Random Thoughts

May 16, 2016

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello! Welcome to May’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

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- As I mentioned, Saturday was party central at our house. June’s was mostly outside in the backyard and on the deck. I adore pretty much any color spectrum anything, so I was delighted she picked rainbows as a theme. We put rainbow ribbons in the trees, and it won’t surprise me if we keep them there all summer long. They look so pretty!

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Two highlights from June’s party: 1) A sticker board. Ralph filled an oversize piece of foamcore with initials in a pattern — R, O, Y, G, B in diagonal stripes. Then the kids, age 5 and 6, would put 2-inch circle stickers in corresponding colors on the initials. Easy, fun, and the kids were excited about what they made. This was the activity we started with while guests arrived, and then kids would go back to it throughout the party to add more stickers. Before the party, we used the stickers to make cupcake toppers too.

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For lunch, we ate outdoors on our deck. There were hotdogs on the grill, and a big bowl of chips, but the best part was our giant cutting board filled with a rainbow of fruits and veggies. It sat in the center of the table and the kids helped themselves.

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Even the aftermath was pretty:

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- Betty’s party was also delightful. The theme was Series of Unfortunate Events. We started with VFD charades. Phrases with VFD play a big part in the series, (like Very Fancy Doilies and Volunteer Fire Department) so Maude used her typewriter and created 20 or so cards with VFD phrases on them. Some from the book, but most that our kids just made up.

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The books feature 3 siblings. The oldest likes to invent, the second likes to read, and the third likes to cook. So that informed the rest of our activities. After charades, the kids invented by doing an egg drop. We put out a bunch of materials — rubberbands, straws, popsicle sticks, a stack of newsprint, glue gun, masking tape, etc. — and each guest created a contraption to try and protect their eggs. We gave them about 45 minutes to work on their contraptions, then they took turns dropping their creations — with a raw egg inside — off our balcony onto the front walk. This was a big hit! None the of the eggs survived completely intact, but some only had a crack!

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After that, it was reading time — we had all the Series books out on display in the family room and reading loft, but mostly the kids wanted to watch the movie, so they did that for about 20 minutes. Then it was time to cook! They prepared Pasta Puttanesca for dinner — a meal featured in the first book. Though, we didn’t really follow the recipe. Instead, they made penne with marinara sauce and bolognese sauce.

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Our cousins joined in at the end of the day which was perfect. After the guests left, we could just hang out with family and relax and enjoy dinner.

- I’m craving a good date with Ben Blair. We do what I’ll call “mini-dates” almost daily. We work out together, do evening grocery shopping together, run to Target together. We’ll hit a late movie once or twice a month. I love any chance I get to hang out with him, so no complaints, but I’m in the mood for a real date. A concert or a museum or a restaurant where we’ve made reservations well in advance. I feel like we were really good at those kinds of dates when we lived in New York, but we’ve been crummy about them ever since. How do you handle dates with your spouse or partner?

- Speaking of museums, I want to see the new SF MOMA! It just reopened after 3 years of renovations. They started the work before we moved here, so none of my kids have seen it. I can’t wait to take the family!

- And speaking of reservations well in advance, I’ve come to realize that part of why we no longer go on planned dates is that we’re in a stage of life where advance planning actually stresses us out instead of relieves us. We seem to be in a phase of life where we can only do things spontaneously. There are exceptions, but mostly I find I’m resistant to put anything “extra” on our calendar. It’s generally pretty packed with school and work commitments, and I’ve found that if I add a dinner-with-friends to the calendar, or buy tickets to Pop-up Magazine event, seeing it on the calendar causes my heart rate to go up.

Instead, “extra” activities seem to be best at the last minute. We love calling friends at 8 or 9 PM and going out for dessert. And we’re great with someone calling at 5:00 and saying they have tickets for a show later that night if we want to go. Beyonce´is in town tonight, and it won’t surprise me if we’re on StubHub this afternoon looking at tickets.

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I find I’m much happier about events when they come up last minute. In part, it seems to be so much easier to assess our home and the kids right then and there, and make a smart decision. Is anyone sick? Are there school projects due that someone forgot? Do we have the groceries we need for tomorrow? Are the older kids home and available to babysit? We can get immediate answers and can make a plan.

On the other hand, when we plan in advance, stuff tends to come up and I often find myself wishing we could cancel. It definitely wasn’t always like this, and I’m assuming it won’t be like this forever, but while it lasts, we’re kind of awful to try and make plans with. Does anyone else feel like this? Am I the only one?

- I can’t believe we’re headed to France next month! We get two whole months there!! June 20th to August 20th. Just thinking about it seems so dang dreamy. We’ll be working on our house, doing some traveling, reconnecting with all the people we love in Normandy and mostly just soaking up how much we love being there. The countryside, the food, the pace. All of it.

Right now, we’re trying to figure out how much of our time there we should plan out and how much to keep flexible. Have you already made your summer plans?

- Speaking of summer, the summer fruit has arrived and we are eating piles of it. Apricots and nectarines for miles.

- I’ve had another major run-in with poison oak. Which I’m kind of incredulous about because I try to be so dang careful. But despite my precautions, my shoulders, back and stomach are covered in the awful rash at the moment.

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to renew my depression meds, and I’ll ask for a giant pack of the poison oak ointment too. I basically have to have a stockpile on hand to get me through the summer. But happily, I’m getting better at managing the pain if I do somehow get the rash.

What works best for me is to take 3 or more showers a day — I start with lukewarm water and soap up, then I turn the water super hot — it’s sort of a hurts-so-good thing and it seems to leach out some of the poison, then I turn the water cool. Then I towel off and put on ointment, and I’m good to go for about 4 or 5 hours.

- We have a fish! June’s big wish for her birthday was a pet. Though I grew up with both cats and dogs at our house, I haven’t felt comfortable getting a pet for my own kids. First because we were in baby stages and I didn’t think I could manage training a pet. And now, even though we’re well past the baby stage, we travel so much that it doesn’t seem like it would be fair to the pet. But we decided we could manage a beta fish. So that was June’s big birthday gift.

