Design Mom http://www.designmom.com The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:00:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Living With Kids: Alisa Burke http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/living-with-kids-alisa-burke/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/living-with-kids-alisa-burke/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:00:41 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50768

By Gabrielle.

Inspiration overload. You’ve been warned. If you only look at the pictures, you’ll want a wall of floor-to-ceiling blooms bursting into your life and a drawn-on dishwasher. But, oh! If you read Alisa‘s words, you’ll suddenly see everything around you in a crazy haze of beauty. (She’s an artist; she has that effect!)

Her perspective is one that I can’t wait to share, and I truly hope you’ll leave this post overwhelmed with encouragement. Friends, please help me welcome Alisa and her family!

Q: We can’t wait to meet you all! Tell us everything…

A: I live with my husband Andy and two year old daughter Lucy in a small town on the Oregon Coast. My husband and I have been married for ten years, and together we live a very creative and non-traditional life working as artists. A few years ago, we put a plan in motion to chase after the dream of simplicity. We wanted to leave our fast-paced life in Southern California, and move back to my small hometown on the Oregon Coast where we could focus on raising our daughter and running a creative business together.

My husband quit his job as a structural engineer to be a stay-at-home dad and pursue his own art career, and my business became the means for our survival. We knew that if we decided to start a family, there was no looking back! We wanted to say goodbye to the predictability of steady jobs and income, and choose the road less traveled.

Our longing was to live a simple and alternative life with creativity and family at the center. It’s definitely not always perfect – in fact, it can be down right challenging – but now that we are living our dream, we cannot imagine our life being any other way. From days spent together, to making art as a family, to running a business together, our goal is to build a life that mimics the rhythms that feel most natural for us. I know that our goals will always be changing and evolving, but right now our focus is to embrace simplicity, explore creativity, and nurture Lucy’s passions.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: Our house actually belonged to my grandmother. It’s located around the corner from the beach, and is two doors down from my the home I grew up in and where my parents still live. I’ve always loved the house, and had dreams one day of moving back to my hometown and living in the same neighborhood where I grew up.

When my grandmother passed away, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase the house. It was a blessing that came at the perfect time. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and lots of outdated details, our home is far from perfect but it is our dream home and we are so grateful for the opportunity to live here.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: Since the day I left my hometown of Seaside, Oregon, I have always wanted to return. While I love to travel and I love city life, there is nothing that compares to small-town living, especially on the Oregon Coast. Seaside is a small coastal resort town about 1.5 hours from Portland. We are surrounded by mountains and the sea, elk and deer wander freely in our yards, sea lions mingle with surfers, miles of empty beaches are filled with treasures, and life is a little slower and more simple.

I’ve been a lot of places but there is something really special and magical about the Oregon Coast. While it can be challenging to live in a small town in the Pacific Northwest – there is no Target or big shopping malls, rubber boots are a wardrobe staple, and it rains A LOT – I am so happy that this is where we are growing our roots. Giving our daughter the gift of a simple childhood filled with adventures in nature and near the ocean is something that we dreamed about.

Q: Your aesthetic is so bold, and yet so relaxed. Tell us about your goals with your home decor…and your art, as well.

A: I love bold color, I love to make a mess, I like to take chances, break rules, and find all kinds of ways to get creative! After years spent painting canvas, I truly believe that anything can be transformed with a little creativity (and paint). Our lives are so creative and my business revolves around teaching and inspiring others, so I think it’s pretty natural for me treat home decor like art. From painting a mural in our bedroom to drawing on our dishwasher to incorporating bold pops of color in every room, I am always looking for ways to blur the lines between art and decor.

Thankfully, my husband is supportive about my decor decisions. He is used to me painting a mural, then six months later painting over it, changing our furniture around, and taking on crazy DIY projects. I think our home will always be a work in progress, changing and evolving with our interests and inspiration. While my design ascetic is not for everyone, it works great for our family.

Q: Art and creativity seems to be everywhere around you. How has this affected your daughter in terms of how you see her viewing the world around her? (Is she perplexed when she encounters a random bland doctor’s office?!)

A: That’s a great question and one that I get asked a lot! I’ve been creating with my daughter Lucy since the day she was born. From drawing while she napped on my chest to painting with her on my back to letting her work alongside me in the studio, she has witnessed the creative process pretty much every day of her life.

Much to my surprise she is kind of indifferent to it all! While she is incredibly creative and has some very advanced art making skills – the kid draws and paints like a pro! – she is really well-rounded. Lucy seems to appreciate both the creative and the not so creative. I don’t know if it’s her age or her personality, but at two years old she is excited about everything she encounters. From one of my colorful paintings to cracks in the sidewalk to bark on a tree to an empty wall, she finds joy in pretty much everything.

Q: You’ve worked hard on your career. Tell us how it has touched your family.

Next to marriage and having a child, living my dream of working as a self-employed artist is one of the best things that has happened in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time – over 20 years – trying to reach the goal of making a living as an artist. Walking away from my day job over six years ago was one of the best days of my life. When it was possible for my husband to quit his job to be a stay at home dad and join my creative business, it felt even more amazing.

My creative career has been the vehicle for a lot of opportunities and changes, but the biggest has been putting family at the center. Becoming parents drastically changed our priorities. During my life before Lucy, I was very productive and goal driven. At the core of everything I did (the creative process, business decisions and priorities) was an overwhelming passion and need to make art.

Once Lucy was born, my thinking changed. While art is still the core and foundation of my individuality, I now feel like I’m doing it for Lucy, our family, and our future. I now see my passion for creativity as a way in which I can be a provider, and this has influenced the direction of many decisions that I make. Long ago, my dream was to simply get paid to be an artist. But now that I’m older, my dreams are about using my passion for art to create a solid future for our family.

Q: When did you feel like you had really made it as an artist? When did you feel like you really made it becoming a mom?

A: Surprisingly these moments have actually merged for me! Leading up to pregnancy and Lucy’s arrival, I spent so much time scared of what would happen to me and my business once I became a mom. I mean, I was obsessed with the worrying about losing my creativity and my identity as an artist and entrepreneur! And then Lucy arrived and something really amazing happened: my inspiration and creativity flourished in ways I never could have imagined.

Incorporating motherhood into my life as an artist and entrepreneur has been the single most profound part of this journey so far. I knew our lives would be creative, and that parenting and business could co-exist. I knew I would introduce art to Lucy with the obvious: drawing, painting, and crafting. But what I didn’t realize was how inspired I would be by having a child. Every moment of every day, I find myself tapping into my creativity to express my love to Lucy.

From making things that bring her joy to using art for teaching moments to finding inspiration in her interests, I have discovered new ways to be an artist and a mom. All of this has greatly influenced the direction of my creative business and added a new way of seeing to the way that I make art. I now consider myself a mom blogger – something I would have cringed at before becoming a mom – and I have found a really unique perspective and voice that I enjoy sharing with my readers and customers. I have always loved inspiring others to be creative but now I am able to inspire women to incorporate art into motherhood.

Q: Working from home, how do you structure and balance your days?

A: Structure is my biggest challenge these days. Since most of my time is spent working from home with my husband and daughter all day, structure and juggling distractions can be tricky. I don’t necessarily have set days or hours for work, but instead have accepted that I have to work seven days a week BUT with lots of flexibility.

I find that it is helpful to split tasks up into small chunks of time or micro-sessions. I’ll work for two hours at home or in my studio, which is luckily five minutes away, and then change gears, switch off with my husband, and take over with the childcare duties while he takes a break and goes surfing, works on his art, or works around the house. We switch back and forth like this all day; a harmonized little tag team.

There are times when I really miss the freedom to be selfish with my schedule, but those moments are thankfully fleeting. More than anything, I love spending time with my daughter and being a part of her daily schedule. I know this time in her life is short so it’s a priority for me to soak it all up as much as I can.

While it would make more sense for me to leave the house to work, our schedule makes me happy. I love being at home and incorporating Lucy and Andy into my daily creative projects and tasks. I also love being available to drop everything and go play. I’d gladly work late into the night in exchange for a day of adventure! At the end of the day if I’m productive, creative, joyful and present for my family, I am satisfied.

Q: What do you hope your daughter remembers about this home? How do you dream she’ll recall this time in her life?

A: We both want Lucy to remember this home as a place of love, creativity, imagination, and joy. I hope she recalls this time in her life as magical, and as time when passions and interests were cultivated and fostered.

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

A: My favorite part of living with Lucy is the light that she brings to my life; it’s like someone turned on a switch and everything shines a little brighter. My journey into motherhood was a little different from others because I spent my 20s and 30s not wanting children. After going through some life changing experiences, Andy and I literally woke up one day and both wanted to start a family, and at age 35 I was pregnant!

Having spent so many years not wanting children, I have been surprised and humbled about how natural and right being a mom feels. My 20 year old self wouldn’t believe it, but becoming a mother has felt like I discovered my calling. I’ve enjoyed every single moment and stage of this entire journey, but I am loving the toddler stage right now. There is nothing that compares to having a conversation with a two year old.

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

A: Oh goodness, there are all kinds of things I wish I knew, but the biggest would be how vulnerable and scared becoming a parent makes you feel at times. Sure, I knew from observing others just how emotional it all can be, but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity. There have been so many moments, both good and bad, where I have felt overwhelmed by how important this job is.

