar panels? You may have noticed, we took a break on major home renovations while I focused on my book. But now that it’s printed and sitting on my coffee table, we’ve started talking house projects again. In fact, I have a drywall team coming to make a bid this afternoon, and we’re getting measured for new patio doors as well. But the thing we’ve been talking about the most lately is converting our house to solar energy. Solar panels seem like such a natural fit in sunny California, and we have 2 different neighbors that have started using solar panels in the last year, both with really positive results. So it’s on our mind.

Of course, I like the idea of reducing or eliminating one of our bills, but I also love that it feels like a truly eco-conscious step. Some of the earth-friendly actions I take feel sort-of vague, but this feels much more real. Does that make sense? I think I’m a little solar obsessed. My daughter told me she learned that there’s a particular spot in the Sahara desert, and if it was covered in solar panels, it could provide solar energy for the whole world. I LOVE that kind of thing.

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The thing that’s stopped us from going forward with solar panels is that I thought the whole process was really complicated. I didn’t know where to start. I suppose that’s another reason I’m so jazzed about SolarCity. I read their how-it-works info, and could feel my mind calm. There are steps! The steps are doable! I don’t have to figure this out myself! I’m really looking forward to our consultation — though I’m nervous that our roof will be too shady with all these trees. Hah!

Now I’m curious. Have you ever considered using solar energy? Are there solar services available where you live? Do any of your friends and neighbors use solar? Have you read much about it? Oh man. I find it so appealing. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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Living With Kids: Heather Freeman http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/living-with-kids-heather-freeman/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/living-with-kids-heather-freeman/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:00:08 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54841

By Gabrielle.

When Heather first wrote to me, she mentioned an affliction she and many of her design clients suffer from called Pinterest Paralysis. Of course, I had to get to know her a little better!

She works as an interior designer from home – which offers its own set of challenges, as those of you with a home office probably understand – and is also smack in the middle of the toddler stage when a home’s entire aesthetic seems to change. Things that would break your heart if they broke head to the top shelves, glass-top tables are replaced, and suddenly you find yourself researching how to remove jelly stains from my gorgeous white couch! I absolutely love what she has to share, both professionally and personally, and I truly hope you do, too.

Welcome, Heather!

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Stu and I were set up by a friend, and after a disastrous first date swore we’d never see each other again. Funny how first impressions are sometimes wrong! We’ve been married almost seven years and have a bubbly baby girl.

Like most two year olds, Gemma is a huge fan of jumping, swinging, any fuzzy thing with a tail…and yoga. Yep, she does yoga. We don’t even really know where she picked it up, but one day when she was around 18 months she started doing downward facing dog and child’s pose like a natural yogi. We just went with it, and now baby yoga is a big hit with the grandparents on FaceTime.

Both of our extended families live out of state, so we do a lot of road tripping to visit. One day we’ll have an actual vacation where we go to a new city, stay somewhere cool, and eat at fancy restaurants. But for this season of life, precious vacation days are spent at grandparents’ houses with home cooked meals. And they’re my favorite days of the year by far.

Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home? How did it look when you first saw it? Was there that gasp and a “this has to be ours” moment?

A: We live in a 1940s Tudor style cottage that stole my heart the moment we drove up to the curb for the first time. It’s nestled in the middle of what has been my dream neighborhood ever since I came to college here as a teenager. It’s right in the center of town near the university with old trees, huge lawns, and eclectic houses that are anywhere from 50 to 100 years old. Every street has a personality.

It’s a funny thing, these old homes. They lure you in with their charm and character, and then teach you hard lessons about homeownership and life in the most brutal kind of way! I say that lovingly but I am completely serious. Anyone else who has an old home knows exactly what I mean!

I have been obsessed with historic houses for as long as I can remember. Maybe it was all that Anne of Green Gables I watched as a kid. When my husband and I started looking to buy our first home about six years ago, everything on the market in our price range were these pre-fab homes that felt so lifeless and just made me really sad.

After one very long and frustrating day of touring what seemed like dozens of cookie cutters, I had a full blown grown-up melt down. Once our realtor left, the ugly crying started and I threw myself on the floor blurting out, “I’d rather just live in the apartment if we can’t get an old home!” To which my sweet husband of less than a year said, “We’ll just keep looking. Would you like me to go buy you some ice cream?”

He knew me so well, even then.

After a couple offers on other historic houses fell through for one reason or another, our home came on the market. I knew instantly it was the one. I’ve never felt as connected to a house as I did this one. It seemed brand new and completely familiar in the strangest way.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: I grew up in Houston, but moved to Springfield, Missouri when i came to college. Having been raised in a one of the largest and most culturally diverse cities in the world, coming to a mid sized town in the Ozarks was a huge culture shock! After graduation, I landed my first job and several of my college friends stayed in town. My husband grew up couple hours south in Arkansas, so southern Missouri is the perfect place for him to hike, rock climb, and camp like he’d done growing up.

I’d be lying if I said that I loved to camp, however I told Stu I did when we were dating. Don’t feel too bad for him; he told me that he read books.

Honestly, if I can’t be in Texas, the only place I’d want to live is in the Midwest. That’s saying a lot for a Texas girl! The people in Missouri are so down to earth, and it is extremely affordable to live here. We have a 2,200 square foot historic house in a nice neighborhood for less than one third of what we’d pay anywhere else in the country. The public schools here are excellent, with the elementary schools intentionally kept smaller and neighborhood focused.

We don’t have all the amenities of huge city, but Springfield is a great community to raise kids. There is a thriving creative scene, stellar art museum, locally owned restaurants and coffee shops, and gorgeous lakes and areas to hike just outside the city. We definitely get our fair share of snow and ice, but not nearly severe as the states up north. Having four seasons is something I didn’t grow up with and have come to really appreciate. I had my first white Christmas our first year in the house!

Q: You’re transitioning from a new baby in your home to a toddler; how is your decor adjusting to your daughter’s curious hands and fresh mobility? What are the biggest adjustments you’re making during this phase?