When she saw the fish, her eyes lit up. We asked her what his name should be and without hesitation she said, “James. James the Blue Fish.” It was pretty adorable.

Approximately 5 minutes later she was in tears wondering what would become of James when we were in France. I told her I thought one of our cousins would be willing to feed and care for him. That was comforting, but she’s sure she’ll miss him too much. Apparently she’s got that instant mother’s love thing going on. Hah!

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.


A Few Things

May 13, 2016

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By Gabrielle. Photo by @bloesemblogs.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Looking forward to the weekend? At the Blair house, we are in full prep mode for Saturday. We’re hosting 2 birthday parties that day — one for June over lunch, and one for Betty over dinner.

June chose rainbows for a party theme — we’re hosting it outside with an obstacle course, a sticker installation and a water balloon fight. Betty chose A Series of Unfortunate Events as her party theme — we’re decorating with Very Fancy Doilies, inventing egg-drop holders, having a reading time, and making pasta puttanesca for dinner. (If you’ve read the books, that will all make sense to you.)

Remember when I vowed to do super simple parties back in January? Geez. It’s like I can’t help myself. Hah! How about you? How are your weekend plans shaping up? I’m off to run party errands, but before I head out I have a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.

So fun to watch.

- On unsupervised time for kids.

- For bloggers and social media influencers, have you heard of the Family Forward event? you can get a family vacation worth $8500 for $1999! See what’s included here. My friend Jyl puts on this event and it’s amazing. This is the 4th year and as you can imagine, spots sell out fast!

- She used a male name and sent her novel to agents.

- A parent’s guide to using Snapchat.

Copper mining, oil mining, and lithium mining — don’t believe the memes.

- Actor’s careers summed up in gifs.

- My friend Irene of Bloesem Design creates the most gorgeous things. Take a look a this new magazine all about crafting with yarns. Like that gorgeous photo at top!

Africa uncolonized.

- The top love-language for each Myers-Briggs personality type. Is yours accurate?

- In defense of early bedtimes. (We used to be so good and consistent with early bedtimes, but we’re pretty crummy these days.)

The torture of high heels (and yet I wear them).

- On homecomings.

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



Girls & Sex

May 12, 2016


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

A couple of months ago, while running errands, I heard Peggy Orenstein on NPR talking about her new book, Girls & Sex. The conversation was compelling, and when I got home, I ordered the book immediately. When it was delivered, I put it on the coffee table so I would see it daily and remember to make time to read it.

Olive picked it up first, and read the whole thing (she said it got some looks when she brought it to school and pulled it out for free-reading time). Then Maude started it — but had to pause to prep for her AP tests. When Maude set it down, I picked it up. I finished it on Sunday (all I wanted for Mother’s Day was reading time — and I got it!). Now Ralph and Ben Blair are in line to read it.

It’s made for some excellent discussions.

The thing that struck me the most is the observation that when we discuss reproduction with boys, we focus on erections and climax — both pleasurable things. But for girls, we focus on periods and pregnancy prevention — neither of which are pleasurable at all. Most girls grow up not even knowing the actual names of their genitalia. They either hear a nickname/slur, or the whole area gets called vagina. Females grow up learning or hearing about all the ways they can bring pleasure to males, without an understanding of how they can feel pleasure themselves, or what they’re supposed to get out of a sexual encounter.

Our culture teaches girls to act and look sexy, but they don’t actually know how to be sexual, or what that means.


Those ideas stood out to me, because from what I’ve seen and experienced it’s true. I had been thinking Ben Blair and I had done a decent job with our sex ed, but after reading the book I can see we need to do better. More conversations, more often, with both our sons and daughters, with a focus on removing stigma, and growing into a happy, healthy, loving sex life.

Some of the examples in the book were hard for me to stomach. Lots and lots of instances where girls are pressured to have sex when they’re not interested and take no pleasure from it. And there’s a whole chapter on rape and rape culture. But of course, those experiences need to be told and acknowledged and talked about before we will see improvement. So I found it well-worth reading even when I wanted to throw up.

One tip: I found the best conversations started when I simply sat in the living room and read the book aloud to Ben, while the kids walked in and out of the room, grabbing a snack, or sitting down to listen. It was easier for me to read the words in the book aloud instead of trying to come up with my own. And maybe more important, I think it was easier for the kids to hear the words (some of them no doubt shocking to hear coming from their mother’s mouth), and know I was reading them, not necessarily sharing a personal experience — no one (kids, teens, or adults) wants to think of their parents as sexual beings.

Another tip: in this Slate interview with the author, she mentions the idea of having a designated family friend that can speak frankly with your kids about sex. If you want to make sure your kids have this knowledge, but don’t feel like you can be the one to deliver it, you ask an Aunt or a Dear Friend — someone your kids are really comfortable with.

Anyway, I thought the book was excellent and I’m wondering if you’ve read it. I’d love to discuss it with you! If you don’t have time to read it, you can listen to the NPR interview with the author, or read the highlights, I mentioned the excellent interview about the book on Slate, and there’s an excerpt of the book on Time. Any of those is enough to get a conversation started.

I’m also curious: when did you learn words like labia and clitoris and vulva? And did you understand what they were? What their function was? Do you feel like your kids know? Both your daughters and your sons? I was definitely into adulthood before I had a solid understanding of female anatomy.

P.S. — Also from Time: how to talk to your kids about porn.



By Gabrielle. Empathy cards by Emily McDowell.

Sierra Casillas is a midwife in Washington, DC, and expecting her first baby. But if you’re thinking this is going to be one of those stories where her professional experience has completely and utterly prepared her for her personal challenges, you’re going to be surprised.

I’ll let her tell the story. Welcome, Sierra!

Sierra’s story, straight ahead!