I remember holding Lucy for the first time feeling absolutely terrified by the fact that I was now responsible for keeping a tiny newborn alive! This feeling is now deeply ingrained in who I am and something I constantly have to work through so I don’t become weighed down with fear. Watching the news, planning meals, teaching new skills, even having fun all make me feel like my entire heart and soul is exposed and vulnerable. And while this feeling can be challenging, it is actually one of the best parts of being a mom because it is so rooted in the most beautiful and profound love that I have ever experienced.

–-

My favorite new phrase?  “A harmonized little tag team.” Thank you, Alisa, for your beautiful words. Someday, Lucy will read this and feel so proud to know the effect she’s had on your life and career. There can’t be a better feeling or gift!

Friends, wasn’t it re-energizing to read Alisa’s thoughts on how becoming a mother has enhanced her goals and work? “It’s like someone turned on a switch and everything shines a little brighter.” So often, the focus is on all the things we no longer have time to accomplish once kids enter the mix, but what if we all started realizing how much these little ones actually inspire us without limits? Tell us how motherhood has invigorated your life and career, will you?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! 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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U2 & Madonna http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/u2-madonna/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/u2-madonna/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:00:08 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50844

u2 songs of innocence

By Gabrielle.

We have been listening to the new U2 album, Songs of Innocence, pretty-much nonstop for a couple of weeks now. Have you had a chance to hear it yet? It’s the free album that was causing some drama on iTunes. We love the album. We are big U2 fans so we tend to like everything they produce, but that said, we feel like this album is especially good. Bono mentioned it was their most personal album, and I think it shows.

Anyway, this is not an album review, it’s just that the album has Ben Blair and me talking about music and age. Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton — these are not young guys. But seeing them sing and play and move and rock in performances like this, seems totally normal to me. They don’t look out of place at all in my eyes.

U2 songs of innocence

But. If a random 54-year-old — someone I’ve never heard of before — came out with an album of music, an album that was totally current and sounded completely modern and fresh and up-to-date (whether it was rock, or hip hop, or pop, or whatever one’s favorite genre might be), what would my reaction be? Would I like U2′s album if I didn’t know their earlier work, if I didn’t have context? Would I even be willing to listen to it?

We had similar thoughts when Madonna’s last album came out. Madonna is 56. She was 54 when she started singing Give Me All Your Luvin’. And I sang right along anytime I heard it on the radio. It’s a really fun, catchy song. But every once in awhile I would remember she was in her fifties and I would laugh that she was singing what I thought of as pop-y, high school lyrics. Again, if any other 50-year-old had hit the scene with that song, would he or she have been laughed from the stage?

Related, I LOVED this article written by a women who almost accidentally found musical success in mid-life. This line from the article struck me: “It was heartbreaking how many people — mostly women, some with a better background in music than I have — told me they’d put away their drum kit, electric guitar, bass, whatever, because they were too old to play rock and roll.”

What’s your take? Do you ever think of this topic? Do have opinions on age and music? Is there an age limit on rock? How about for pop music? Do you think women age out before men? Do you like the new U2 album or did you delete it immediately?

P.S. — Check out this beautiful video of Madonna, made by a fan, that morphs images of Madonna from 1983 to 2014.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/a-few-things-229/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/a-few-things-229/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:00:34 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50969

Design Mom Living Room

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to? We’re thinking of our European kids this weekend, because Ralph is headed from England to France tomorrow. He’ll be in the same town, and attend the same school as Olive, but they’ll be living with different families. Oh man, the thought of them getting to see each other on most days makes me super happy, and is somehow hugely comforting. Which reminds me, I should totally share an update about how both Olive and Ralph are doing — hopefully next week!

Beyond thinking of my kids-across-the-ocean, my weekend will be mostly taken up with responding to copy edits on four of my book chapters. Anytime there’s a circumstance that requires me to make a ton of purposeful decisions all at once (like when we cleared out our storage unit in Colorado), I have to really psyche up for it and getting in a particular frame of mind. A thousand decisions that need to be made during a short time period is so overwhelming to me! It’s the exact opposite of busy work, and I find it completely exhausting. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Before I dig in to my book work, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I totally need this — Pep talk of the week!

- I had no idea Bridge to Terebithia was a frequently banned book.

- To mark National Public Lands Day, all National Parks are free on Saturday. Woot!

This restaurant wants to be the worst-reviewed on Yelp.

- Did you get a chance to see Emma Watson’s UN speech? Any thoughts?

- The best built-in beds for kids.

- DIY jump rope. (I love jumping rope.)

- Murder in a time before Google.

- Meta Coleman’s class on Creative Children’s Spaces looks so good.

- The A-Z of dance.

- Dying to try a pair of these drapey pants from Banana Republic — they look comfy as sweats, but elegant too! There’s a code to get a discount — use BEHERENOW to get $25 off of every $100 you spend.

- It’s Like They Know Us. So many good ones, but this might be my favorite: ”Oh, really? My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Olive Us: Oscar’s Project http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/olive-us-oscars-project/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/olive-us-oscars-project/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 23:31:41 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=51011

Oscar with tools

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. Watch this one with your kids! They will love it, I promise. And I think you’ll like it too. In fact, maybe it will get you excited for a weekend project. : )

Every time we share a new Olive Us video, I think to myself: this is my favorite one yet! But this time, I think I mean it even more than usual. Hah! The idea in this new video is simple as can be, but I hope it will inspire kids everywhere to get out there and tackle their own projects.

Take a look:





I have to say, this was a really fun episode to film. It was the first one we filmed here at our house in Oakland, and we loved putting our new backyard to work. Honestly, it was the first time we started day dreaming about what we’d like to do with the backyard, and this episode ending up having a lot of influence on this particular installation.

Oscar at workOscarBlair

I hope you enjoy the video! And if you have a child, or grandchild, or niece, or nephew that would enjoy it, I hope you get a chance to share it with them as well. Yay for the satisfaction of a job well done!

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us — including every episode — here.
- We’ve made 44 episodes so far and ulive commissioned 20 of them! You can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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fashionABLE Kickstarter http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/fashionable-kickstarter/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/fashionable-kickstarter/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 17:27:48 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=51001

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By Gabrielle.

I’m so excited about this! Remember the Alt Summit + fashionABLE scarf design contest I mentioned? Well, today I’ve got a happy contest update for you. Over a hundred scarf designs were submitted, and the top choices were voted on last month. Then, on Monday, we announced the winners — the vote actually ended in a tie!

The photos here feature both of the beautiful winning scarves. The blue one is the Zeritu, designed by Hannah Coulson. The peach one is the Tigist, designed by Drew Pistilli.

As with all fashionABLE products, these scarves help provide jobs for at-risk women in Ethiopia. Each scarf is handmade of custom-dyed, 100% Ethiopian cotton. I’ve seen both of the winning scarves in person and they are gorgeous!

But here’s something new: Instead of selling these scarves on the fashionABLE website, we launched them on Kickstarter instead. And they are only available through the Kickstarter campaign. By crowd-sourcing them, it allows fashionABLE to know exactly how many scarves to produce. If 150 of the Tigist scarf is ordered through the campaign, then only 150 scarves will be woven. And that’s it. If 500 Zeritu scarves are ordered, then 500 will be made.

The neat thing about doing it this way, is that it means fashionABLE can offer the scarves at a significant discount — because they don’t have to make manufacturing guesses. The other neat thing is that we can offer tons of fun incentives as well!

So head on over and take a look — you can even see me in the intro video!

We announced the campaign on Monday and it’s already 70% funded. Which is fantastic! I hope you’ll join in the fun. And remember, if you want to buy one of these winning scarves, ordering them through this Kickstarter is the only way to get them.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you wear scarves? Do you have a favorite between the winners? Are you already familiar with fashionABLE, or are they new to you?

P.S. — Did I mention we’re running a contest to celebrate? If you share the campaign you could win of the of the scarves! Find contest details here.

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Tea Collection Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/tea-collection-giveaway-12/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/tea-collection-giveaway-12/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 22:13:34 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50991

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By Gabrielle.

You know what sounds like fun today? Giving away a $200 store credit to Tea Collection!!

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Tea Collection is a clothing line that is beloved by parents and children everywhere. The company finds inspiration for their easy-to-play-in clothes from all over the world. In fact, each line is influenced by a specific place. Morocco, Buenas Aires, a sunny island in the Pacific — could be anywhere!

The latest collection was inspired by Bavaria and the Black Forests of Germany — famed for fairytales, quaint villages and cuckoo clocks, for folksy Old World paintings and charming cottages. Tea Collection clothes are high on style and high on quality as well. These are clothes made to last.

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Extra fun: There’s a BIG SALE happening at Tea Collection right this minute! It’s a Friends & Family event where you can get 20% off using the code: FALLFRIEND — and the sale only last for 2 days, so act fast. I want to stock up on my favorites — stripey rompers, sweet dresses, hardworking outerwear, and the cutest shoes!

To enter the giveaway, visit Tea Collection and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what you’re shopping for these days. The winner will be announced on Friday. Good luck!

———

Kelsey is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Living With Kids: LaTonya Staubs http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/living-with-kids-latonya-staubs/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/living-with-kids-latonya-staubs/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:00:42 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50722

By Gabrielle.

Is it just me, or are we all a bit fascinated with New York? I know so many people who either reminisce fondly about their time in The Big Apple, or else dream about someday living there. And tell the truth: When you hear the first few chords of New York, New York, you can’t help but belt out all the lyrics, right?