A: As Gemma has branched up and out, I’ve become more strategic with decorating. For example, we swapped out glass square end tables with sharp corners for a wooden round top and a set of acrylic nesting tables. The acrylic tables are basically Gemma’s favorite things ever. She totally takes ownership of them and moves them from room to room depending on where she wants to have a tea party or stuffed animal fort at the moment. And it works brilliantly. I know that acrylic isn’t everyone’s look, but man is it practical for kids!

Also, I’m very much into zoning these days. Just because toddlers are active and exploring doesn’t mean all the pretties have to be locked away. I simply moved them up! I use the top shelves on my bookcase for breakables and heirlooms and the bottom shelves are filled with boxes and books that she is free to pull out and play with.

Artwork is one of the best ways to add color and pattern to a room that is 100% kid proof. Obviously table top decor is a calculated risk when you have small kids, but I don’t keep anything overly precious within her grasp. Filling a simple tray with books, wooden candlesticks and metal items are a nice way to incorporate different finished without using breakables.

I always encourage my clients to think about what I call their home’s big impact spots; places where they can focus their decor efforts and get a big return. For example, my mantel is one. It’s visible almost immediately when you walk in the door as a focal point in the living room, but you also see it while sitting at the dining table. This is a spot that I always make sure looks fresh and curated with fun objects or simple picks depending on my mood. And it’s totally toddler proof. Bonus!

Lately I feel like I’m moving toward a more stripped down approach to decorating…being very intentional about the choices I’m making. This has carried over into my design work as well. Personally I’m in a season of really appreciating and striving for simplicity in so many areas, from our family schedule to what we wear to what I put in our home. If I don’t love it, I’m much more willing to part with it.

Less but better is a quote that’s really resonating with me this season of life.

Q: You work as a designer from your home. What challenges does this present and how do you deal with them?

A: Working from home is both a blessing and a HUGE challenge at times. When Gemma was a baby, I could easily care for her and work without feeling like I was missing too much of either world. As she’s gotten older, this gets trickier to explain that when mommy is in the office, I’m working. We have a great sitter who helps us most days of the week, but my overall goal was to be creative about how and when I worked, so she could still be home with Stu or me as often as possible.

Because Stu also works from home, we have to be really strategic about leaving work in the office and deciding when to shut it off. If my fabric samples and project plans start to spill into the kitchen or the living room, it’s almost a physical reminder that I’m not respecting our family space.

Even though we have an office, when I first started often times I’d end up working in the living room or the bedroom. Now I try to avoid that if I can. It just blurs the lines for me and makes it easier to work just another hour or two instead of unplugging, shutting the laptop down, and turning off my phone to connect with Stu.

We’re pretty good about keeping family time protected, but once Gemma is in bed, many nights we have to work. If we aren’t intentional about just hanging out together, our home can feel like an office 24/7. Sometimes a night of Netflix and popcorn is both healthy and necessary.

Q: You’ve got a blog! Tell us all about it! And what are your goals for your online spot?

A: Decor Fix is an extension of the work I do as a designer and Decor Coach. On the site, I share stylish ways to simply help you love your home! I work with clients both locally and virtually to help them weed through confusion, see their home’s potential, and make decisions with intention. I find that most people know what they like, but the struggle is translating a picture in their head into reality in their home.

When we have confidence and clarity about our home and style, making decisions becomes much easier and about 100 times more enjoyable. It’s so much more than just having pretty stuff. I truly believe that when our homes reflect and inspire us, we are more free to experience life with the people we love.

Creating an environment that supports and nurtures us is a process worth pursuing. And yes, I truly believe it’s a process. Unlike a lot of home makeover shows that would swoop in and deliver a whole new room in 48 hours, I believe curating your space is a deeply personal process that won’t happen overnight. But it can teach us so much about ourselves and keep us grounded in our values. (Okay, I know I’m preaching to the choir here!)

Q: You mention Pinterest paralysis, which makes me laugh! Can you talk a little about this illness and how to get over it?

A: Yes, the struggle is real! I have been a victim to this, and I realized that most of my clients were suffering from this at one point or another. I use Pinterest every day as a tool for work and love how handy it is to organize and keep tabs on things that are currently inspiring me personally.

BUT! It can be unhealthy at certain points for any of us. Sometimes inspiration overload robs us of our ability to clearly see how we should be spending our creative efforts. Inspiration is only helpful if it leads us to better thinking or better doing. And sometimes Pinterest is detrimental to both of these processes.

We see, we pin.

We pin, we compare.

We pin and we pin and we pin and then we start to resent our current situation, whether in our homes, what we’re wearing, or even what we’re making for dinner.

Realizing when this is happening is key. Stopping is easier said than done, but just getting off the computer and getting your hands into a new project, be that tackling a new recipe or simply cleaning out your junk drawer, will leave you feeling better than a 30 minute pinfest on a down day.

I’ve even told a couple clients to take a Pinterest fast as part of the design process. I’ve had them go to the fabric store instead. Something about physically interacting with fabrics or finishes shakes us out of receptive only mode. We’re no longer just clicking, we’re engaging. It sets you up to actually make some progress in your home.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own daughter? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

A: Oh my goodness, how do you pick? I mean, the giggles! The giggles and the kisses have to be every mama’s favorite thing. And those pudgy little feet…even when they’re stinky.

I’ve been surprised how healing motherhood has been for me and my own mom. Even though it is filled with love, we have not always had the easiest relationship. Since having Gemma, it’s led me to a whole new level of gratefulness for all she invested in me. Seeing how much she loves her grandbaby makes it much easier to forgive anything in our past.

Q: If she could remember just one memory or tradition from this childhood home – and you as her mom – what do you hope it would be?

A: Dance parties. The wildly silly impromptu dance parties that we have multiple times a day in our living room. Stu dances like a crazy person. I dance like a mom trying to keep all the wobbles contained within the confines of her clothing. Gemma dances with stuffed animals like they’re her best friends in the world. The windows are open, and we often get stares from people passing by. I want Gemma to know that silliness is a virtue.

And that sometimes you have the biggest dance parties when you’ve had the hardest days.