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By Gabrielle.

It happened yesterday: a Last Day of School photo showed up in my Facebook stream. The first last-day-photo of the year! Our schools here in Oakland don’t get out until early June, but I can definitely feel things winding down. And as they wind down, the temperatures seem to rise. Which means popsicle weather! In fact, for Betty’s birthday on Monday, she requested popsicles (an assortment of creamsicles, fudgesicles and rootbeer-float pops) in lieu of a birthday cake.

Well, just in the nick of time, my internet friend, Christine Chitnis has a mouth-watering new book called Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet. It’s all about making yummy frozen treats — like ice pops, slushies, and floats — without refined sugars. There are 75 recipes, including vegan and dairy-free options too. As you can see, the photos are gorgeous and I can’t wait to try the recipes!

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I asked Christine if I could share a recipe from the book here and she sent over one called Firecracker Pops. They are adorable! And I love how simple and wholesome the ingredients are. You can find the recipe and photo when you click through, but before you do, I’d love to hear if you have any memories making popsicles as a kid. I sure do!

I remember filling the ice cube trays with orange juice — the kind of juice made from a tube of frozen concentrate. Remember that stuff? Run the cardboard carton under hot water, squeeze it to get the concentrate into the pitcher, then fill the carton with water 3 times. Hah! It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. After the juice was poured into the tray, I would  cover the it with plastic wrap and insert toothpicks through the plastic. Then I would check the freeze obsessively, waiting for the blocks to freeze. The toothpicks would never stand up straight, so they would freeze at an odd diagonal, making the popsicle challenging to hold.

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But still! The idea of making popsicles at home seems to be so universally appealing for kids of all ages. Yesterday, 17-year-old Maude suggested we try making pudding pops at home!

Click here for the recipe and notes!


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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Postmates — get $10 off your first delivery. Details below!

Let’s talk about time-saving apps for a minute. There are new ones every year. Some of them stick for me (like Uber — it’s on the front page of my apps because I use it so much), and others don’t (like Taskrabbit — I tried it a bunch when we first moved here but haven’t opened it in a couple of years). Recently I tried a new-to-me one, it’s called Postmates, and I think I’m going to love it.

What Postmates does, is turn every single store into a store that delivers. We all know pizza delivery, and if we live in Manhattan, we might know Chinese food delivery too. But what about pharmacy delivery? Or shoe delivery? Or birthday gift delivery? I’m not talking about online shopping, where a delivery happens a few days later. I’m talking about a fleet of local couriers, probably in your town — because Postmates is in 40 different U.S. cities now, and growing — who respond to delivery requests on-demand.

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Postmates can deliver from any store or restaurant, anytime, anywhere – including Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland (which always has a loooong line down the block) in minutes. Order from Chipotle, Starbucks, Apple and thousands of popular local merchants (like my fave, Laurel Hardware) at the touch of a button, on-demand 24/7.

I mentioned it as a time-saver, and it is, but it’s also an I’m-not-in-the-mood-to-go-out-saver. Say it’s raining, and you’re not up for loading the kids in the car. Postmates will deliver! Or maybe you’re under the weather and craving some chicken soup from that out of the way noodle shop. Postmates will deliver! Or maybe you’re throwing a party tonight and just don’t have time to run all of your errands. Postmates will deliver!

Over the weekend, I tried it twice to see what it was like. First I ordered food from my favorite Greek restaurant. It couldn’t have been easier. I opened the app, found the restaurant name, and the whole menu was listed. I just had to choose quantities and place the order. I received a confirmation email instantly and a delivery ETA of 35 minutes — with a link to track the progress.

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Second, I placed an order from Trader Joe’s. I have some frustration with Trader Joe’s at the moment for two reasons. First, because they close too early for my schedule. These days, most of our grocery shopping happens after 10:00 PM, (Ben Blair and I go together after the little kids are asleep, and treat it like a mini-date), but Trader Joe’s is always closed at that point. And second, though we have several TJ’s in the area, parking at every single one is a beast. Just finding a spot can add an extra 30 minutes to the errand, especially on weekends. So I end up skipping it. It’s just not worth the hassle most of the time.

That said, there are some things I really love from Trader Joe’s, so I thought: Why not try Postmates? Using their app, I pulled up Trader Joe’s, found some of the items I needed in the app database, and described the rest in a custom order. A few minutes later I had a call from a Postmates Courier — she was in Trader Joe’s and wanted to clarify one of the custom items I requested. Then, in less than an hour, the delivery was on my doorstep!

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It’s hard not to be an instant fan. No having to wait in line, no having to talk to anyone if I’m feeling anti-social, no having to go out in the cold. Instead of taking an hour or more to run an errand, I spent a few minutes on my phone and tada! Errand completed.

Want to give it a try? Click here to download the Postmates app and use the code DesignMom to get $10 off your first delivery! (Applicable to new customers only, for use on delivery fee.)

If you do, I’d love to hear what you use Postmates for first. I’m also curious, do have any time-saver apps you swear by? I know different services work for different people. I’d want to hear what works for you!

P.S. — Have you tried the TJ’s kitchen cloths? They are the best ever. We haven’t needed papertowels since we started using these, way back in New York!


By Gabrielle. Photos by Michelle Drewes.

Lisa and her friend Nan started Ginger, a line of handmade caftans, because they wanted “a kickass dress that was flattering and simple.” So cool. Every time I see a woman strolling confidently in a caftan, I smile. I imagine she has a lot of events to attend, deadlines and dates she never breaks, a well-edited closet and pantry, probably, and a ticket to Corsica for the end of May. Maybe even a thriving garden and a lovely copper watering can. Right?!

I hope you enjoy Lisa’s words and beautiful space she’s sharing with us today. Welcome, Lisa!

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to show you around my life!