LaTonya Staubs lives a colorful life in Brooklyn. From the red and white polka dotted rug to turquoise chairs and on to orange spotted walls, this is an explosion of creativity. And yet, it’s still a calm from the storm that is the city, just outside their front door. That’s a trick that requires constant attention to balance and intention. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from this designer, mama, and lovely blogger. Friends, please welcome LaTonya!

Q: Tell us all about your family. (Also, your babes have such unique names, so please share how you chose them!)

A: My family and I live in Brooklyn, NY in a small and loving space. We started our family at a pretty young age, by total surprise. I was 21 and Peter was 24. River was and is still the most amazing surprise!

Before I got pregnant with her, Peter and I were young people just having fun in the city. There was always a party or show to attend, and my life was pretty much the typical life for a girl just barely out of her teens working and living in the city. I wanted a peaceful pregnancy and baby, after all the hoopla. I also wanted a baby girl with a unisex name, so she wouldn’t be judged about a job etc. before others ever met her. It goes so well with her personality.

We came up with Oak after I had already lost a baby well into my second trimester. I went into my pregnancy with him incredibly nervous and private, with a lot of feelings, and not knowing exactly how to sort through them. I soon realized that the insecurity after getting pregnant after a loss like that doesn’t just go away. All I could do was share my feelings with friends, and later with blog readers. I wanted to be strong and I wanted my baby to be strong. I knew if he made it through all the endless high risk appointments and past that 24 week mark he would be strong. Oak is a representation of that strength, like an Oak tree.

Q: How did this place become your home?

A: I don’t think we ever felt like this house was The One. I still don’t feel it. In New York, it’s always that “but” factor. To put it simply, you never get the whole enchilada in one property. Our apartment is home because we’ve made it home by adding little bits of us. It’s located in our dream neighborhood, we’re on the first floor, and have yard access – all pretty golden in NYC! – but we would of course love more space, a dishwasher, and a  washer and dryer unit. Which will probably never happen! Or, at least, not all of it at once.

It’s close to impossible to buy in our neighborhood, but we have been really lucky with our landlords. All the pre-war apartments people bought for pennies in comparison to now are being held onto super tight. At this point, we’re pretty content with renting.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: I always end up bragging about our area! Really, it’s pretty amazing. We love that there is so much diversity in our neighborhood! When we considered moving a while ago, my friend said to me, “Well, maybe you’ll find cheaper rent but you will be spending more for sure. There are so many places to spend your money.” And it’s true, in the best way.

We have so many cute cafés, all of which are ridiculously kid friendly. We are surrounded by four amazing parks within just a few blocks from our home. We also have the huge Fort Greene park, which hosts the Saturday morning farmers market – it’s the best. Lastly, people from around the world come to visit the Brooklyn Flea every Saturday, which is located just a few short blocks from our house. It’s all pretty insane.

Q: You recently redecorated your daughter’s room because it wasn’t working for her. Tell us about the process and the improvements that were important to you both.

A: We did some small retouches that made a huge difference in River’s room. The major change was the addition of baskets. We wanted her to be able to access her toys and stuffed animals and craft things quite easily. But I also needed it to be an easy clean-up for me and for her, since she’s also responsible for cleaning up after herself. I love that the room is bright and fun; it’s a reflection of River for sure!

Q: Describe her reaction to making her own design decisions and with the final outcome. 

A: River loves it! We continue to add her artwork and artwork of friends to her wall. It’s always changing, and she loves that she has a say. I value her eye; even at three and a half, I think she visualizes and expresses things well. Her room is hers, and she is thrilled.

Q: How do you define – or resist definition! – your design style? How does your home’s decor and arrangement contribute to your family’s harmony?

A: This is a hard one, because I feel like I always try and stay in one design style and never ever follow through. I initially wanted this house to be a minimalistic, clean space with tiny pops of color. It definitely has evolved into a more eclectic, bohemian, plantastic space!

It’s bright, it’s happy, and some parts of it are calming. All in all, I just want someone – anyone – to feel at home when they enter that old steel door. Whether it’s the plants, the colors, or the layers of carpets that make  you feel comfortable, I’m happy with that.

Q: You’re a thoughtful blogger who has discussed openly your struggle with what to share and what to keep private. Will you talk to us about the gains you’ve felt from your site, and how it has changed your life?

A: Goodness! Like motherhood, the blog guilt definitely comes in waves. Recently after opening up more about that struggle, I’m more settled in my position of what I will and will not share, and being okay with that.

The great thing about blogging is people connecting with you deeply, especially when you hit tough spots. The sometimes bad thing about blogging is people connecting to you deeply.

So far, my readers have been so understanding and loving, and I’m happy I opened up about that struggle. I learned that the amount of people unhappy with what I was no longer willing to share was really just a sliver of my readers. I value everyone’s opinion and criticism, and I just wanted them to know that.

Blogging has definitely been the groundwork for so many long-lasting relationships, personally and professionally. I’ve also grown so much as a person through opening up in the past, and I’m so thankful to my readers for allowing me to do so.

Q: Tell us about Welkin‘s philosophy. We’d love to hear about why you started the company, your partner, and your role.

A: Welkin NYC is a children’s line inspired by, and made in, New York City. We provide a sort of uniform for the urban lifestyle: clothing that is functional, durable, comfortable, stylish, and a little bit edgy. We love to create everyday basics that defy the typical seasonal rules of fashion. Our clothes are not disposable but rather season-less, meant to be worn and layered throughout the year, year after year. We offer a collection of unisex pieces as well as a rotation of dresses, jackets, and special collaborations.

Belle Savransky and I founded Welkin NYC to translate our love for the city into something tangible. I think like Welkin’s philosophy, our roles have evolved. As we put out each collection, we learn more and the line itself takes on another shape.

I am more of an extrovert and Belle is more of an introvert, but we both are creatives and bring different talents to the line. Our personalities even each other so well, and it makes everything so smooth. Without a doubt, Welkin will always be a sustainable line, and we absolutely love that everything is made right here in New York City.

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

A: I love that my children’s toy pieces are like furniture staples in our apartment. I’m proud of that. This place is very much mine and theirs.

Without a doubt, I am surprised by how profoundly I can love these little humans. I’m loving every little moment right now.

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

A: I wish someone had told me that there will be moments when you feel like you’re totally failing at almost everything…and that is okay! Chances are, you’re doing amazing!

–-

I love peeking in on New Yorkers, don’t you? LaTonya, thank you for inspiring us today with your style and substance! I giggled when you described the best and worst parts of blogging both pertaining to the deep connections formed with readers, and I wonder how many other bloggers out there feel the exact same way? (Gosh, I wonder how many people feel that way about life? Ha!)

Was I right about New York? Maybe since September 11th, I imagine we all hold a piece of New York in our hearts. Do you daydream about living in a big city, or are you just fine simply visiting?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! 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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DIY: Elephant Puppet from Playful http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/diy-elephant-puppet-from-playful/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/diy-elephant-puppet-from-playful/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:42:29 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50973

Animal Puppets from Playful - a book of creative projects for kids by Merrilee Liddiard

By Gabrielle. Images by Nicole Hill Gerulat for Playful.

I’ve got such a sweet little project for you and your kids today. It’s an Elephant! The most charming paper elephant you’ve ever seen. And it’s one of the many adorable projects in the Merrilee Liddiard’s fantastic new book, Playful. You can find the full instructions, plus a free downloadable template below.

Playful - a book of creative projects for kids by Merrilee Liddiard

Have you seen the book? Everything about it is scrumptious. Every project, every photo, all the little details. Buy it so you can make fun, imaginative, totally do-able projects with your kids. And buy it because the attention to detail will inspire you!

I’m a huge fan of Merrilee. Such a fan that I sought her out to work on our Olive Us movie titles and illustrations (see examples here and here). She’s endlessly creative and her ideas spark more creativity in everyone around her.

Animal Puppets from Playful - a book of creative projects for kids by Merrilee Liddiard

This simple elephant would be terrific to make with your kids. Hang it on the wall, add sticks to make it a puppet. Or make tiny ones as cupcake toppers. Yay!

Elephant Puppet from Playful - a book of creative projects for kids by Merrilee Liddiard

ELEPHANT

1 Photocopy or scan and print the elephant template at 200%. Cut out the pattern pieces.

2 Trace the body and head onto light blue poster board and cut out.

3 Trace the ear onto red cardstock and cut out.

4 Trace the tail onto dark blue cardstock and cut out.

5 Trace the eye onto blue cardstock and cut out.

6 Trace the cheek and toenails onto hot pink cardstock and cut out.

7 Glue the eye and cheek onto the elephant’s face.

8 Punch or poke small holes into the elephant pieces where indicated on the template.

9 Using brads, attach the head, ear, and tail to the elephant body.

10 Play with the elephant as is, or tape two wooden dowels onto the back of the elephant body, one toward the front and one toward the back, for a puppet parade!

Find instructions for the horse, the bear, the fox and the bird in the Playful book!

P.S. — Like to make things? Find lots of fun projects here

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/a-few-things-228/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/a-few-things-228/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:00:46 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50849

gourds

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? It’s been a good week at our house. Nothing too eventful, but it was one of those weeks where it felt like things ran pretty smoothly. That’s always feels like such a bonus!

This weekend, I’m toying with the idea of getting started remodeling the girls’ bedroom. Pulling up old carpet, taking down the ceiling tiles — that sort of thing. But it’s a big job, and I really shouldn’t start anything new until the book is completely done. Hah! We’ll see how it goes. How about you? Any fun weekend plans?