If we can put on a little Bruno Mars and shake off a bad day and love on each other, then that’s the safest place I can give her.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me that simply showing up and doing your best is good enough. You aren’t going to be the best, and sometimes you might feel like you’re failing. A crying toddler, a disastrously messy house, unanswered emails, take-out for dinner, and yesterday’s makeup are not a sign of failure…they’re a sign that you’re doing your best. And that’s good enough.

And tomorrow your baby will smile again, you’ll cook a decent dinner, attack your to-do list, and maybe even wash your hair…or maybe not. But it’s okay either way.

–-

Thank you, Heather! It’s true: some days are hard, and all you can do is turn up the music and dance it all away. The way you described your dance styles is so perfect; I can totally visualize what your passers-by are witnessing, and I can’t stop smiling! Again, thanks for being here.

Friends, what about this: “We see, we pin. We pin, we compare. We pin and we pin and we pin and then we start to resent our current situation, whether in our homes, what we’re wearing, or even what we’re making for dinner.” Do you ever feel like that, or does the massive burst of inspiration Pinterest provides override those frustrations? And do you ever impose a Pinterest fast?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Oakland & Utah Book Party Reports! http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/oakland-utah-book-parties/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/oakland-utah-book-parties/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:15:49 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54996

Design Mom Book Tour04

By Gabrielle.

Okay you guys. My book launch party was almost a week ago, then I had my first two away-from-home book tour stops on Saturday, and I’ve been dying to report all about them! In fact, while we’re talking about it, you can plan on about one book post a week from now through most of May — I’ll be reporting on the book parties, and talking about upcoming events, and there will be a big giveaway too.

Anyway, the launch party here in Oakland was just amazing. Such a fun night! And what a fantastic experience it was to meet so many readers. It was nothing but grins from me the whole time. I couldn’t believe how many people came out to support me. Just the best feeling in the world.

I can tell you honestly that I only have one regret about the evening: I didn’t hire a photographer for the event! Hah! Oh well, I hope you don’t mind these phone pics to much.

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OAKLAND PARTY

First of all, my sister Jordan and her Oh Happy Day team took care of the decor and it looked terrific! It was big and festive with lots of yellow, yellow, yellow. They even created a 3D oversize version of my book! It’s the coolest. I’m trying to figure out how to ship it to my next party. : )

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Ben Blair was the MC, and my friend Michele made the cookies. She’s the pastry chef at Zut!, a restaurant we love in Berkeley, plus our kids go to school together. The cookies were so yummy that they were absolutely gobbled up, and we actually ran out of champagne flutes because we had more guests than expected. Which was a happy surprise!

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I signed books the whole time, with a short break for Q&A with Jordan. Something super cute: a few people asked my kids to sign their individual handprints on the front of the book. Adorable!

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In the gift bags there were little San Francisco Petit Puzzles by Petit Collage, reversible wrapping paper from Wrappily, colorful socks from Woven Pear, and Oakland Love card sets from Noteify. (For those of you who missed out, don’t despair! I’m setting aside a few gift bag goodies so that I can do a big giveaway on the blog. Watch for it next week.)

Overall, it was simply a wonderful night. The staff at Diesel Books was super helpful, the event was packed, and I LOVED having my kids there. They were a huge help setting up, they handed out gift bags, chatted with guests so I could concentrate on signing books, and restocked refreshments through the evening. They are my favorite people. After the party we all went out for a late dinner. The whole day I felt lucky, lucky, lucky.

UTAH PARTIES

Now to the Utah parties. I had two stops in Utah — one at the Deseret Book on University Parkway, and one at the Deseret Book in Fort Union. Both were so much fun! There were lots of attendees and a fun mix of new readers, old friends from college, friends from New York who had moved to Utah, and family too! At the very end, one of my dearest friends from high school, Jandi Jones Gubler, walked in. She doesn’t even live in Utah, but happened to be in town. I about died! What a fantastic surprise.

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The setup made me smile. There were Design Mom books everywhere, and they made such an impact! Camellia Rowland and Anna Rose Johnson arranged the decor and filled the gift bags. They did a bang-up job. Anna Rose created a fabulous paper diamond backdrop where we could take photos. As a team they were extremely organized and took care of every detail — fresh flowers, a foam-core board (where attendees could list the best or the craziest parenting advice they’d been given), and they handled refreshments too.

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Speaking of refreshments, the yummiest part of the Utah events were definitely the Lemon Cake Bites from The Sweet Tooth Fairy! They were so good. I must have eaten twenty over the course of the day.

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At the first event, Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show co-hosted the party and did a Q&A.  She is hilarious and such a force for positivity. She sent me funny texts that morning, making sure we weren’t wearing matching outfits. At the second event, Emily and Nicole of Small Fry Blog were the co-hosts. Gosh I love those girls. We got right into it talking parenting and screen time.

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In the gifts bags, guests received Animal Petit Puzzles from Petit Collage, more wrapping paper in neon designs from Wrappily, kid accessories from Hello Shiso, the coolest gloves and booties for babies and toddlers from miniTENS, gold-foil garlands from My Mind’s Eye, doodle books from Start Creative, and a set of luxe Animal Alphabet Cards from GiantSuper.

It was a very very short trip. I returned to Oakland the same night. And then it was nothing but family time for the rest of the weekend. The best! A huge thank you to everyone that came out to the parties, and to everyone who helped put the parties together. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to get to interact — and even have one-on-one conversations — with so many readers. You guys are THE BEST!

P.S. — What’s next? I’m not traveling this week, but I’ll be in Boston & New York next week. Will I see you there? You can find the whole tour schedule here.

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Three New DIY Books http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/three-new-diy-books/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/three-new-diy-books/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:42:54 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54982

Craft Books Spring 20153

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Warmer weather seems to bring on the DIY and project urges at our house. It’s like April arrives and I automatically start dreaming of glitter and modge podge and paint chips. In case you’ve got the same instincts, I’ve added three new craft/DIY/sewing/project books to my collection, and I think you’ll enjoy all three.

First up, Materially Crafted by Victoria Hudgins of A Subtle Revelry.

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The photography is excellent and airy, the layouts are clean and clear, but I think the thing that really stood out to me about this book is that the concepts were things I’d never seen before. They seem like really original ideas. I mean, embroidery on a vintage chair? How cool is that?