My husband and I met in San Francisco in 2001 and were married by the end of the following year. It was a bit of an opposites attract situation! As an economic consultant, he was very organized and methodical and craved routine. Myself, a designer, am more emotional, free spirited, outgoing, and artistic. I’m not so great at paying taxes, saving money, or keeping a clean car, but I love adventure, wild parties, and naughty little children.

However, our 12-year age gap makes us both land in the same Chinese astrological year, the year of the horse. Since horses are meant to race and travel, it wasn’t surprising that we shared the same vision for raising a global-minded family.

We both grew up in the Bay Area — San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Our households were quite different! Doug’s was strict and orderly which resulted in him skipping the third grade, learning to play the piano beautifully and to speak French. I grew up in a free-range creative household that involved lots of motorcycle riding in the Santa Cruz mountains, skateboarding, boogie boarding, and building stuff in my parent’s workshop.

Tons of beautiful views, just ahead!


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By Gabrielle.

My question for you today: How did you/do you address your grandparents? And how do your kids address their grandparents?

I was thinking of this because of a birthday note that June received over the weekend. Along with a birthday card, my mom likes to include a little info on one of the kids’ ancestors — just a paragraph or two with maybe a photo. Sometimes it’s a long-ago relative that lived in another country many generations ago. But this time it was someone a bit closer, someone I spent lots of time with as a child — my mother’s mother, Lucille Evans Pack, or in other words, June’s great-grandmother.

In the little note, my mom referred to her as GiGi, which is what her great-grandkids called her. I think that’s so cute — G.G., as in Great Grandmother! I’m not sure who thought to call her that. As grandkids, we called her Grandma Pack, so the name GiGi was only part of my life as an adult. Did she request it? Did one of the great-grandkids start it? Did one of my cousins or siblings suggest it? Or maybe it was thought up by one of her kids (my aunts and uncle and mother).

It has me wondering, what will my grandkids call me and Ben Blair? What will their kids call our parents? I want it to be something fun.

How about you? Do you stick with the classic, Grandma & Grandpa [last name]? Or do you use something more unusual? Maybe something you inherited from another country or another language? Gamma? Grammy? Poppa? Gramps? And what do you want your grandkids or great-grandkids to call you? I’d love to hear! If it helps, I just did a search for “alternative names for grandparents” and found this cute list. After reading it, I’m thinking our grandkids should call us Bubba and Ace. (I get to be Bubba.)

P.S. — The photo at top is Grandma Pack, age 82, on a boat headed to Santorini. She and my mom came to visit me and Ben when we lived in Greece. She even rode a donkey on the steep island paths!


A Few Things

May 6, 2016


By Gabrielle. Photo by Levon Biss.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? Has it been a good week? We are ramping up for one of those mega weekends that happen from time to time at our house. Things that are on my family’s mind: An AP test today for Maude, and a track meet too. Ralph’s final papers of the semester due this afternoon. Betty getting home from 4th grade sleepaway camp. Mormon Prom on Saturday night, followed by a gathering (that will likely turn into a slumber party) at our house. Cousin’s sleepover at the Stanley’s house. Lots of rain. June’s birthday on Saturday. Mother’s Day on Sunday. And Betty’s birthday on Monday.

That’s a lot of things. Wish us luck! And I should note, though most of the items on our schedule didn’t have the option of rescheduling, we did move the birthday parties for June and Betty till next Saturday. More on that next week. : )

In the meantime, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- A video from Elon Musk — what would it take to power the whole U.S. with solar energy?

- The white wall controversy.

- 4 men with 4 very different incomes.

- Stop saying “I feel like”. (NYT)

- I want to study the detail in these photos.

- It’s an ad about flying with babies. Made me cry. I feel like I’ve mentally blocked the memories of our most challenging flights.

- What pain are you willing to have in your life?

- Intersectionality: Boundaries, Bathrooms, and Black Lives.

- This history of the Billboard charts is endlessly fascinating to me. I listened to 3 decades of the music with the kids last night. So much nostalgia!

- Loving the at-home manufacturing trend. FormBox looks cool!

- Loved this interview with Ben Silbermann of Pinterest. Such a good guy!

- Hah! Obituaries my mother wrote for me.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that you have a sweet Mother’s Day, or are able to ignore it altogether. : ) I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — Knowing we likely won’t be able to fit in a date this weekend, Ben Blair and I are thinking about playing hooky from work today and hitting a matinee. I don’t know if we’ll make it happen, but just the thought is bringing a big smile to my face.



Post by Betty Blair, age 9. Photos and intro by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Miracle-Gro.

Betty is a Garden Ambassador at her elementary school. She LOVES working in the garden. She’s learning how to weed, how to compost and make soil, how to clean and take care of her tools, how to plant seeds, and how to water the garden. She’s very excited about gardening and can’t wait to plant flowers in our yard. She especially likes to teach other kids what she is learning.

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To help encourage her gardening love, I suggested she write a blog post for fellow kids to teach them a gardening skill. She was delighted by the idea and decided to teach “how to pot a flower to keep on the front porch”. She said, “then the kids can water it themselves, and be responsible for it, and watch it grow.” I thought that sounded wonderful. So here is Betty, with a post created for your kids — or for any brand-new gardener!

Betty says:


Step 1 — You need to choose the right pot. It needs to have a hole in the bottom. This is very important, because if it doesn’t have a hole in the bottom, then the water won’t be able to escape and it will sort-of like drown the roots.

Here’s a pot without a hole (I give it a thumbs down):


There are lots of kinds of pots. The orangish-brown kinds are usual, but they break. I like these metal ones because they don’t break. Plastic ones don’t break either.

Step 2 — Put the potting mix in.

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This is a fun part. It’s very messy! Use a trowel (that’s a small hand shovel), or a paper cup, and scoop the soil up and put it in the pot.


Keep doing that until it’s about three-quarters of the way up.


It’s really good to use gloves for this part, because if you don’t, then your hands can get really dirty, and it’s hard to clean the dirt that gets under your fingernails.