I’m off to sit in the girls’ room and ponder the possibilities, but before I close my laptop, here are a few links I’ve been wanting to share:

- Rush hour in the Netherlands. Amazing!

- Did you know children with cancer can spend up to four months in isolation in the hospital? That means no playing with other kids. This kickstarter wants to fix that. (And the video got me teary.) Thanks, Macarena.

- I’m still laughing — Happy Birthday from Grandpa and Grandmaster Flash.

- This is what has happened in the 5 months since we found out about #bringbackourgirls.

- The spiritual art of saying no. Thanks, Laurie.

- This speech to a class of pre-schoolers was banned. Thanks, Gillian.

- Breathtaking photos of Ethiopia from an African-based female photographer.

- MIT is hosting a “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon.” Yes please! Thanks, Amy.

- Turn your Instagram photos into a light cube.

- A beautiful video on what ballerinas do to prepare their pointe shoes for performance.

- The new common core math is not fuzzy. Thanks, Cate.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I snapped the image at top at the grocery store yesterday. When I saw them, I immediately thought of this cuss-filled but hilarious article. I know I link to it every year, but it’s funny every time!

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/four-picture-books-youll-love/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/four-picture-books-youll-love/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:38:52 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50936

Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. I haven’t written a post about children’s books in months — the last post was in March! So I thought it would be fun today to share four in one post. Let’s get to it!

1) Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano. Illustrations by Laia Aguilar.

Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design MomFeatured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom

Such a gorgeous book. You’ll meet Camille on a sunny Sunday morning. And get ready, because Camille has so many things to do! Eating cherries, jumping on the bed, talking to the wind, and on and on. The pages feel magical — like they’re lifted right out of child’s head.

Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom

2) Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet.

Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design MomFeatured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom

Oh. This book is brilliant! It’s interactive and teaches kids about the basics of color theory. They shake the book, turn the page, and discover the colors have mixed together to make something new!

Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom

3 ) Lately Lily, The Adventures of a Traveling Girl, by Micah Player.

Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design MomFeatured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom

This is a book for anyone who has caught the travel bug (or who wants to!). Join Lily as she catches her next flight, bus, train or hot air balloon! See what she packs, meet the friends she makes, and adventure with her around the world. It would be a cute book to read before a big trip.

Our daughter Betty has a special love for this book because the creator, Micah Player, once made an illustration of Betty and Lily hanging at a café in Paris!

Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom

4) The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall.

Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design MomFeatured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom

This one is a charmer. A young boy is going to become a big brother and is wondering where the baby is going to come from. Each person he asks has a different answer and you can watch him imagine each new scenario. Happily, at the end, there are satisfying age-appropriate answers to the big question.

Yay for wonderful picture books! The library in our reading loft continues to grow. : )

P.S. — Want more book recommendations? I’ve got a ton! See all the book posts here.

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Get Moving! http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/get-moving/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/get-moving/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 18:20:39 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50901

Jawbone UP24

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Let’s talk movement today. Ben Blair goes to the gym five days a week, but I’ve never been very good at incorporating official exercise — like running, or a class at the gym, or yoga — into my daily routine. That said, I think of myself as a someone who uses my body a lot, not because I’m exercising, but because my calendar is generally packed and my commitments keep me on the move. There are certainly weeks where that is true — during Alt Summit I rarely get to sit for more than a few minutes, and anytime I’m in the middle of a room remodel, I’m like a busy bee, constantly on the move. But if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that on many days, I do a lot of sitting.

Part of that is the nature of my job. Writing means sitting. Editing photographs means sitting. Attending to my inbox means sitting. Researching means sitting. Coordinating with photographers while looking at a calendar means sitting. Taking a phone call while writing notes means sitting. What can I say? If you have a computer based job the same might be true for you as well. But I also know that if I’m in true brainstorming mode and really thinking up ideas, I have to pace or circle the room. I seem to think better when I’m moving.

So, I’ve decided to officially jump on the fitness bracelet bandwagon! I just started this morning (only 250 steps so far!), and I think I might be the last person in America to join in. Hah! I’m partnering with Jawbone for this fitness attempt and using the UP24.

Jawbone Up 24 App

Right now, I have two goals I’m hoping the band will help me with. One is to get a better sense of how much I’m actually moving each day, and improve where needed. I’m really hoping that by being aware of how much I’m not moving on some days, that I’ll be encouraged to get up out of my chair and do some creative thinking on my feet.

And the second goal is to track my sleep and get a picture of what’s happening at night. I know it’s common knowledge that a good night’s sleep is good for you, but I want to find out if I can really see the cause and effect. Am I more active after better sleep? Is the amount of sleep the key factor? Or is the time I go to bed? Related to the sleep goal, I’m also really curious about the Smart Alarm. It’s supposed to wake you up at the ideal moment in your sleep cycle so that you feel the most refreshed. I very much want to try it.

The band, paired with the app, actually does a ton of stuff. You can track food and drink, sync up notes with friends or family members, and set simple daily goals, like: Today I will drink 8 glasses of water. Feel free to check out all the features here. I’m going to use the Jawbone Up24 for a month, track everything on the app, and then I’ll report back in October what it’s been like. I’m very excited about this! I have a feeling it will really jump start my daily movement.

Now your turn. First, are you into working out? If yes, do you like tracking your physical activity? For those of you who are like me, and don’t love formal exercise, do you feel like a fitness band would jump start your daily movement? If you’re already a movement tracking expert, what are your favorite things about using a tool like this? And for those of you haven’t tried a fitness band yet, feel free to join me!

——

This post was brought to you by Jawbone UP24.

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Book Update http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/book-update/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/book-update/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:00:30 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50916

Design Mom Book Cover Photoshoot

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Ready for another update on my Design Mom book? I haven’t updated you guys since March, but there’s tons of fun stuff going on. Two things in particular I want to report, for those of you who are following along behind the scenes.

First, we shot the photo for the cover! You can see a sneak peek above. This happened in July, and since then, the book designer has sent over several different book cover designs. I’m going to check with my editor, and if she doesn’t mind, I’ll share the options with you guys and see what you think.

Second, in the book process right now, I’m responding to comments from copyeditors. This is how the process has worked for my book. Last March, as I mentioned, I handed in the first manuscript. My editor went through it, sent me notes, and the book went through some major revisions. Sections were removed, the focus of the book was refined, topics were reordered, more actionable advise was added in where needed.

That took a long time. And I had to break down the tasks chapter by chapter so that I could make it more manageable.

Then, the revised chapters were sent back to my editor, one by one. A team of copyeditors took the revised chapters and have been going through them with a fine tooth comb. They’re looking for simple things like typos and grammatical errors, plus more complex things like places that need clarification or simplification. When the copyeditors finish a chapter, they send it back to me with their notes and changes. I’ve received 3 chapters back so far.

Then, I go through the comments and changes and I respond to each one as needed.

What a process! And still lots more to do!!

For those of you who have written a book or worked in publishing, this sort of info is very likely old news. But to me, the process is brand new. Bloggers don’t generally work with editors. I’ll proofread my posts, or have Ben Blair proof one if I want some extra eyes on it. And my siblings are good about sending me a heads up when they see a typo I missed (even with proof-reading, I miss something in every post). But this process is very different, and I LOVE how it works. It’s amazing to see the improvement from the first manuscript to where the book is now.

Another exciting tidbit is that my book editor, Lia Ronnen, was just named Publisher at Artisan Books last month. Such a big deal!

Anyway, I thought some of you might be curious about how the book process works. I find stuff like this fascinating! Have you ever been through an editing process like this? If yes, what did you think of it? I find it incredibly challenging — and that’s an understatement for sure. : )

P.S. — You didn’t know I was writing a book? It’s been a looonng process. You can read the original announcement here. And you can read about why it’s taking me so long in this post.

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Living With Kids: Agnes Hsu http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/living-with-kids-agnes-hsu/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/living-with-kids-agnes-hsu/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:00:03 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50554

By Gabrielle.

Agnes would be a lovely friend to have, I think. She owns a cupcake shop, is a family photographer, and also runs a kids’ creative site. Life with her must be sweet, DIY divine, and photogenic. (As an extra bonus, she lives in my neck of the woods, so I call dibs!)

But with all those professional endeavors, something’s gotta give, right? If you’re struggling with your own overwhelming schedules, you might like to hear how Agnes deals with it all. From the division of duties, scheduled personal times that refuel the family’s energy levels, and effective out-sourcing, it’s good stuff. Friends, please meet Agnes! Hello, Wonderful!

Q: We can’t wait to meet you all!

A: Hi! I’m Agnes Hsu, mom to two feisty kids who keep me on my toes: Alia, five and a half, and Kian, who is three and a half. I’m married to my college sweetheart, Tim. We’ve been married for 12 years and together for 18, which seems like a lifetime but it’s all flown by so quickly!

I’m the entrepreneurial/creative spirit in the household. I run on energy and am a non-stop person. I’m an introvert by nature and don’t enjoy small talk, but can talk for hours one-on-one with someone because I love getting to know people from the inside. I’m inspired by those who take chances and have gone through trials in their lives. I am an avid reader, particularly biographies and memoirs. I’m typical type A, compulsive and frenetic. But thankfully, my husband Tim balances that out.

He’s an extrovert, super friendly, and people generally love him upon first meeting. He’s solid, laid-back, and is the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. Our interests couldn’t be more different, too. He’s very much into technology and works in marketing at Twitter, and just prior to that he was at a gaming company. He’s extremely witty, funny, and a hoarder, whereas I’m serious and a neat freak who is scared of clutter. It’s a miracle we are married!