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Next, this cheery, colorful book called Oh Joy! is another keeper. It’s by Joy Cho who writes a blog with the same name.

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The projects in this book are guaranteed to make you smile. It’s a really happy book, and just flipping through made me want to throw a party! And I love that the ideas are new — no repeats from her blog. Yay for excellent original content!

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The third book is for your kids. It’s called the Girls Guide to DIY Fashion, and it was created by Rachel Low of Pins & Needles.

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See those happy girls on the cover? Well this book will teach your kids how to make every single thing they’re wearing — simple dresses, sweet accessories, even complete outfits! I’m thinking ahead to summer break and I know this book will be a wonderful way to prevent cries of “I’m bored”. If you have a mini-fashion designer at your house, this seems like a smart first book to get them creating actual clothes.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-253/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-253/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 12:30:05 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54937

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Image and text by Gabrielle. I know Easter is over, but it’s still endless egg salad sandwiches at our house.

So this has been, and continues to be, a fun week. The official Design Mom Book publish date was Tuesday, and as I’ve mentioned, I had a big launch party that night that I can’t wait to tell you about. But there’s more. We shot a really good Olive Us episode today, and I have two book tour events in Utah tomorrow (see below)! Another thing that made me grin: Publisher’s Weekly gave my book a starred review — their highest rating! If you’d like to, you can read the review on the Amazon listing.

A huge thank you to everyone who has bought a book, or told a friend about it, or Instagrammed it, or left an Amazon review, or who came to my book party, or who is planning to come to an upcoming book party. I’m just so completely grateful for the support. Seriously. I can’t thank you enough.

Now about those events in Utah tomorrow. Are you coming? They’re going to be fantastic! First, I’ll be at Deseret Book near University Mall, (230 E University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058), from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM. And the fabulous Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show will be there to quiz me on all my motherhood secrets! Then, I’ll be at the Fort Union Deseret Book from 2:00 to 3:30 PM with the always lovely Small Fry Ladies! Book signings, gift bags, treats, terrific discussions, and YOU are invited! I hope to see you there.

I need to be off to catch my flight to Utah, but before I head out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Putting out fires with sound? Fantastic.

- Everyday racism.

- The next session of Language Hangouts with Haiti Partners is starting soon! It’s free to get involved and chatting with Haitian teens, helping them learn English, is really the coolest!

- Dove keeps knocking it out of the ballpark. This one about #choosebeautiful made me emotional and I can’t even pinpoint what it is exactly.

- Diverse emoji.

- Making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits.

- Amy Schumer is new-to-me, but I think I’m in love.

- Jimmy Carter on losing his religion for equality.

- Foraged Mother’s Day Boutonnieres.

- A campaign to put a woman’s face on the 20 dollar bill. Thoughts?

- One more Design Mom book mention, I LOVE this thoughtful review from A Practical Wedding.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend — and if you live in Utah, maybe I’ll see you! Either way, I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Pop & Lolli Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/pop-lolli-giveaway-9/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/pop-lolli-giveaway-9/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:00:05 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54375

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By Gabrielle.  

Here’s a happy giveaway! It’s sponsored by Pop & Lolli, and the prize is a $100 store credit, so you can pick out exactly what you want. Hooray!

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Pop & Lolli is all about Larger Than Life fabric wall decals. Their selection is outstanding! Tons of themes — trains, robots, mermaids, pirates, family trees, flowers, animals, and on, and on. The decals are colorful, beautifully designed, and offer major impact in a room.

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The designs I’m eyeing these days are the brand new Create-A-Castle, the Dinosaurs to Dragons, and the Animal Alphabet. And I always love the Sarah Jane designs as well. Made in the U.S.A., the decals (and wallpapers!) are removable, reusable and completely reposition-able — simply the BEST decals out there!

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Pop & Lolli’s chic wall art will transform any blank wall into a space that encourages imaginative play. Their decals would be darling in a playroom, classroom, child’s bedroom, or boring hallway. We’ve got Pop & Lolli’s colorful World Map decal in our family room — in fact, I need to show you photos of how great it looks. I’ll put a post on the schedule asap!

To enter, visit Pop & Lolli and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear which decals you want most! The winner will be announced on Tuesday. Good luck!

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Wedding Rings http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/wedding-rings/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/wedding-rings/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 19:08:09 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54909

Design Mom Wedding Rings

Image and photo by Gabrielle.

Last night was my Oakland book launch party! It was fantastic and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about wedding rings. Since I knew I would be signing books last night, and my hands would be out in front of people, making sure my nails were presentable was on my checklist for the evening. My current nail polish has been in place for over a week, but it’s a shellac manicure so luckily, it’s still looking good, and I didn’t have to make any changes. Which was great, because I wouldn’t have had time anyway. Hah!

But I realized about halfway through the signing that I wasn’t wearing my wedding rings. It wasn’t a huge surprise, because I don’t wear them on a day-to-day basis, but I like to put them on when I’m going out. I didn’t start out married life planning to not wear my wedding rings. Honestly, I never really gave wedding rings much thought. And I’ve never shopped for a wedding ring or learned anything about diamonds. Though I’m sure I just assumed I would wear one when I was married. But it turns out I don’t.

There are a few reasons. First, is fear of loss. My wedding rings previously belonged to my grandmother, Daisy Stanley, and I’m honored to own them. They’re pictured in the photo at top and I love them! But when I first started wearing them, I was always worried about losing them — specifically about having to tell her if I lost them. About a year into our marriage, during our senior year of college, we moved to Athens, Greece for a semester. And we ended up traveling around as much of Greece and the rest of Europe as possible. Traveling means staying in lots of different hostels and hotels and I was quite sure I would end up leaving the rings on a bathroom counter or nightstand as we rushed off to catch a train. So I picked up a simple silver band at an outdoor market, and wore it instead. And I kept Grandma’s rings safe at home.

The second reason, is because when I’m in the middle of a project that requires my hands (and I’m very often in the middle of one of those projects), having any jewelry on my hands bugs me. I think it has to do with hand washing. If I wash my hands with my rings on, then dry my hands, I get irritated by the feel of the water under the rings that the towel doesn’t quite reach. If I take my rings off to wash my hands, I’m quite likely to forget them, and the rings are at risk for being lost.