Step 3 — Choose your flower.


Take the plant info out, and then slowly and very carefully take the plastic pot off. I like to hold the main plant with one hand, and then squeeze the pot at the bottom with my other hand, and the plant will slide out.


Step 4 — Look at the shape of the rootball. The rootball is the soil and roots of the plant. Then dig a hole in the potting mix that is about the same size as the rootball.

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Put the plant in the hole.

Step 5 — Add more potting mix around the sides of the plant.

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Pat it down so the soil isn’t loose. Add more soil until the pot is almost full. Leave about 1/2 inch at the top.


Dust off the leaves if they have any soil on them.

Step 6 — Water! This part is the funnest.


You can use a watering can or a cup of water. But don’t use a hose! Because the hose is too powerful and it could spray away all the soil.


Water it gently until you see some water come out of the drainage hole.

Step 7 — Read the plant info.


It will tell you if the plant needs sun or shade. And it will tell you how much water it needs, and how big it will get.


This plant goes up to like 10 inches!

You can memorize what is on the plant info, or you can put it back in the soil so you don’t lose it.

Step 8 — Now it’s planted, but you still need to take care of it if you want it to grow. Check the plant each day. See if it needs water. Move it to a sunny place (if it needs sun). And you also need to feed it. There are different kinds of plant food — there are crystals you mix with water, liquid plant food, and food that you shake on and mix into the soil.


Plant food helps flowers get their biggest. I used potting soil that already has plant food in it. Then I don’t need to worry about feeding the plant for about 6 months. After that, you can buy plant food and use it whenever the flowers need it.


That’s it! I think you’ll love doing this project. My little sister June watched me pot this flower and she couldn’t wait to try it herself. Playing with dirt is just really fun! Another one of my favorite parts about gardening is seeing the plants grow, and I really like watering and feeding the plants and making sure they’re being cared for.


I hope you get to put a pot of flowers on your porch and watch them grow!


Wow, Betty! That was awesome. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned so far. I hope there are lots of kids who get to try it out themselves.

I’m over the moon that Betty is learning and caring for plants at an early age. This is knowledge and these are habits that will serve her for her whole life!

Okay you expert gardeners, your turn. Anything else you would you add to Betty’s info? I’d also love to know if gardening is a part of your life. Do you have a yard that you work in? Or maybe a balcony garden or windowsill garden? And did you garden as a kid? I have lots of gardening memories as a child. Weeding the grapevines and picking fresh mint to garnish Sunday dinner are the first two that come to mind! How about you?


By Gabrielle.

Every so often when I’m browsing Instagram, a painting pops up that makes my heart dance. It is usually one of Kirsten Jackson’s.

Please settle in for a colorful, inspiring, melt-your-insides account of a day-in-the-life of an artist, runner, wife, and mom. I really think you’re going to fall in love with this one. Welcome, Kirsten! We can’t wait to follow along your day!

The minute I woke up today, I put the running clothes on. I’m out the door by 6:00 am for my morning run. I do this at least five times a week. Running is something that keeps me sane.

My husband Ian is also always up early. He wakes me so I’m extremely lucky because I don’t ever need an alarm clock!

My 15-year-old son Alexander came for a run with me this morning. He comes with me at least twice a week. It’s quality time that I really value. We ran the bayside trail in Melbourne and saw the most beautiful pink sunrise as we ran this morning.

My 18-year-old daughter Taylor was still at home fast asleep as she usually is at that time of the morning! She’s just finished high school, so she’s allowed a bit of sleep in time.

My mornings are always rushed. I made it back from my run by 7.10 am to get my children’s breakfast and lunch ready. I sometimes can’t believe I’m still getting their breakfast for them! It’s a Mum thing, but I feel better when I know they have had a healthy start to the day. 

I’m a creature of habit, so after I dropped my son Alexander at the train station to catch the train to school, I had breakfast at the same café I do every morning. I always take our dog Canny, a West Highland Terrier, with me and I have my usual: scrambled eggs on gluten-free toast and a coffee. After breakfast, I took Canny for a half-an-hour walk along the beach.

I live in a bayside suburb of Melbourne called Hampton. It’s a fantastic area to live, with lots of fabulous clothes shops, cafes, and galleries. It’s a short walk for me to get to the beach.

So much color and love, straight ahead!


Birthday Bummer

May 4, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle. Super cute cake flags here.

On Friday, when I was at the conference, I joined an art session taught by the fabulous A’Driane Nieves. I settled myself at one of the tables and as I got to know my table mates, it turned out that most of us had June birthdays (which means we are Geminis, if you follow that sort of thing). In fact, one of the women even had my exact same birthday! It’s always fun to find a birthday mate, right?

Except when it isn’t.

After realizing we had the same birthday, June 14th, she said, “You know, it’s also Donald Trump’s birthday. June 14th. Flag Day.”

My mouth fell open. I have rarely been caught that off guard. I said, “Are you joking? Is that for real?” I could not believe it. But apparently it’s true. I share a birthday with Donald Trump.

If you had told me this 2 years ago, it would not have even registered in my brain. I would have heard it and forgotten it within milliseconds. But when I heard the same thing a few days ago, I was so bummed! So super bummed! I know it doesn’t actually mean anything, and by the end of the day I was giggling about it, but still, I don’t want to share a birthday with Donald Trump.

Oh well.

Tell me, Friends. Who are the famous people you share a birthday with? Anyone you adore? I hope so! Not sure who shares your birthday? A quick web search will tell you — try “famous people born on [date]“. Go search, because I want to hear!

P.S. — I just heard the news that Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican nominee race, and that Donald Trump is officially the leader of the Republican party. 


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By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie.

