We are catching Flora just prior to her family’s embarkment on a fabulous adventure. If you’re dreaming of packing it all up and stealing your kids away for a year abroad, you’ve landed on the perfect post to inspire you. If you’re trying to choose between a city hustle and bustle existence or a slower paced life, Flora’s words will be a comfort. If you’ve been hoping for a wake-up call to push you in your right direction, there is a paragraph or two just for you. And if you’re trying to find the courage to paint a boldly blue kitchen nook, this is also the place to be.
One more thing. Flora apologized for her writing skills when she sent me her interview. I forgot to tell her that commas don’t really matter when you’ve written something that makes others smile and feel like they can accomplish just about anything, and suddenly realize that our dreams aren’t so far out of reach. There. I just did.
Please enjoy Flora as much as I have!
Hello, everyone! We are Chris, Flora, three-year-old Zoe Jane, and one-year-old Leo.
Chris is a freelance motion designer, an artist at heart since he was little. He has drawn, painted, and loves all things creative, and so to say he is passionate about his career is an understatement! His head is constantly solving design problems or coming up with new looks for clients.
I am also a freelance designer and mama, born in Mexico City. Design is something that comes second on my list of priorities. Most of my days consist of being a mother and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have been obsessed with pregnancy and newborns since I can remember, so becoming a mama has been the ultimate dream come true. Being a mom is everything I hoped for and more.
I know lots of moms struggle with the transition of becoming a mom and leaving careers. Design is one of those lucky professions where you are not forced to pick between the two. I am able to pick up as little or as much work as I want. Right now, it is a little freelance and a lot of mothering. I purposefully try to take a couple projects here and there because I don’t want to lose sight of my career and I want to keep current with the design world. I am well aware my kids will one day be in school all day, and I would like to hop back on the working bandwagon seamlessly without struggling to get clients or trying to figure out the latest software.
Zoe is one of those extra high energy kids, and she doesn’t hold back even around strangers. She is a total riot. We love her lively personality, and she’s always surprising us with her new drawing and painting skills.
Leo is our sweet baby boy. People always told me if you have a high energy one, the next one is usually mellow. Well, that is not the case for us. He is also a high energy early walker, climber of just about anything, following fearlessly in the steps of his sister. He absolutely adores Zoe, and he’s no doubt a mama’s boy!
We recently moved from Chicago to Fayetteville, Arkansas. After seven years of living in the heart of a much-loved city, we made the big move to be closer to my family. With the impending arrival of our second kid, we decided we were going to need a lot more help! That reason, plus the cost of living compared to Chicago…well…it’s almost unreal.
We started house shopping and couldn’t believe how much more we could afford! It was dreamy. We looked at dozens of homes but none felt like we were seeing the one where we’d continue raising our family. Then we stumbled into this cute subdivision, and an even cuter model home, and we gasped. WOW! THIS IS IT! THIS IS THE ONE!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t for sale. So even though the plan was never to build a house from scratch, we did! People warned us it would be a horrible process, and at times it was, but it was also a lot of fun! We chose every detail, from the brick to the mortar to the roof! Needless to say, we were very nervous about how all our choices would end up looking in real life.
Our house definitely stands out when you look around the subdivision. It’s very bright! At first, we felt like we totally messed up, but we’ve grown to like it now.
The inside is still very much a work-in-progress. We are always torn when shopping around. We would love to splurge on the nice furniture, rugs, and accessories for the house, but we are terrified about what the kids might do to it. So we try to pick and choose our splurges and saves. For example, we splurged on the bed frame and headboard, but we got fairly cheap duvet cover so when Zoe spills my red nail polish, it won’t hurt as much to replace it.
Even though it’s been quite an adjustment moving from the big city to a small town, we are growing to appreciate it. We love having space. Chris now has his own roomy studio where he spends most of his days. He can blast music all day long, and the babies can peacefully sleep upstairs. That was once only a dream when living in our small Chicago condos when we spent every nap time and night tiptoeing around Zoe’s room.
We love having an actual playroom as supposed to having the living room act as the playroom. It’s nice for them to have their own fun space where they can spread out, be loud, and basically make a mess and enjoy being kids.
We’ve loved becoming friends with the neighbors, too. It’s a very different dynamic than in the city and it’s great to see Zoe having this All-American neighborhood experience! People actually open up their garages and the kids ride their tricycles around the cul-de-sac! Just like the movies! And Arkansas is not called the Natural State for nothing – there are trees galore! As soon as Spring hits, everything is covered in green and it’s like a explosion of awesome. Sometimes we are riding in the car and right next to us we spot a deer family hopping around.
Because my husband and I are both designers, we tend to carry on conversations about design on a daily basis. However, we do not share the same aesthetic. I am much more into clean lines and very simple design, and he’s all about complexity and lots of character. We are pretty opposite.
Shopping for furniture has always been a bit of a nightmare. It takes us months to come to a compromise. It seems like most non-designer spouses are pretty laid back about the look of the house, and they just leave that to the one who is home the most. But not Chris! Oh, he has a say in every detail! At times its’s pretty exhausting, but after six years of marriage we have almost mastered the art of compromising.
People constantly ask if we would be willing to do a duo design project, but we learned pretty early on that working together on the same project is a horrible idea. So we always say no to that, because that’s basically saying yes to a future argument. We are always bouncing ideas off each other and talking about our projects, but we keep projects separate always, and usually we agree to disagree. That’s not to say I don’t like his work, though. I am his biggest fan! From paintings to animation to design, he rocks all things creative, and his clients adore him, too.