So, while I started out wearing my wedding rings, around the time we moved home from Greece and baby Ralph arrived, (and handwashing increased!), I wore rings less and less.

The third reason has something to do with my need to simplify my life as each child arrived. Somehow, when life was overwhelming during the newborn stages, jewelry became a burden instead of something fun. Unless it was a special occasion, I wouldn’t wear rings. And that has kind of become the norm. I can’t say I never wear my wedding rings or other rings at all. I have some really beautiful pieces, and at a conference, or on a date, or for a photoshoot, it’s fun to pick one (or several) out to wear. But 95% of the time, my fingers go jewelry-less.

The last reason I don’t wear my wedding rings daily is more of a subconscious resistance. I know the nature of wedding rings and the meaning around them has changed over the years, but it seems like there’s an underlying idea behind wedding rings of somehow being “bought” by a husband. Or that the size of the ring is supposed to prove the amount of love. Both ideas make me queasy in a bad way. The funny thing is, I’ve never looked at another woman who is wearing a ring and been even slightly bothered that the ring was a gift from her husband or partner. In fact, I like seeing people’s pretty wedding rings — it’s fun to see the different styles and hear the stories behind them. So clearly, this is just a personal hangup I apply to myself.

And now I’m curious. What’s your take on wedding jewelry? Do you have strong opinions about it? Did you pick out your own ring or did your partner? Do you have both an engagement ring plus a band? And if yes, do you wear them both?  Do you wear your wedding ring or other rings daily? If you’ve never married, but plan to someday, do you think you’ll wear one? I’d love to hear!

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Living With Kids: Camille Turpin http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/living-with-kids-camille-turpin/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/living-with-kids-camille-turpin/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:00:12 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54772

By Gabrielle.

Camille Turpin and her husband designed their house for their children. With two of their children on the autism spectrum, they built as many stress-free learning and growing and social opportunities into their house as possible. When they had the chance to move to a place with more affordable housing, they doubled their floor space and designed a home where there’s a space for everything and everybody, and the daily occupational therapy that is so important to their kids, can happen without leaving the house.

I admire that they put resale value on the back burner in lieu of a house that works for them right now. Perhaps it’s a little different than how you may be living with your own…but again, it works. And that’s the important take-away from each of these tours, isn’t it? Figure out what works for your family, and run toward that.

I honestly think you’re going to leave this tour with at least four thoughts that make your day better. I know I did. Welcome, Cami!

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Oh, how do I introduce our family? I am Cami. I grew up in Pleasant Grove, Utah in a family with seven children. My family goes in the same gender order as the VonTrapps of Sound of Music fame. My mom tried to get us to be a singing group, but we refused. That did not stop us from making our home basically the scene of a musical at any given time.

My husband Jake grew up in Oregon City, Oregon in a family with five kids. His mother grew up in my home town and his entire extended family still lives there, so it was his lifelong dream to find a girl from Pleasant Grove to marry. Good thing he thought I was cute! Incidentally, it was MY lifelong dream to marry someone from the Pacific Northwest, though I thought that meant I would get to LIVE in Oregon. No dice.

We met at Brigham Young University and were married just after I graduated in 2000. I worked as an editor while he finished his degree in Computer Science, and we had the first of our four children while he was still in school. After he graduated, we moved to Columbia, Maryland, where we lived for seven years and had two more children. We moved back to Utah in 2009, had one more child, and we’ll probably be here for the long haul. I work from home as an editor, family photographer, music teacher, and gymnastics coach. Jake’s programming job is only five minutes away!

My husband and I love cycling, watching movies, reading, playing board games, and doing anything that sounds fun. Our first two children were diagnosed with autism as toddlers, and that kind of took over our lives for a while…and is sort of still taking it over. We became completely engrossed in helping our boys learn everything they could. We had wonderful early intervention help in Maryland, and we learned early on that our house, our daily schedules, and our activities would all kind of be ruled by the almighty autism schedule. Though this is basically true for all children, right? It is apparent that the family we have become has been greatly influenced by our experiences in our early married years.

Our 13 year old Jefferson is a totally typical teenager. Considering his early years as our more severe child on the autism spectrum, to us this is a miracle. He mostly wants to play video games all day, but he’ll take time out to hang out with friends, bike around the neighborhood, read the millions of books he reads, and play the cello and piano. He gets his sarcastic humor from me, but everything else about him is a carbon copy of my husband.

Ethan, 11, is our quirky, funny, challenging, and creative child, who goes to a charter school for, in his words, “kids on the autism spectrum – like me!” In so many ways he is a typical 11 year old, but he has many challenges that make life hard for him (and us) sometimes. But he is very well-adjusted and has lots of friends, loves video games, plays the piano, and goes back and forth on the whole reading thing. He will probably be a party planner in his later life because he loves to plan parties and activities, which are often elaborate and very well thought out. I think I’ll hire him for every future birthday party.

Jane, six, is a complete ball of energy. We often joke that our first neuro-typical child was more hyperactive than the other two put together! She has a constant smile and infectious laugh, loves dancing and running around, reading, writing stories, playing the piano, and playing with friends. She’ll often disappear into the park across the street for hours at a time, come home sweaty and covered in dirt, and that is fine with us.

Our little Eleanor (we call her Nora, or No-No) is almost two and the light of all our lives. It is no wonder that everyone adores her, because she is the nicest, sweetest, funniest baby around. She can be feisty for sure, but mostly she just wants to kiss us and get carted around by all her siblings, and laugh at everything they do or make them play with her. She already loves books more than anything (a girl after my own heart), but Taylor Swift music gives her books a run for their money.

Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home?

A: We live in Highland, Utah in a house we built with our own hands. (Ok, it was my brother-in-law’s hands, but we did a lot of helping.) After we moved back from Maryland, we bought a house in Lehi, which we thought we’d live in forever. Little did we know, the house was great, but the location was not. We had come from Maryland where we had basically a forest in our backyard, to a funny little part of Utah County that was near the not-as-pretty mountains, a freeway, had no nearby parks, and best of all, our most prominent neighbor was a working mink farm.