Here it is. The best idea for last-minute celebrations and forgotten holidays! You’ll want to bookmark or pin this one and keep it handy. It’s awesome because it looks special but only requires kindergarten-level crafting. Can you cut basic shapes out of paper with scissors? Then you’re good.

cut-letters 21 cut-letters 2.1

Let’s take Mother’s Day for example. It’s coming up on Sunday. Have you thought about what you are doing for the moms in your life? Even if you’re out of time, you can manage store bought cupcakes topped with a cut letter message. A simple project that happens to look cool. Extra points if you spell out something sassy!

cut-letters 19 cut-letters 4.1 cut-letters 18

Just about anyone (including little hands) can cut out letters, so this can be a family effort, or a surprise the kids make for Mom or Dad or a friend’s birthday. And, I promise, the recipient will love it.

Pick up some baked goods at the grocery store. Cupcakes are cute, but donuts or muffins or brownies (or cake or pie) work too. Grab your sweets and let’s get to work!

Click here for the simple tutorial, plus free alphabet download!

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Chegg - 1

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Chegg — get a 30-minute FREE trial to try out Chegg Tutors. Sign up HERE to receive your free trial — just in time for finals!

Okay you guys. This is a two-post part. In the second part, I want to give you a school report on the kids. And in part one, I want to remind you about the awesomeness of Chegg — the online tutoring service we fell in love with last fall. We’ve used it a bunch over the school year, and have ramped our use up a bit now that May has arrived. It’s officially test month at our house! AP tests and the SAT test to be exact. Which has Maude making faces at the camera. : )

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If Chegg is new to you, here’s the rundown: it’s an online service that gives students instant, on-demand access to real live tutors. Tutors on any subject you can think of. And not just any tutors, total pros! Tutors are vetted carefully, and many are either current students or recent graduates of top-tier colleges and universities around the world. In fact, 98% of lessons on Chegg Tutors have a positive review!

Maude has used the service the most of all my kids and she loves that she can pick a female tutor (she told me she prefers learning math from women), and that she can see where they went to school. Sometimes she picks a tutor that went to a university she’s interested in attending — and then she can ask them about it! Maude chose a tutoring session with Anastasia — she’s majoring in Economics and Public Policy (honors) at University of Chicago. Maude has become very interested in the University of Chicago (via their mailings), but wants to know more about it, so that was a fantastic connection!

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Chegg is really easy to use. You have total control — from your account, you can browse and message tutors, schedule lessons, and manage billing for your student. If you want to jump in and find a tutor, here’s the 4-steps process:

1) Start by entering a subject like “Geometry” on the Chegg Tutors homepage. (Chrome, Firefox and IE are the best browsers
to use).

2) Tell the site a little bit about what your teen is studying and needs help with. For example, “Taking AP US History and
confused on topics around the Vietnam war for an essay” or “Need help with a problem set in pre-calculus — confused about how to find the roots of a polynomial function”

3) From there, available tutors who can help will send you messages about their availability. You can chat for free to make
sure the tutor you set your child up with is a good fit. You can start a lesson immediately, or schedule one a later time.

4) Lesson time! Just click ‘Enter the Lesson” and meet your tutor there. Once the lesson is over, you can give your tutor a positive or negative review, depending on how the lesson went.

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The Chegg platform is really cool because you can interact in different ways — you can text chat, or video chat, or even draw mathematical diagrams. This is important because as we all remember, different subjects require different interactions. Sometimes you need graph paper or a white board, and other time you just need someone who can verbally explain things to you in a way that’s easy to understand.

But what I like most about Chegg is the convenience. No traveling necessary. No advanced scheduling required. And it’s available 24/7! Which means if your teen is having a frustrating homework night — even a very late night — Chegg can come to the rescue. Oh. And it’s affordable too. You only pay for time your student spends in a lesson with their tutor. If your teen only needs help for 20 minutes, that’s all you pay for.

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Chegg is aimed at high school and college students, and it’s perfect for getting students ready for finals — helping them prep for AP exams, brush up on confusing topics, or just getting back on track before the end of the school year.

It gets two thumbs up from me and my kids. Highly recommend!

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Okay. Now here’s a little report on the kids and school…

Click through for a kid-by-kid report!


By Gabrielle.

I’m just going to say it: I wish Katie would be more active on social media. Her Instagram stream is gorgeous, her paintings are ethereal, and, judging from this interview, I could use a dose of her on the daily. But when she explains her absence so sweetly and eloquently, I have to understand.

Still, I’m pleased as punch she’s here with us today! I hope you are, too. Welcome, Katie!

Hi everyone! My name is Katie Stratton. I’m a native Ohioan and painter living in Dayton with my partner Matt and our two kids. Max is 11, and Phoebe, who we call Bee, is three. We’ve also got a pit bull puppy named Wilbur.

Matt and I have been together almost seven years now. We originally met through business. At the time I was painting murals and he was a muralist turned tattoo artist who had old clients he was looking to pass on to another painter. We met for coffee, I was so nervous that forgot to bring my portfolio, and we ended up closing down the coffee shop talking about art and business and life. Instant friends!

Beauty galore, straight ahead!



By Gabrielle. The photo is me and my mother.

My mom sent me a sweet note the other day. She was in a reflective mood and was missing the days when she had a house full of 8 kids. I asked her if I could share some of her email, and she said yes. I should warn you, I think some people will feel a wave a guilt as you read this, and if you do, please try and discard that guilt and come discuss with me at the end.

Here’s a section of what my mom wrote:

“I believe, when the day comes and you are forced to lead a simpler life, that you will be pleased that you spent time with your children when you had the chance.  I MISS my children SO MUCH.

One afternoon in Morningside [our neighborhood] I wanted to get outside and called out, “I’m going for a walk. Anyone want to come?” To my surprise, everyone did. No one got to be with me enough, I guess. Maybe it was too much of a good thing for me. The kids were always there and the responsibility morning-noon-and-night, so it was easy to take our time for granted.

I wasn’t an absent mother. I noticed things. Kept track. I tried to listen when someone needed to talk, but the polite ones didn’t want to intrude on my time. Although nothing mattered to me more than my family, I had other things on my mind, too.  Sometimes intruding things. I took on the PTA Presidency at the High School one year — so I could contribute or whatever.  Ironically, a waste of precious time.