A year before Zoe was born, my mother-in-law passed away at the age of 53. To us, that was a big eye-opening moment in our lives. We realized this life is not to take for granted. My mother-in-law had a love for life like no one else I’ve ever met, she was healthy as can be, and always happy and excited about life. In a way, I feel like we owe to her to live it up.
Fast forward a couple years a few months before our Leo was born, Zoe started having issues with her leg. She was limping for no apparent reason, and after months of doctor visits, x-rays, lab tests, etc., she was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis just months before her second birthday. It was crushing and one of the hardest things we’ve endured as a family.
Doctors insisted on giving her this drug which is essentially chemo, one of the drugs they give to cancer patients. After reading the side effects of that, we decided to go a different route and treat her naturally with nutrition, supplements, and lots of prayers. Well, God heard our prayers, and she stopped limping and went back to her normal self. She seems to be very controlled right now. But we know with this disease things can change quickly, so that’s a long story about another one of our motivations for the upcoming trip abroad we’ve planned. We have no idea what’s in store for the next years. All we know is that right now she can walk and run and enjoy herself, so that’s when our wheels started turning.
Fast forward one more year when my mom got this awesome job working for Delta. Her travel benefits are amazing, and within a few months she was traveling all over the globe. Needless to say, we got a little jealous of her spontaneous travels! For some reason, we felt like the kids were anchoring us. After several months of dreaming out loud about how we could travel while Chris worked on the road, one day we thought, “What are we waiting for? Zoe is not in school yet, so there’s literally nothing holding us back! Let’s do this!” That same week, we put our house up for rent and for the first time the dream of an overseas life started to take shape.
We started a list of all the places we would like to visit, and then we focused on narrowing it down. We made a rough itinerary for the whole year, about three to four weeks in each place. From Europe to Australia to South America. The lists is still in constant flux. All we know for sure is we are starting in Amsterdam, so we bought our one-way tickets, and booked a home on Airbnb.
Our second stop will probably be Paris, and the plan is to travel south from there to sort of follow the warmer weather. Once we hit three months, which is the longest US citizens can be in the European Union without visas, we decided to head to Australia to sort of skip winter. After three months there, maybe a month in Hawaii, and after that maybe Argentina, Costa Rica, Belize…who knows! The possibilities are endless. We are also well aware this long year trip with two toddlers is sort of crazy, so we are keeping our plans very loose and flexible. If we realize it’s sort of horrible within the first few months, we are not opposed to coming back.
Chris has had the dream of going freelance for years, but it was always “the wrong time to quit.” Can anyone relate? First there was the wedding, then our first kid, then the next kid. It wasn’t until we decided to move that his freelance dream was becoming a reality – but then his company offered to keep him! This development was shocking and exciting, but it delayed the process. It wasn’t until months after we moved that he fully transitioned to freelance, and what an awesome decision that was. To say that he loves it doesn’t even begin to explain how amazing it’s been. He has been so happy, and he’s worked with all of his top favorite companies! I think the biggest secret for all his success could be summed up in one word: passion!
We had that aha moment when we finally realized we can live anywhere! We’ve always talked about traveling, but for the first time we were serious and everything fell into place at the same time. We figured as long as he can take his computer, he can keep working while we travel. At first we thought about moving to just one place, but that turned into two months in each place which then turned into three weeks in each place.
We are hoping to keep expenses about the same. We are well aware things are more expensive while traveling, but we will also be saving lots by basically putting our life here in the States on hold. Turns out car insurance, cable, phones, gas, water, electric bills, and all that fun stuff that we are just so used to paying adds up to a hefty amount of money which we’ve added back into to the traveling budget. Since Chris will continue working while traveling, it shouldn’t be too much of a difference there.
I’m looking forward to finding out if we’re right! I can’t wait to see the world through my babies’ eyes. It’s my favorite part of living with them. Just the other day when I was trying to explain to Zoe about the trip, I realized she has no concept of the world! How the world is round and there are different countries. She asked me if we could go to Paris instead of the park! To be able to teach simple things like that is wonderful.
The most surprising thing about being a mom would be how well I can function with so little sleep. My kids are wonderful in many ways, but they are the worst sleepers ever! So functioning with little sleep is a skill I never knew I had! The newborn stage is one of my favorites – the way they fit in your hands and everything is just so perfectly tiny and new. The thought that days before they were inside your belly blows my mind. The way they smell and move is just fascinating to me. If I could change professions, I would be a midwife in a heartbeat.
I wish someone had told me to live in the moment rather than always thinking about the next moment.
I think it’s easy to always want what you don’t have. So when we were in the city, I was worried about crime and craved lots of space for my babies and being close to family. After we moved and got all that, we started craving all the restaurants and city life and shopping and the awesome playgrounds and museums.
So I came to the conclusion that I’m always so focused on what I don’t have and what I want in the future that I totally miss the awesome moments I get to live. Now I’m a little more aware of this so I’m trying to really live it up everywhere we go.
See what I mean? Her plan is a solid one, isn’t it? Following the warm weather, avoiding the need for visas, adding in utility bill totals to the travel budget – it all sounds sensible and fun, which is surely a trick. How many of you are planning your freelance career right this minute?
I am anxious to hear how Flora’s plans unfold for the family, so please keep in touch, Flora! And thank you for adding your positivity and can-do attitude to our day! (And if anyone is in the market for a vacation rental in Fayetteville, Arkansas, hit her up!)
P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.