Since our kids have a super-human sense of smell, the smell of mink kept us indoors on the most beautiful of days. More than that, nine months out of the year there were flies in the house – anywhere from ten to over 100. Again, not great for people with high anxiety! We decided between that and our desire for a little more privacy, we would leave our wonderful neighbors and build a house that was perfect for us, just a few minutes away.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: I had a LONG list of must-haves if we were going to move! I wanted to build a house, but I wanted an established neighborhood. It had to be by our favorite biking trails, be West-facing, be by a park, have a great view, be somewhere near enough my parents and siblings to be convenient, have a big yard but not too big to take care of, etc. I didn’t think I’d ever find it.

But just a few days after we started casually looking we found the perfect spot! Living here has made me love Utah again. We have the most amazing view of Mount Timpanogos out our living room windows, and we are five minutes away from American Fork canyon where we often camp or just roast marshmallows and hike around. The park across the street has been amazing, especially while we wait to finish our landscaping, and horses live behind our lot! Our kids just LOVE watching them. Just a quick quarter mile gets us to a biking trail that takes us 15 miles to Provo Canyon without having to worry about traffic. Our neighborhood is beautiful and quiet and surrounds a city park that feels private and safe. There are kids of every age here, and everyone is friendly. We really just love it. Utah itself has so much to offer. It is only a few hours to several National Parks, and we enjoy going to Moab and hiking through red rocks. Salt Lake City and Park City are less than an hour away, and it’s great to feel like we’re in the country, but not far from a city.

It doesn’t hurt that we can afford a new house twice the size of the 30 year old townhouse we had in Maryland either!

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? What are your favorite things about your home? And what’s still on your wish list?

A: Although our family loves the mountains, my motto is, “Everyone is happy at the beach.” I would love to live by the beach. If I can’t, then I’ll make my home feel beachy, at least!

That’s what I tried to do, and for the most part, I feel I succeeded. I wanted my house to feel light and airy, but still feel like a cottage. I grew up with my mom saying “bare is beautiful” and every time I start to clutter things too much, I remember that and pull back. More than anything, I want my house to be comfortable – like you can live there without worrying that you’ll break anything.

With the exception of my library, which can be bursting at the seams! I absolutely love my library. There is something about a window seat and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. Good thing I love the room, because I spend a lot of my time there as it is also my office.

But my very favorite thing has to be the mud room. Why doesn’t every house have a mud room? It gets messy and cluttered and I don’t care because I rarely see it. It makes me so happy to basically have an entire room just for the shoes that get kicked off when people come in the house. And I can’t tell you how the drinking fountain has changed my life. I used to think cups were actually breeding on my kitchen counter.

We have grand plans for our back yard! After our 100 square feet in Maryland, we never thought we’d want a big back yard, but we were cured of that in our last house. We might have more than we can handle now – we live on 1/2 acre, but most of it is in the back yard! – but now we can do so many fun things! I’ve scaled back from putting hobbit holes and bridges everywhere, but we still have plans for a great deck, a small orchard, garden, trampoline, fire pit, swing set, hammocks, and of course a zip line. Who doesn’t want a zip line in their backyard?

Q: You mentioned that your home pretty much always looks like this – tell us why!

A: Many of the pictures of my house make it look very neat and tidy. It made me wonder, is it true to life? I decided it was. I keep my house tidy most of the time. And I’m not really the tidiest person in the world. So why do I make it such a priority to make sure things are picked up and put away and organized and clear and clean? Isn’t that hard to do with 4 kids running around? Especially a toddler?

I realized over time that my house HAS to be tidy. There are several people here who have serious anxiety issues. Some of these issues are exacerbated by clutter. (I’m not saying that I’m not one of these people!)

So. I keep baskets around the house for all the stray toys and books. I have empty cabinets to hold the busy bags and games and whatnot. I have entire giant closets dedicated to housing toys and video games. I clean the kitchen to perfection at least once a day, I make my bed, I pick up all the clutter on the top floor before I do anything else, and yes, I even vacuum the living room rug pretty often and sweep the kitchen several times per day. I make the kids completely clear the playroom each night and put everything into their labeled positions.

This makes me sound SO completely uptight. But I’ll tell you what. After I finish picking up the top floor and cleaning the kitchen, getting laundry started and have everything in order, a task that takes between 15 minutes to one hour with Nora undoing it the whole time, I feel like I can let things go for a while as I work at the computer or exercise or do whatever else I need to do.

By the end of the day, things are a complete disaster again, but I feel in control because at one point, I had clear spaces – a clean slate. Then I don’t get to the end of the week and have a complete nervous breakdown because the house has been a disaster every day. It makes a difference, even if it only lasts for a few minutes per day.

The playroom is a little bit of separate issue. I actually planned my house so that I don’t have to ever walk through it if I don’t need to. I can ignore the toys everywhere if I want. But what happens when the kids have played their crazy play and it’s a total disaster? They start fighting, they start saying they are bored. They start complaining that they don’t have space to do what they want and blame each other for taking over the whole house.

If I make them clean it up each night? Suddenly they have a blank slate, too. Ethan abandons his video games in favor of elaborate block courses and structures with his “guys” (any kind of small figure) running all over the place. Jane sets up a puppet show, or plays house with her friends. Jeffy and his friends play laser tag because they aren’t tripping over everything. And the toys all get played with eventually, because they are easy to find and no pieces are missing.

It is important to me to keep things this way. There is so much unpredictability in my life, I have to have something I can control. Is my house perfect? No, absolutely not! There’s clutter around all the time. I have a bag of pancake mix constantly on my kitchen table that Ethan uses to prop up the iPad. And it already looks like we’ve lived here for five years – although it’s been nine months – what with all the scuff marks on the walls and doors and whatnot. I have actually had to develop the skill to not care when things get ruined or cluttered or messy because it helps me relax when kids are all over the place making messes and holes in the walls and whatever else! And I know things are not that far from being organized again, and anything can be fixed.

My house is kid-friendly. I don’t think kid-friendly and tidy are opposites. For us, they must go hand-in-hand.