Our kids are the center of our amusement and love. Interestingly, they are also polar opposites like my husband and I. My little girl is like a mini-me. She loves arts and crafts, creative projects, and is also super neat (actually loves to clean her room!) and enjoys baking/cooking in the kitchen as much as I do. She’s also on the shy side and it takes her a while to warm up to people, but once she does she can’t keep quiet around them.

My little boy is the complete opposite. He’s a wild monster! He wreaks havoc around the home, and leaves a trail of trains and cars wherever he goes. He’s also super friendly and will say hi to most people he meets, even on the street. Although he and his sister couldn’t be more different, they are attached at the hip. Kian won’t sleep in his own bunk, and instead climbs down every night to sleep right next her. Don’t get me wrong, we have to break up fights several times a day as they argue like most siblings, but they have a strong connection, which makes me so happy to see.

Oh, and we also have our beloved first baby, a Yorkie name Wicket we’ve had for nine years. He’s spunky even as he’s getting older, but also loves to cuddle and would sleep all day if he could.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: We’ve lived in our Craftsman type home in Oakland, built in 1918, for eight years now. Unfortunately, we bought in the summer of 2006 at the height of the market, but since then it’s come back up and we feel lucky we live in a desirable yet still affordable part of the Bay Area. Given the high cost of living in the Bay, especially San Francisco, Oakland is a wonderful option, especially for families.

It used to be an apartment (triplex) back in the early 1900s, so the bedrooms have rooms within rooms which makes it nice to organize spaces around. Our dining room/kitchen has French doors that open right into the backyard. I remember our realtor saying that was an ideal flow for entertaining, and she was right. We have enjoyed hosting so many fun parties and dinners here in our home.

When we moved in, it was pretty much move-in ready. We did some minor cosmetic things like paint and add new carpet, but that was it. A year ago, we repainted the living room and kitchen and refaced the cabinets to white from maple, which gave the space a brighter feel.

Honestly, this wasn’t the home I think I would have chosen today. Since we bought at the height of the market, there was so much competition and we ended up settling a bit. And although we wanted a house to raise kids, we didn’t have kids at the time so we didn’t know what would truly be important. For example, our backyard is a deck that’s not leveled in some places and not very kid-friendly. As any parent knows, having a flat, grassed, and open area for kids to roam is key when you have children!

Over the years, though, we’ve grown to love our home. It’s the only one our kids have known, and so there are priceless memories here.

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: I absolutely love the Bay area! I know I am biased, but I really do think it’s the best place to live and raise kids. My husband and I are both from Southern Cal, but we met up here in Berkeley and have both lived here ever since.

The Bay area has so much to offer for families. You can be in popular destinations like the mountains (Tahoe), valley (Napa’s wine country), or oceans (Stinson Beach) all within an hour or two drive. We are fortunate to be at the center of the organic and farm fresh food movement; there is an abundance of farmer’s markets and a variety of CSA/farms offer delivery to your home, and almost every restaurant it seems here prides themselves on sustainable, fresh, and seasonal foods. We visit farms every year to go fruit and berry picking. There are museums like the SF MOMA, popular Bay Area attractions like Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz, and Ghirardelli. In nearby San Francisco, you can hop over to Marin/Sausalito via ferry or take an excursion to Angel Island to go biking or hiking. There are also great kid-friendly exploratory museums like Bay Area Discovery.

In Oakland where we live, it’s thriving with culture and diversity, which is what I love most about it. There is a sense of pride from the people who live in Oakland. For kids, here in Oakland and around the East Bay, there are museums like MOCHA (Museum of Children’s Art) with drop-in art classes, local beaches, Jack London Square which holds its popular Eat Real festival, Chinatown right in downtown Oakland, and amazing parks like Roberts or Joaquin Miller which offer hiking trails with beautiful redwood trees surrounding you.

Q: Oh, your aesthetic! It’s so calming with jolts of excitement! And there are so many touches that scream KIDS LIVE HERE. How do you balance it all and merge the sophisticated with the sweet?

A: Thank you! It is a work in progress. Interior design is not my strength, but I love to look at how other people decorate their spaces. Since I do lots of creative projects with my kids, you’ll find remnants of them scattered around the house. It can tend to look like a mishmash of things, but I (and the kids) can’t bear to part with anything we make so we find space for them. I think it keeps things looking lively and colorful.

My aesthetic if I lived alone would probably be minimalistic and clutter-free, so I love to inject my kids’ personality in our home. My daughter is really into art, painting, and drawing so I have several areas where I showcase her art – in frames that open so you can easily switch them out, as canvases, or displayed on a clothespin line. Every year, I take a picture of the kids’ favorite art and make a book so they can always look back year by year.

I like to place photos everywhere I can. One of my favorite ways is to get them printed as wall decals so they are easy and affordable to switch out. I also have a few framed galleries of our favorites and like the art books, make a yearly book of our family photos each year. The kids love going over the photo books. They get a big kick of seeing themselves as babies to where they are now.

My big priority for the home is to have the kids be able to display what they want, but I have learned to balance that with my desire to also have a home that is neat and displays “grown-up” things. So I use baskets and an “everything in its place” kind of philosophy. And have certain rules. Like the kids know they can’t play with my antique cameras or my husband’s vintage record player as “toys” but of course can touch as long as they are not being rough with them. I really believe you can have kid stuff among adult things, but the key is communicating (perhaps several times!) and giving kids boundaries. They eventually really do get it, and I believe it gives them an appreciation for things.

Q: What is your favorite space in your home? What makes it special to you?

A: Definitely, my favorite place is the kitchen. I like to cook so that’s a natural answer, but I’ve also run a commercial kitchen at the bake shop for almost ten years. So when you do that, the kitchen kind of becomes your domain and there is a feeling of ownership. My husband is a gamer – he can’t live without his computer – hence the office is probably his favorite room. The kids’ favorite is definitely their shared playroom/bedroom. They can spend hours there playing.

Q: You’re busy! Tell us about all that you do professionally.

A: My first business was (and still is) a cupcake and cookie shop, the first in the Bay area opened in 2005 before the whole craze hit. I actually grew it to five locations but sold four recently. I’m also a family photographer and run a kids’ creative site called hello, Wonderful which is where I spend most of my time currently.

My career path seems so disjointed, but I look back now and believe everything I’ve done up to this point has led me to this exact moment. The bake shop helped hone my photography skills; it was astounding how much food photography cost, so I taught myself how to shoot. Then when I became a mom, it was a natural playing ground to get even better, which eventually led to a career in family photography. After I became a mom, I realized how important it was to have flexibility in your schedule. The bake shop was my first love and passion, but it was grueling and labor intensive. So after I decided to scale back, I launched hello, Wonderful because I was constantly looking for creative things to do with my young children.

Life is busy but fulfilling and even as I am approaching turning 40 next year, I continue to be amazed that I am still learning and growing each year!

Q: Do you have help in balancing it all? Please share your scheduling tips!

A: My biggest help is my husband. Although we both work maddening hours, we are really good about splitting the work it takes to raise two kids. They are our first priority. The only way we’ve been able to do this successfully is to each be responsible for a main part of the day. He does the mornings and I do the nights. What this means is that he gets the kids up early, dresses, packs lunches, and does the drop-offs at school. I do the evening: pick up, bath, dinner, and bedtime. This allows me to work late into the night after the kids go to sleep, and not have to get up at the crack of dawn. And by me doing the evenings, he can skip rush hour traffic (staying at work later or using that time to work out) and then come home around 8:30pm. We both connect with our day then and eat dinner together.

Yes, that means we don’t eat as a family with the kids on weekdays, but I am always at the dinner table with them. On weekends, we eat all our family meals together. With two parents who work 10-12 hour days, that is the only way we’ve been able to work things out where each of us also have our “down-time.” I believe every parent should have that.

I’m also a big believer in out-sourcing if you can find it. Living in the Bay area, there’s no shortage of apps or services that can help you out. For example, there’s Instacart which is a grocery delivery service that delivers within two hour time frames. We use Amazon for almost everything and love their Prime free shipping. They just opened Amazon Prime Pantry for bigger household items like paper towels, and we also use that. There are meal delivery and planning services like Cook Smarts, Blue Apron, Munchery, or Plated. All of these services surprisingly don’t cost that much if you factor in your time spent driving and gas compared to the time you gain. There are also errand running services like Task Rabbit that can help you out in a pinch. (Note: I am not affiliated with any of these services, but I am an early adopter of new technology and services that maximize your time and make things more efficient for you. I do the cost benefit analysis and if it’s worth it, will try it out. I’m always on the hunt for new apps that make things easier for parents! If you do the research, there are a surprising amount of them that are popping up.)

Each day, I give myself three things to accomplish, and that makes it easy to break down the work. And they are often prioritized based on deadlines. My to-do list is always going to be long. So as long as I give myself a minimum of three things a day I must accomplish, then it makes things more manageable.

What doesn’t work for me is saying yes to too many things. For example, I limit the number of photography jobs I do so they don’t interfere with quality time with our kids. I’ve learned to let go over controlling every aspect of my business. I have a great staff for the bake shop and amazing manager, so I’m lucky to be hands-off there. I’ve learned over the years to delegate, and it hasn’t been easy, but I realize I can’t do it all.

Q: What do you hope your children remember from this home and this time in their lives? How intentional are you at making memories on a daily basis?