Why wasn’t my role as mother-of-eight enough for me to enjoy, to savor? I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough. Touched them. Sat too close. Rubbed backs enough. Listened to and admired the [music] practicing. I don’t mean I have enormous regret, but “wonderful hindsight” is revealing.

As far as the future, I’m AMAZED at how much more healthy, productive, interesting time is ahead for a woman, after children. It’s been a major surprise to me.”


As I read my mom’s note, it’s no surprise my first instinct was to gather my kids around me, hug them, compliment them, listen to them. But my second instinct was to sort of sigh and resign myself to the idea that maybe there’s no avoiding what my mother is feeling right now.

It got me thinking of advice we’ve all received that sounds wonderful but is kind of impossible to follow. Things like “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I mean, I bet I managed to follow that advice maybe 5 times total in the course of my baby-parenting years. Though I could see how helpful it was in theory, it simply wasn’t advice that worked for me.

Similar to my mom’s note, another piece of general advice that’s often handed out is to “cherish every little moment when your kids are young because they grow up so fast”. I’ve said this myself. To myself. I know it’s true. But again, it’s kind of impossible to follow when you’re actually parenting the little ones. It seems like the only way to make it happen would be to become a person who has endless energy and never tires of small humans and never needs time for herself. (And of course, that person doesn’t exist.)

My mom didn’t send the note to give me guilt, she was just missing her kids and telling me about it. We chatted about it and laughed because I said, “I don’t think a person can ever get to a point where they say, yep, I’ve hugged my children enough. Check that off the list.” Hah!

So my question to you is: Can it be done? Are there people out there who have raised their kids and look back and don’t miss those days? Or don’t wonder about how they spent their time? Should they have trained for that marathon? Should they have taken on that extra assignment at church? Should they have skipped that weekend reunion with their college friends? Are you that person? No regrets? Not even little ones?

What’s your take? When you hear advice about appreciating every moment with your kids, how do you react? As for me, I don’t mind the advice. I hear it and I think about my awesome kids, and my awesome life, and feel loads of gratitude. And then I say to myself that if I’m going to miss my kids in the future (and I’m sure I am), so be it, but I can’t see a way to prevent that, so I’m not going to worry about it now.

How about you?

Also, any thoughts on the last sentences I shared from my mom’s note? About the productive, interesting time after the children’s are raised? Sounds delightful to me!

P.S. — I know Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, and I know there are lots of people (including myself) with either mixed feelings or negative feelings about the holiday. So my apologies if this conversation is stressing you out. Not my intention, I swear! Sending you all love. I think you’re amazing!


A Few Things

April 29, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I’m working from a swanky hotel in Southern California today. And I’m very happy to be here — the shot above? I snapped it from my hotel room. Not too shabby. I’m at the Mom 2.0 Conference, and it’s been a really wonderful gathering of peers and colleagues. Lots of late night talks about the work we do online and how to do it better. Since I don’t really have co-workers, I truly treasure these work conferences, and the chance to talk shop with pioneering, entrepreneurial women. (I’m sharing images from the conference on Instagram if you’d like to see.)

Oh. And yesterday, I interviewed Rita Wilson!! It was the closing keynote of the day, and she was simply delightful. Gracious. friendly, talented, smart. And such an inspiration! While she continues to act, a few years ago she launched a second career as a singer-songwriter, and she’s put out two albums. In fact, she’ll be touring with Chicago this summer if you’d like to see her! I love witnessing the kind of bravery it takes to try something totally new, and I felt incredibly lucky to interview her.

I was also super impressed at how hard she worked to remember names and make personal connections with each person she met. When she heard I was from Oakland, she mentioned that her husband (Tom Hanks) had grown up in Oakland too, and I said, “I know! My kids go to the same high school and middle school where he attended!” She lit up like that was the greatest thing ever. Made me feel so good. I love people like that.

I’ve got more conferencing to do today, so I’m going to put down my laptop, but here are a few things I’ve wanted to share before I say goodbye for the weekend:

- Did you see the #MoreThanMean video? Made me weep. “We wouldn’t say it to their faces, so let’s not type it.”

- And now I’m obsessed with these new floating sustainable homes.

- Perks of signing up for the woman card. Hah!

- The mother of Sandra Bland gives a powerful speech.

- The Whopper sign language commercial is very smile inducing — and made me want to learn sign language! (And no, I’m not working with BK, I just like the commercial.)

- Child, Bride, Mother. (NYT)

- Two monks.

- Just because it’s beautiful to watch.

- The Children of Syria. I want to watch this as a family when I get home.

- A little dose of inspiration: Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

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


P.S. — While I’ve been here, I had the chance to have my aura read and photographed. Have you ever done it? I think I might need to write a post about it.



April 27, 2016


By Gabrielle. Image from NASA’s Astronomy Pic of the Day.

The other night Ben Blair and I had dinner with two professional Futurists.

Did you know that was a thing you could be for a job? For a career? A futurist? A professional futurist? I was not aware of this until very recently and I find it super fascinating.

Our dinner mates were Mike Courtney and Jason Swanson. As Ben has been presenting on Teachur and the Blockchain, he’s met lots of interesting people, including these two. We got together with them when they were in town for a conference.

No one can predict the future, and futurists don’t claim to. But they do look at research and create models that help people and companies consider future possibilities, and plan for those possibilities.

At the end of the evening, after I’d asked a million questions about what they do, and how they do it, and how it coincides with other strains of future thinking (like The Singularity), I asked one last question: With all the future work you’ve done, and all the developments and inventions and research you can see coming down the line, what’s the thing that you’re most excited about future-wise?