Q: You designed the home for your children. How so? And why?

A: I like to say that I put everything into my house that I would have wanted to have when I was a kid. But that’s not really true. The house I grew up in was absolutely great. But I did take everything I loved about that house, my grandma’s house, and things I would have adored and threw them all in.

My parents’ house had a big playroom, and I felt like I could do anything there. In our townhouse in Maryland, I always wished I had a giant playroom with no furniture in it that I could use for therapy for my boys. There is just something about a giant blank space with no furniture or televisions or distractions that fosters creativity. So a playroom is always top of my list. My grandma’s house had secret tunnels and an amazing loft, so I put them on in, too.

I went a little overboard with bridges and towers and whatnot, but man it’s fun! The tunnels have entrances to other rooms and are just one more thing to add into an obstacle course. This is my real requirement for playrooms: can you build a giant obstacle course?

Because our family doesn’t do well in theaters, but we love movies, we really appreciate having our home theater room. This room has a projector and screen that comes down over the TV and surround sound, so we really get the theater experience. We can sit in our comfy couches and people can leave if they get bored, and no one else is bothered by noisy tics or jumping around in chairs. And we have to have enough places to sit, right? What’s better than a triple-decker couch? “So everyone can sit together and be buddies!” I also use this room for my semi-monthly book group movie night, which is super fun.

Since we don’t want kids always cramping our TV/movie watching style, we also banished all video games to the guest/exercise room. I made sure this room was big enough to house several large boys at a time, and that it had a window and enclosed ceiling fan. Have you ever been in a room with six boys between the ages of 11 and 14? It’s not a pleasant smell. And since I don’t want to leave out my extra kid/husband, there is also a small room we call the retro room that has all his old game systems, a tube TV, and a VHS player. It can be his office later on, but for now, it’s his awesome.

Since we don’t have a lot of outdoor toys (or drivers), we converted our third car garage into a little gym where, officially, I can teach preschool gymnastics. Unofficially, we can throw our kids in there for a little occupational therapy/getting their wiggles out. It’s so great to have a place where kids can actually climb and jump and swing around without killing each other. In our last house we had the swing in the playroom, and it got a little dangerous. I can’t tell you what I would have given to have a room like this in my house growing up as a gymnast. I pretended to put it together for teaching, but really, it’s a dream come true for me. It doesn’t hurt that I do love to teach little ones gymnastics. It’s so fun!

But more than the fun spaces, my kids each have their own room. We discovered long ago that everyone just does better when they have their own sleeping space. So I made that a priority. Each of the kids had a hand in the design of their room, either in the paint color, or built-in shelves, or whatever. Ethan’s room was a special project because he has been hard on his furniture and walls in the past during tantrums. The majority of his walls are painted with chalkboard paint, not only so it doesn’t look so bad when he scuffs them up, but it’s also great for writing lists and reminders for him. We also built in all of his furniture, including his bed. He feels safe and secure, and there’s no way he can throw bookshelves or break the bed. It also gives him more floor space for Pokemon cards and the like.

This may be super weird to admit, but I wanted our house to be super fun so that kids in the neighborhood would want to come here. Not only do I get to keep an eye on what’s going on with friends (more important than ever as kids get older, but also because some kids aren’t so great at knowing exactly what to do when friends come over), but also it’s an incentive for kids to come to hang out with some of my more introverted children. Ethan doesn’t like to go invite kids over for fear of dogs coming to the door, so it’s awesome when they come to us. We are not above bribery.

I don’t worry about resale value all that much, mostly because I think we will live here forever. But we do think about it. We thought about it a lot when we tore out the fireplace we had framed into our living room in favor of a giant window. Best decision ever for us, not great for resale or equity. But seriously, if you don’t want a house that has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves or built-in tunnels or playhouses, then you need not put in an offer! If you don’t want awesome, you totally don’t deserve my house. Ha! But really, we’re never moving again. Like, ever.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own children? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

A: What I like most about living with my kids is that they are totally becoming my friends. Because our boys were diagnosed so early, I really did not expect to have a relationship with them in a truly meaningful way. But now I watch shows with my Jeff and we play games, and talk about books we both read, and play duets together, and that really means a lot to me. With Ethan, I know I am very lucky. A lot of kids on the autism spectrum have very little empathy or can’t stand personal contact, and Ethan is very emotional and craves contact. It makes it hard when things go wrong, but it’s really great that he tells me he loves me and will snuggle with me (as long as I don’t sneak a kiss on the top of the head, which he hates).

Watching Jane grow up is like watching myself grow up. She has a lot of my sass and energy, and it always amazes me how I can truly connect with a six year old. She is fun to be with, and we are already planning a solo trip to Hawaii when she is 12, which I fully expect to enjoy. And my little Nora. I never expected to love the baby stage as much as I do. When I was young I’d play with my dolls for a good five minutes before I put them to bed and ran outside to have some real fun. But now that I know my Nora is most likely my last baby, I cannot get enough. Is there anything better than a one year old making kissing noises at you or wrapping her fat little arms around your neck? I don’t think so. I’d love to freeze her at this age.

I think that the more challenging a child is in some ways, the more rewarding they are in others. Toddlers are super hard to control, but are they funny and cute! Teenagers can be total brats, but they can actually enjoy the same things as you. This does not make me hope they are difficult kids as they get older, but I will try to look for the good when they are challenging.

Q: If they could remember just one memory or tradition from this childhood home – and you as their mom – what do you hope it would be?

A: I hope they forget all the bad times and just remember the fun and the love and the happiness. Our family has had our share of tantrums – and not all of them are by the kids – but I hope they forget that, and remember how much we laughed.

I hope they forget all the times I said no to something because I was tired or grumpy or busy, and remember the times I ran around the grass, or helped them make puppets and put on a show, or took them to the park, or played a game with them.

I hope they forget about how I pestered them to practice and are glad that they know how to play instruments. I hope they forget all the times that family prayer or eating together just didn’t work out and I stomped out of the room, and just remember that we loved being together. I hope they remember our home as a safe, fun, happy place to be.

For some of my kids, there really aren’t a lot of places like that. It is important to me that our home is one of them.