A: I want my kids to remember a lively, fun, adventurous, and creative childhood. I want them to know that everyday moments can be made special. I want them to celebrate not only big things, but little things as well. And instill the belief that you can have fun at work and play.

I try to do that through my site, hello, Wonderful. It’s become a cornerstone of so many things I love. Cooking, photography, and most importantly being a mom. It has inspired me to be even more creative with the kids which also means bonding, learning, and experiencing things through their eyes. One series I started there is Cooking With Kids. My daughter loves to brainstorm what recipes we should make. As a result, she’s also opened up her tastebuds; there was a time when she wouldn’t touch anything green or eat meat! Since starting the site, both my children and I have done so many fun projects and the time spent together has been priceless. They are proud of the things they’ve made and I make it a point to showcase them around the home.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? Is there a development stage that’s long gone that you miss?

A: My favorite part about living with my kids is how distinct each of their personalities are, despite the fact they have the same parents! I truly believe each child is ingrained with a certain personality even at birth. Sure, you can influence them through experiences and teaching them certain values, but the core of who they are doesn’t change. I feel truly blessed that I have two kids who are both their own little people, and I enjoy seeing how they develop and showcase their uniqueness. I love the fact that they are so different from one another.

I admit I am not a big fan of the newborn stage; it often felt like you were just a caretaker. The stage I enjoy most is the ages they are now – five and three – where they are seeing and learning so many things for the first time. Everything is HUGE for them, down to noticing an insect they’ve never seen or trying a new food. They are also talking non-stop so the questions are hilarious. Every night our bedtime ritual is “Ask mommy any three questions” and the range of silly to serious questions only one would expect from young ones would fill a comedic novel.

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

A: For me personally, I wish someone had told me to trust the journey you are on. My career path has often seemed all over the place and, at each stage, I questioned the risks and challenges I was taking. But every time, it’s proven itself to be a lesson or window to a new path or opportunity. I’m constantly learning. I’ve realized I will never be professionally just “one thing” because life and career is an evolution of your passions and interests. Although it sounds trite, I do believe that if you follow your passion, you will be right where you were meant to be.

Related to parenting, I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to let go and make mistakes because there will be plenty of them. With my first child, I was so focused on the right schedules, the right foods, etc. I became more lax with the second, and every day I realize more and more it’s okay to let chaos take over sometimes. It’s okay not have the answers.

Having kids has taught me that certain things are out of my control, and that there is beauty in madness. I mentally have to stop myself to take in moments and find magic in them…even when there are crumbs all over the place, poo in the crib, or crayon drawings on the wall.

–-

Agnes, thank you so much for your advice. I know you’ve inspired me on a day when my schedule and list of goals seem so scattered that I don’t know where to begin! Today, my mantra is “There is beauty in madness.”

Friends, do you make an effort to split your parenting duties and carve out worthwhile time for yourselves during the hectic week? I’m curious how you try to do it all. Do you have one trick that works like magic?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! 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 Public High School Update http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/oakland-public-high-school-update/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/oakland-public-high-school-update/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:00:32 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50534

Maude Track

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Last year around this time I talked about the fact that we were enrolling our kids in an Oakland Public High School, rated a 2 out of 10 on the Great Schools website. Since we’ve entered our second year in the same school — now upgraded to a 3 out of 10 — I thought you might enjoy a little update. I don’t want this post to be a repeat of last year’s, so I’m going to focus on the individual experiences of Ralph and Maude at the school.

- I think one fear parents may have is that it might be hard for their child to shine in a big, urban school. But Ralph felt he experienced the opposite. Ralph loved the opportunities the high school gave him. In the fall, he tried out for the school play and won the part of the Italian Father in “Golden Boy”. Since he was a new student, and only a sophomore, he thought they probably wouldn’t consider him.

- He also found opportunities in music. Ralph plays trombone and he joined the Marching Band and Jazz Band. He’d always been pretty casual about his trombone playing, but found he had to really practice in order to keep up with his bandmates. Joining the band really pushed him in a good way, and gave him experiences he couldn’t have had any other way — the band performed in competitions around the state, parades around town, even a renowned jazz club in downtown Oakland. At the end of the year, he laughed when he received the award for Most Improved Band Member. : )

- I think another fear of parents when looking at low-rated schools is wondering if their child will be challenged. Will the courses be rigorous enough, or will they be built around the lowest common denominator? Ralph seemed to experience some of both. There were serious classes like AP World History that challenged him. But there were also classes that felt like a review of earlier work. Certainly, some of this depended on the teacher.

- One thing that helped Ralph integrate right away was that he was super involved. Have you ever watched the extra curricular activities scene of Rushmore? He was like that — joining every club, participating in every possible activity. He’s in the yearbook at least a dozen times. Of course, some of that is just Ralph’s personality, and not every student would want to be super involved. But it was good for us to see how many options and opportunities there were at the high school.

- Because he was so involved, even though he had only been at the school for one year, he got to know a ton of his fellow students. In fact, at the end of the year, his peers recommended him for student leadership.

- Ralph really loves the high school and his friends there. Even though he’s in England and France until December, he attended the first few days of school here in August. His birthday was that first week of school, and his friends threw a sweet party for him. He misses his friends, but knows he’ll be back in January.

- One of his closest friends graduated early so she could work on a film, and I think he’s also attracted by that idea. One of our fears has been that we’ve ruined Ralph’s high school experience since he missed his freshman year. So his friend’s choice was a comforting reminder to him, and to us as parents, that lots of kids are no longer having a “classic American high school” experience, and that’s okay.

- Now Maude’s turn. Last year was Maude’s freshman year and she was SO HAPPY. Maude really, really thrived at the high school. She joined the Cross Country team right off the bat. This was her first opportunity to try distance running, and she had no idea how much she was going to like it. She was super dedicated and practiced 6 days a week. In fact, she would run laps around the hotel if we were traveling, and she couldn’t make a practice.

- As Cross Country ended, she transitioned to the Track Team. Again, she loved it. Again she was super dedicated and took her workouts seriously. She loved traveling with the team. Because of Cross-Country and Track, she is also stronger than I’ve ever been! Watching her do pull-ups is a delight.

- While I’m talking about sports, one thing I appreciate about the school, is that although there are lots of teams and sports, the school doesn’t have a focus on athletics like my own high school did. There are many ways to shine beyond sports.

- Maude worked hard and earned good grades. I think she especially appreciated her classes were in her native language. : )

- In classes she had a similar experience to Ralph. Some of the classes were challenging and rigorous. But she felt like others were being constantly disrupted and were frustrating.

- I think another fear parents might have for their children in a big urban school is wondering if they’ll find good friends. And Maude definitely did. She found that many of the dedicated students in her classes were also on the cross country team, so she was able to find friends that had the same types of priorities she had. She said there were lots of ambitious kids, trying their best, and she felt like you could find them in any class, especially the difficult classes, and in places like orchestra and band.

- She said there are plenty of students aiming for top universities, and mentioned there’s a joke that Stanford is their “safety” school.

- We continue to be impressed with the opportunities the school offers. This year, Maude is taking journalism and wants to launch a school paper. Her teacher seems to trust her and the fellow students and allows them lots of independence and decision making power.

- At the end of last year, Maude was also recommended by her peers for Student Leadership, and she’s part of the leadership now. She’s currently working on student events and loves it.

- Though our kids thrived (and continue to thrive), the school is definitely not perfect. I mentioned disruption above, and that’s a real problem. And then there are little workarounds we’re having to figure out. For example, both Ralph and Maude took Advanced French last year. The next class would be AP French, but not enough students signed up for it, so the school didn’t offer it. Which means we’re going to have to figure out another way for them to take the class — probably an online option.

- Another thing that surprised them (and us). There were fake bomb threats throughout the year. Like maybe 5 or 6. The kids would all have to walk down to the football field until the threat was confirmed fake. Which it always was. Apparently students would call in a bomb threat if they wanted a test to be cancelled. Crazy! That said, our kids didn’t feel unsafe. Unlike many high schools in the U.S., there isn’t a police presence, and there aren’t metal detectors either.

- I mentioned in the P.S. of last year’s post that there is a performing arts school in Oakland that students can try out for. We put the tryout deadlines on our calendar and I asked both Ralph and Maude if they had any interest, but they were both so settled at the current high school, that they didn’t even hesitate, they had no interest in trying out. They were thriving in their current situation.

Our conclusion:

As you may remember if you read last year’s post, we went in knowing the kids might love the school or might hate it, and that we were willing to try other options if the kids weren’t thriving. Of course, that’s still true, and would be true wherever we lived, and even if our kids went to the “best rated” schools. If the kids aren’t thriving, we’ll look at other options.

But I would definitely say this, if you live in a place where you feel like your kids can’t attend the public schools because of low ratings, don’t automatically dismiss the idea of your assigned school. Before you reject a school based on its rating, go to the school and see what it is like. Talk to families that attend. Talk to someone on the PTA and see if there is a core of involved parents. Remember that the parents of the kids who attend low-rated schools love their kids as much as you love your kids.

Now tell me friends, would you ever send your kids to a high school rated a 2 or 3? Does this whole topic of school ratings stress you out? Do you feel like we’re doing our kids a big disservice by putting them in a low-rated school? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. — Oscar & Betty are continuing at our local elementary school. Nothing new to report yet! And June is in a French + English preschool.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/a-few-things-227/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/a-few-things-227/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:00:02 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50645

view from the couch

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How was your week? I hope it was a good one. As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post, September 11th is my father’s birthday. He died many years ago (I was pregnant with Ralph at the time. I was 22.). Yesterday, someone left a sweet little message about him for me, and it was like the floodgates opened — I could not stop crying!