Jason talked about things that are happening with DNA, that will allow people to “turn off” their cancer genes, and manipulate different physical qualities (like eye color). Mike talked about new technologies that would allow us to control the way we think — technologies that will make us want to exercise, and want to skip the donuts, and more profound, allow us to “turn off” our depression or other mental illness.

So crazy to think about! I know this is a bit of a random post, but our dinner conversation has been on my mind and I thought you might find it interesting too. Do you happen to know any futurists? Is it a career your kids might like?

I think about that sometimes — what sort of jobs-I’ve-never-heard-of that will be available to our kids. I mean, I have one of those jobs. Blogging didn’t exist when I was choosing my career! I wonder what job titles are coming down the line, or exist already, and I just haven’t heard of them.

P.S. — Have you ever taken Gretchen Rubin’s quiz about what kind of habit personality you have? Well fun fact: Mike was one of the people who developed it. 

P.P.S. — Speaking of future predictions, did you see this post about terra-forming Mars?


Gorgeous Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Cute 3-D elements.

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Hallmark Signature — click here to shop now for #NoOrdinaryCard or find a store near you.

Yes, it’s still April, but May is coming up quicker than we realize. It’s sneaking up on us this year, and I know why: it’s because April ends on a Saturday.

Gorgeous Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Cute 3-D elements.

I realize that sounds too simple and ordinary to be causing problems, and I suppose it depends on what sort of calendar you use, but for me, any time a month ends on a Saturday, it wreaks total havoc, because I can’t “see” the next month until the current month is complete.

In contrast, if a month ends on a Tuesday or Wednesday, then I can see the first few days of the new month the whole time. It never surprises me. I know it’s coming, I can see it there, the days already filling in with to-do items and deadlines.

Beautiful Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Love the watercolor and glitter combo.

Anyway, all that to say: May 1st is happening this coming Sunday whether we realize it or not. Which means Mother’s day is the following Sunday, May 8th. That’s essentially a week and a half away. So soon! Consider this a public service announcement: it’s time to send off your Mother’s Day cards.

Beautiful Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Love the watercolor and glitter combo.

And speaking of cards, let’s talk about the pleasures of picking out a particular card, something really special, for someone you love (like your Mom! Or your Grandmother!). You can easily picture it: walking up and down the card aisle, picking up the card with the colorful baked goods on the front — because one of your favorite memories over the last year was learning how to make pretty frosted cupcakes with your mom as you prepped for your sister’s baby shower.

Adorable Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. You can pop this one right into the scrapbook.

But then, another card catches your eye — the one with the watercolor flowers. My mom is a genius with her paints and watercolor images always remind me of her. This card is definitely gorgeous.

And then you see the card with the cut paper flowers — it has lazer-cut wood, beads, jewels, glitter — it’s perfect for popping right into a scrapbook (and you know how much your mother-in-law loves scrapbooking).

Adorable Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. You can pop this one right into the scrapbook.

Or maybe you’ll choose the card with black and white stripes. It looks so Parisian! Which would be awesome, since you’re saving up right this minute for a grandma-mother-granddaughter trip to France. A Paris-inspired card would be such an inspiration.

Charming Parisian-inspired Mother's Day Card from Hallmark.

That might be the one! You’ll know for sure as soon as you look as the 30 other cards that are equally tempting. (Perhaps the one with the stitching — because Mom taught you how to sew!)

Honestly, they’ve really knocked it out of the ballpark this year, design wise, with their Hallmark Signature Cards. They are simply stunning. Each one is elevated and embellished in thoughtful ways. They start with thick, quality paper, then feature gorgeous 3-D elements, and pretty non-paper textures — like a bit of ribbon or cloth or wood or real stitching.

As Hallmark says: Because there are no ordinary moms, these are no ordinary cards.

Charming Parisian-inspired Mother's Day Card from Hallmark.

When you’re ready to pick out a card that is beautiful, unique and as as full of dimension and sparkle as your mom, let me do you a kindness, and direct you straight to the Hallmark Signature cards. You can find them in the card aisle, wherever Hallmark cards are sold.

These are the substantial kind of cards, the ones that feel like a gift.

Lovely Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Super cool real-life stitching!

Oh my. I really do love the card aisle! Pretty paper products are a weakness of mine. I like studying the designs and materials, and I like seeing a card and realizing it reminds me of someone in particular. There’s so much inspiration to be found there!

How about you? Will you be sending a card to your mother or grandmother or mother-in-law or aunt this year? Anyone else enjoy searching the card aisles for the perfect one? Something beautiful, something with a sweet and simple sentiment. Do you like to add a personal note/letter? Or do you let the card do the talking and simply sign your name? And lastly, is May speaking up on anyone else, or am I just weird that way?

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By Gabrielle.

Jan Scarpino has the most pinnable kitchen! I’d catch sight of it here and there on Instagram, always stop and sigh, and so I reached out to see if she’d show us the rest of her home. It’s all completely pristine and very pretty, which is something rather important to Jan — but maybe not in the way you may think!

Come see what she has to say, won’t you?

My name is Jan, I am 33, gluten-free and mother of three. I was working full time as a hairstylist in a local Aveda salon when I met my husband Danny. I fell for him hard. He is a man of many talents. He has worked in architecture, film and animation, health and wellness, product development, and marketing. He is currently the CMO for Rain International. I have always been smitten with his creative mind and his strong work ethic, but the thing that drew me in to him the most was his generous heart and seeing how involved and present he was as a father to his little girl Gabrielle.

I learned quickly that whether it was my best day or my worst, he was the man that I wanted next to me. He has given me the blessing of experiencing motherhood in two beautiful ways, both as a stepmother and birth mother. Both wonderful and challenging in different ways! I can’t imagine a better fit for myself than having our family exactly the way it is.

It was meant to be. Our oldest Gabby is 12, Rohme is six, and Nixon is three.

I will say that the hardest part about having a blended family is sharing time. It’s difficult to see my boys sad on those days we don’t have Gabby in our home. We aren’t complete.

Just pure loveliness, straight ahead!

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