Actually, never mind, I just hope they remember that I made them cookies every Sunday!

Q: Please finish this sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me to let go of all expectations. Actually, I am lucky, because we had some wonderful teachers and mentors when our boys were first diagnosed that did tell us that. But I wish I could remember and really understand it.

There is really no use in comparison, even if it’s just comparing where you wanted to be with where you are now. There are so many times when I see other kids and families doing normal things – trick-or-treating, riding bikes, eating regular foods, playing with dogs, sitting still in a public place – when I wish so hard that things could be different for my Ethan, and I mourn for the child I thought I would have all over again. I have to find a balance between not expecting too much so I’m not disappointed or frustrated, but also having enough hope to help my kids reach their best potential.

It’s the same kind of balance I need to find for myself. I can’t expect myself to be a perfect mother or have a perfect house or make all the right choices, but I have to have hope that I’m doing what is best for my family, even if it doesn’t look like what other people are doing. I know my family is really lucky in some ways, and in others we have a lot of challenges that other people don’t understand. I have to remember when I feel let down, that is a problem with my expectations and not my family.

Oh, and also, I wish someone had told me that I don’t have to fold clothes! Now that I know this, my life is awesome.

–-

Oh, Cami. There were so many moments throughout your interview when I paused and wanted to rewrite your thoughts with three extra exclamation points. Like “I don’t think kid-friendly and tidy are opposites. For us, they must go hand-in-hand.” Or “For some of my kids, there really aren’t a lot of places like that. It is important to me that our home is one of them.” Oh! And this: “I have to remember when I feel let down, that is a problem with my expectations and not my family.” And the award for the funniest is this gem: “I wish someone had told me that I don’t have to fold clothes! Now that I know this, my life is awesome.” You are awesome. I really admire the way you’re living your life with your kids. Thank you for adding your goodness to my day.

Camille’s explanation for why she keeps her home tidy is great, right? In the same way that some families thrive on a free-wheeling anything goes routine with a “We’ll clean up later!” philosophy, some require the complete opposite approach. Where does your family land?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Oakland Book Launch Party – You’re Invited! http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/oakland-book-launch-party-youre-invited/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/oakland-book-launch-party-youre-invited/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 18:39:20 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54766

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Seth Smoot, styled by Kendra Smoot for Design Mom.

Oh my goodness. I could not be more excited about tomorrow night. It’s my Book Launch Party here in Oakland!! And if you live in the Bay Area (or happen to be in town), consider this your official invitation.

I promise it will be lots of fun. We’ll be serving the cutest, yummiest cookies from my favorite Oakland pastry chef, and celebratory champagne (plus other sparkling beverages, of course). We’ll have a fun Q&A with my sister Jordan, and Q&A from the attendees too! And I’ll be camped out at a table ready to chat you up, sign books, and hand out gift bags.

Oh. Did I mention gift bags? We don’t have any idea how many people will drop by the party, but we’re prepping 75 gift bags, and we’ll give them out until we run out. I’m packaging them up today and they are adorable. If you’re curious, I’ll try to give some sneak peeks on Instagram as I work today.

Best of all, Ben Blair and the kids are coming to the party too! The whole family wants to get in on the celebration. Here are the details:

Tuesday, April 7th
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Diesel, A Bookstore
5433 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618
510-653-9965

I hope to see you there!

P.S. — Diesel is in such a great spot, I highly recommend you come a little early so you can drop by some of the other fabulous stores nearby. One of my favorites is Atomic Garden, just a few doors down from the bookstore.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-252/ http://www.designmom.com/2015/04/a-few-things-252/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 16:26:26 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=54605

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Amy Christie for Design Mom — egg dyeing tutorial here.

Hello, Friends! How are you? What’s been going on? It’s been a good week for me. Lots of fun work on the book tour. The gift bags are coming together beautifully, my publisher has booked the flights and hotels. It’s really happening! The book officially comes out on April 7th (next Tuesday), but it’s been shipping out from bookstores this week, and my inbox is full of the sweetest comments. Thank you, thank you! And speaking of my book, I’ve created a Design Mom Book tab in the navigation bar above — it goes to a page where you can find all the book info in one place. Like tour dates and resources.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend, but it’s going to be an odd one. Ben Blair is out of town — he’s presenting a paper at the Mormon Transhumanist Conference this morning (Go Ben!). And Ralph is also out of town. My mother invited all the 12 and older grandsons for a boys weekend at Grandpa and Grandmas house. Plus our local cousins, the Ferneys and Stanleys, are also traveling. So it will be a really unususal partial-family Easter for us. But Ben and Ralph arrive home Sunday evening, so hopefully we can do a special Easter dinner, or just get some family time before the holiday is over.

How about you? Any fun weekend plans? Do you celebrate Easter? Or Passover? Are you in the middle of Spring Break? Ours is next week! I can’t wait to hear about your plans, but before I hit publish, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- There are currently 1900 babies on the organ donation waitlist. This Instagram campaign #HowIDonateLife, is an easy and wonderful way to bring awareness to the pediatric organ donation situation.

- How not to raise a narcissist in 9 easy steps.

- My firends make the coolest things! Check out these lacing cards by Rachel of Handmade Charlotte. I have both sets (boy and girl) and they are truly adorable.

- And don’t miss this GORGEOUS scarf designed by my friend, Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks. Really stunning, and sales support literacy in developing countries.

- Am I the last person to hear about this story?

- I’ve got a really good $1000 Amex Giftcard Instagram Giveaway going on. It’s a loop giveaway with some really great bloggers, and it ends this weekend, so act fast.

- Mara & Danny just posted their Body & Soul Camps event site. Dibs on Equador in the fall!

- Why My Marriage is a Package Deal: Caring for a Sibling with Autism.

- How to write a thank you note.

- Confessions of moms throughout the world. Thoughts?

- My book launch party is this coming Tuesday, April 7th, at Diesel, a Bookstore in Oakland.  It starts at 6:00 PM. I’ll be signing books and giving out fun gift bags. Oh, and my sister, Jordan will be there to lead a little Q&A. Crossing my fingers you can make it!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Happy Passover! Happy Easter! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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