It probably doesn’t seem that strange to cry on my father’s birthday, but it sort of is. Last year on his birthday, I reminisced with my family about fun dad memories, but I don’t think I cried. Sometimes the out of nowhere missing-him-grief catches me off guard. All these years later and the tears come less often, but are still so unpredictable. I’m sure many of you who have lost someone you love can relate.

Anyway, today I find myself a little post-weepy, if that makes any sense.

We have a laid-back weekend ahead. Some fun church activities, but that’s about it. It feels good, like we have time to hang out. What about you? Anything you’re looking forward to this weekend? I’d love to hear!

And before I sign off for the week, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- One method for preventing kids in the classroom from falling through the cracks.

- Piano staircase — 66% more people than usual chose the stairs over the escalator. (Oh Sweden, you’re so cool.)

- Hah! Sir Ian McKellen on acting.

- Ben Blair read this story to me yesterday and I couldn’t stop crying. (Lots of crying yesterday!)

- Best red lipsticks.

- Way beyond my post about online school, this article is about taking your kids out of school altogether.

A dollar store project to spark your (or your child’s) imagination.

- Dear Girls, life is too short for crappy friends.

- What giving birth looks like around the world. Thanks, Heather.

- Remember sticker books? What do you think about this?

- I didn’t realize there was so much turnover in teacher staffing. This is a really interesting article on why teachers quit — and why those who choose to stay do. Thanks, Laura.

- I really like combining textures and came up with these plaster-dipped carafes. Cool or weird?

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Olive Juice Kids Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/olive-juice-kids-giveaway-8/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/olive-juice-kids-giveaway-8/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:00:55 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50825

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Today’s gorgeous giveaway is sponsored by Olive Juice Kids. They’re offering a generous $150 gift certificate. Yippee!

Olive Juice Kids Fall 2014

I’m still working on my kids’ school clothes for this year — no doubt some of you are as well. And the planners among us are already looking ahead to the holidays. Either way,  Olive Juice has us covered.

They’ve been a fantastic sponsor of Design Mom for the past few years and I simply love their clothes! Their designs are consistently beautiful, high quality, and with style that will last.

Olive Juice Kids Fall 2014

If you’re looking for something with a European feel, something that feels unusual, Olive Juice will have the perfect thing. Take a look at their fall catalogue — it’s full of inspiration for putting together outfits! Best of all, their clothes truly are made to be worn by kids — the cuts and materials are comfortable and realistic.

Olive Juice Kids Fall 2014

As I mentioned right now, I’m shopping for fall clothes — the Tilda Shirtdress, Pop Pop’s Sweater, and the Bailey Top are all on my shopping list.

Visit Olive Juice Kids and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to know what pieces catch your eye. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——–

Emily C is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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City Versus Suburb http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/city-versus-suburb/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/city-versus-suburb/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:20:38 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50763

DIY: Wooden postcard with photo transfers. So cool!

By Gabrielle. Images from the New York Wooden Postcard DIY.

It’s September 11th, so of course, the great New York City is on my mind. And I thought it might be a good day to have a city-related conversation. Last month, I shared a home tour featuring a city apartment in Chicago, and in response, received several requests to start a discussion about how and why people choose to live in a city, versus a suburb, versus a rural area. I love that idea! Especially because this is a topic that comes up frequently among my friends and siblings.

Our year and a half in Colorado, when we lived in a suburb of Denver called Centennial, was our most true suburban experience. The house we rented had a two car garage. The streets in our community were wide and easy to navigate. Everything we could possibly need or want — schools, pediatrician and dentist, movie theaters, the mall, Target, restaurants (both sit down and take out), hardware stores, rec centers — was only a few minutes away by car. We never had to think about parking. Ever. Or pay for it. It was always easy to park. There was a ton of green space, yard space and park space. The kids in our neighborhood could play outside freely and safely. Ben Blair and I would often comment how life was designed to be easy there, and we truly enjoyed living there.

DIY: Wooden postcard with photo transfers. So cool!

That said, our entire time in Colorado, we were constantly house hunting in downtown Denver! And in its closest neighborhoods as well. Turns out I like the action of a city. I like access to the restaurants, the museums, the instant variety of people, places and things. I was drawn to housing converted from old warehouses and factory buildings. I liked the walking district in Denver and the downtown festivals and events. I liked that public transportation is plentiful.

And I found I had some sort of emotional resistance to settling down in true suburbs. But I could never really pin point what the resistance was. Because I could honestly see how convenient life was in the suburbs, especially for a family of our size. And conversely, how inconvenient it might be in the city — the lack of parking, the tiny + expensive grocery stores, the smaller living spaces. It seems like the suburbs should have been a no brainer, but they weren’t.

DIY: Wooden postcard with photo transfers. So cool!

Then we moved to France, and we got a taste of rural life. Our house was surrounded by fields, far outside the little town. Knowing my fondness for cities, I had no idea I would like it so much. But I did. Life moved slower. Because it was inconvenient, we ran fewer errands. And when we did run errands, we went as a whole family because it was practically an event. It was quiet in the countryside. We could see the stars. We ate most of our meals at home. The kids interacted with their peers at school, but at home (and we were home a lot) their friends were their siblings. Our family grew closer than we’ve probably ever been, which was a completely unexpected perk.

And as you know, now we live in the city of Oakland. Our neighborhood is somewhere between an urban and suburban classification. You can walk to most of what you need, or you can just as easily drive. You do have to think about, or search, for parking, and generally pay for it, but it’s not as hard as dealing with parking downtown, or in San Francisco. It’s definitely not as easy living as suburbia, but it’s also closer to the city center and all the perks a city offers. It’s very easy for us to get to any happenings in Oakland or San Francisco. For us, it feels like a good compromise. And it reminds me of the neighborhood we lived in in New York, called Tuckahoe — it also always felt somewhere between city living and suburbia to me.

DIY: Wooden postcards made with photo transfers. So cool!

Speaking of New York, I’ve heard it’s a popular place to retire. Apparently, it’s ideal for an older couple. Everything can be delivered, and you never to have to drive!

Obviously, not everyone gets to choose. Work location and housing prices determine these decisions for many, if not most people. But let’s pretend. If you did get to choose, if you could get to work conveniently from an urban, suburban, or rural location, where would you live? Where would you raise your family? And have you ever surprised yourself — maybe tried city living, thinking you’d love it, and didn’t? Or moved to a sprawling rural farmhouse and then missed your tiny city apartment? I’d love to hear your stories.

I’d also love to hear how you made your decisions — I know some people have a ton of angst about moving from the big city to the suburbs. And others are terrified about moving from the suburbs or countryside to the big city.

Lastly, as I alluded to above, my personal classification for true suburbia is never having to think about parking. How about you? What are the earmarks of suburban life in your mind? Or urban life, or rural life?

P.S. — My dad’s birthday was on September 11th. We had a little discussion about that last year.

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Meet Jibo http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/meet-jibo/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/meet-jibo/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:30:05 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50697

By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by IndieGoGo.

—–

I’m totally fascinated by this Indiegogo campaign. It’s called Jibo — and it’s the world’s first family robot. I love this sort of stuff! Watching the video I got all sorts of Jetson’s goosebumps — like I was having a the-future-is-here moment.

Apparently, Jibo recognizes faces, and it will take photos of what’s happening around the room at your request. They say it can even act as a personal assistant — ordering dinner, taking down notes, reading a recipe aloud while you cook — that sort of thing.

Maybe the most interesting part to me is that the creators have built in natural social cues like giggling — the examples on the video seem pretty natural. It looks like Jibo will be able to chat with you. Which again, I find fascinating. It makes me want to discuss predictions from science fiction books, or topics like the Singularity.

jibo-with-woman-story-top

The fundraising project has been hugely successful. Anyone interested can contribute as little as $10 to help make it happen or actually pre-order their own Jibo. And there’s clearly a ton of interest in the robot — the goal was $100,000, and so far over $2 million has been raised.

Have you ever heard of Indiegogo? It’s the largest global crowdfunding platform, with campaigns that have launched from almost every country in the world. And there are millions of dollars being distributed every week due to contributions made by the Indiegogo community. It’s a powerful way to give people a platform.

Indiegogo wants to democratize the way people raise funds for projects, and it empowers people everywhere to fund what matters to them — could be a creative project, something entrepreneurial, or even cause-related. We’re talking all sorts of projects! In fact, here are links to 5 current campaigns — all very different — that I found compelling:

- The country of Palau wants to declare it’s entire island nation a marine sanctuary. This one blows me away.

- One million kids worldwide may never walk because of clubfoot. You can help change that right now.

- A recipe site taken to the next level.

- The Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center is fundraising to build a forested enclosure for an orphan baby chimpanzee.

- Control Devices and appliances in your home with gestures!

Have you ever tried Indiegogo? Either to launch your own project, or to contribute to someone else’s project? I’d love to hear! And I’m also wondering if any of you are ready to buy a Jibo. How do you feel about the idea of robots in your home? And is there anyone reading that feels this is one step closer to robots taking over?

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Growing A Family: When Life And Work Collide http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/growing-a-family-when-life-and-work-collide/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/growing-a-family-when-life-and-work-collide/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:33:59 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=48611

By Gabrielle. Love Of A Mother by the breath-stealing photographer, Dewan Irawan. (Prints available!)

Imagine working in a field where you’ve never personally experienced your specialty. Like a chef at an Italian restaurant who has never feasted on pasta. An artist who never stood in front of a Klimt and blinked away the dazzling golds. A sky-diving instructor who has never pulled her own cord. Or a policy-shaper who works tirelessly to improve maternal and child health services who has never experienced childbirth. I think experience changes everything, don’t you?

Julianne Weis would agree. She has spent the last ten years advocating for women. Clear in her purpose to eradicate preventable maternal deaths, it all somehow became even clearer when she experienced childbirth herself. This is a wonderfully eye-opening tale, and I feel proud to share it with you! Friends, please welcome Julianne.

I’m an American, but over the last 10 years I have lived in a dozen countries, including Niger, Brazil, and Ethiopia. In every place I’ve lived, I have worked on ways to improve maternal and child health services. I have counseled teenage moms addicted to crack in the slums of Brazil, helped clinics in the Congo adapt to the needs of handicapped mothers, and planned policy reforms to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in Nigeria. I have witnessed a woman die from complications in childbirth.

I’m so determined that my job won’t exist in 20 years because all of the preventable maternal deaths caused by poverty and lack of quality health services around the world will have been eradicated, once and for all.

I chose this work because I have always felt strongly that women around the world, no matter their income or status, should have access to safe and supportive reproductive health services, but this passion was only intensified when I got pregnant myself for the first time last year. My husband and I had just moved back to the UK from Ethiopia at the time, coming back to the city of Oxford to finish off our PhDs.

Suddenly, I began to glimpse first hand the intense wave of emotions, responsibilities, and fears that come with carrying a child. I also knew how deeply privileged I was. I lived in a country that has dedicated so many resources to ensuring mothers are supported with quality medical and social services. I was seen by competent and caring midwives every four weeks in the first six months, then every two weeks until my due date. This is a luxury, not just as compared to “the old days,” but also to the present. Tens of millions of women around the world have no access to this kind of care.

As the end of the pregnancy drew nearer, I began to prepare more for the labour itself. I was planning on giving birth in a midwife-led birth centre without medication – barring emergency circumstances, of course. I practiced breathing and meditation, and would visualize all the women I had worked with around the world who had preceded me in undergoing the ardors of labor. I thought of these women’s experiences of birthing unassisted at home, in crowded urban hospitals, or in remote rural clinics, and how incredibly strong they were.

While my work focuses on ensuring women have necessary medical care in cases of obstetric emergency, I knew that for most women, birth is a normal event. Many of the women I’ve worked with in low-income countries have undergone numerous deliveries without either medical assistance or actual complication, utilizing solely their own personal strength to withstand the intensity of the escalating contractions.

Once my own labor began early one morning, seven days past my due date, I tried to muster up the strength of these brave women. The contractions went from ten minutes apart to three minutes apart in less than three hours, and remained that way for 10 more hours as I progressed through the first stage. My husband and I stayed at home in our small flat for the majority of the labor. The hours passed remarkably quickly as the contractions progressed in intensity until I was no longer able to speak through the pain. We called a taxi and went into the birth centre to find I was seven cm dilated. At this point, the intensity was overwhelming. The contractions were coming with hardly any break between, and it was impossible for me to continue breathing through them. I began moaning loudly, and was somewhat relieved when after two hours, the sensations shifted and I knew it was time to push.

The midwives in attendance patiently waited as I again mustered up the strength to continue to push for an hour, checking the baby’s heartbeat every three minutes to ensure he was handling the stress just fine. When my dear son was finally born and placed on my chest, the sense of astonishment and relief was overwhelming. Having lived and breathed pregnancy, birth, and babies in my studies and work for a decade, to hold my own baby in my arms was so blessedly surreal. I had done it! I now knew for myself the amazing, primal act of birthing a child!

Becoming a mother myself has shifted my perspective on my work immensely. Working in the abstraction of the policy world, where women become statistics and universal health recommendations are developed with little thought to local conditions and contexts, to now be able to put myself in a woman’s shoes as she finds out she’s pregnant, or as her contractions begin, or at the time she meets her precious baby – this ability to empathize means everything.

I now realize that it’s absurd to ask women who live in remote, rural areas, to pick up and walk 20 kilometers to catch a crowded long-distance bus to give birth in a hospital the moment their contractions begin. Can you imagine undergoing that kind of journey in the throes of labor? I now realize how frightening it could be to be stuck in prolonged or obstructed labor, with no assistance at hand. My own birth experience was so straightforward, but I can’t imagine if something had gone awry.

Or the ultimate pain – to have lived through a whole pregnancy and the overwhelming pain of labor to only lose that sweet baby in a wholly preventable death like asphyxia. But this is all too common: every two minutes around the world a mother will die in childbirth, but every minute, twenty babies perish from preventable causes.

My joy in holding my infant son is indescribable, and I wish all women went through their experience of becoming a mother with the same level of confidence and support that I did. No more forced pregnancies, unattended labors, or tragic infant deaths. These circumstances cause such levels of pain and suffering. I have seen it first hand on five continents.

And it’s the same everywhere. Everywhere, women desire love and support in their decisions regarding their path to motherhood. I’m so privileged to have had access to such a high level of care in my own experience this last year. It is never something I will take for granted or forget. And this experience has only inflamed my passion further to keep working for the day when all women round the world can say the same.

–-

Julianne, this was very powerful: “…the ability to empathize means everything.” I’m so moved by how your personal experience affected so greatly your professional focus. Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us.

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

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When’s the Last Time You Ate at McDonald’s? http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/whens-the-last-time-you-ate-at-mcdonalds/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/09/whens-the-last-time-you-ate-at-mcdonalds/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 14:00:39 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=50686

happy meal

Image and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by McDonald’s.

Hello, Friends. Can you believe I partnered with McDonald’s for this post? Not the typical Design Mom sponsor, right? And before you jump ship all at once, know that when my ad network asked me about working with McDonald’s, my initial response was: no thank you. But I later reconsidered, because once I learned more about what McDonald’s is trying to do, I confess, I was intrigued. And also because I felt hypocritical — I felt like I was pretending I’m never a McDonald’s customer, when actually, from time-to-time, I am.

McDonald’s knows they have a bad rap with moms, and they’re attempting to see if they can upgrade their reputation by making some concrete changes — like being really transparent about the farms where they buy their ingredients, and being incredibly open about their nutritional information. I don’t know if they’ll be able to reach their #WinningMomsOver goals, but I do have honest opinions about McDonald’s, and they promised me I could speak openly. So here I am. Laying it all out on the table.

Here are my thoughts on McDonald’s in list format — it’s sort of a McDonald’s confessional:

- As I’ve written before, in France, it wasn’t unusual for us to eat at McDonald’s (see the reasons here), and the restaurants there are viewed differently than they are in the U.S.

- On family road trips, if we’re driving in the morning, McDonald’s breakfast is our preferred meal-on-the-go.

- I remember hearing about my friend Amber, who had a child who was having a hard time falling asleep, so at the spur of the moment, they jumped in the car late at night and went to McDonald’s. I loved hearing that! And I knew it must have made the best memories for that child. I vowed to copy her.

- During the last trimester of my pregnancies, I would consistently have cravings for Quarter Pounders with Cheese (hold the ketchup, please).

- When we lived in New York, one of my most stylish friends, Erin, would come pick up toddler Oscar and take him to McDonald’s with her own son, so I could have some quiet time with baby Betty. Oscar adored these trips to McDonalds! And I remember thinking at the time, that it was so refreshing that my friend openly and un-embarrassingly went to McDonald’s. And she was still cool! At the time, if I ate at McDonald’s, I felt like I had to keep it a secret.

- I think that feeling (of not wanting to admit of ever eating at McDonald’s) is kind of a national one — when my brother was recently traveling in Thailand, he stopped at a McDonald’s and his friend took a photo of him in line and posted it on Facebook with a caption: Caught red-handed!

Seeing someone you know at McDonald’s, or having yourself documented there, can be cause for blushing. My brother is actually quite the foodie, but sometimes McDonald’s is the best, quickest, easiest option.

- In my childhood memory, getting invited to a McDonald’s birthday party was like the crème de la crème of invitations.

- A few years ago, I remember learning about The Ronald McDonald House charities, and also learning about how many steady jobs McDonald’s provides around the world, and there was a moment where my opinion about the company took a big shift. It was this reminder to me that the world is rarely black & white.

- I’m not going to pretend I’ll ever be convinced that eating at McDonald’s is as good eating a home cooked meal made from whole ingredients. But as I mentioned, I do eat there occasionally, and over the years I’ve let the guilt go about eating there. Goodness knows, I can’t pretend I eat well all the time (I’m looking at you entire-bag-0f-sour-patch-kids I ate last night).

But now I’m curious. What’s your take? Do you ever eat at McDonald’s? Or would you ever admit it? : ) Do you feel like the reputation of McDonald’s can change? Is there anything McDonald’s could do that would shift your opinion, or have you sworn them off forever? Is there anyone out there reading my blog that has never eaten at McDonald’s? And lastly, if you don’t eat at McDonald’s, is there another fast food chain you favor? Or do you avoid fast food at all costs? I’d love to hear!

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Update 9/16: Over 450 excellent comments! Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts, opinions, and points of view. I’ve read every single one — probably twice!

I’m going to close the comment section (though you can still read them all) because I have to move on to other posts and can’t dedicate the time needed to keep responding to comments. But if you’re dying to weigh in, feel free to email me so I can read your thoughts.

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