Sunday, November 20, 2016

UNCLE JOSH: ANIMAL WHISPERER

Dear Olive,


Reason #23423 why my brother is cooler than me:


He is a scientist, writer, and traveler who is a big wig at the zoo and sends my kids these gems weekly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

MAGIC WORDS: How to Be Pretty

Dear Olive,

Lately, Ella has been asking if we think that she is beautiful.  This image-consciousness rose up unexpectedly for me, but shouldn't be such a surprise.  I vividly remember playing a game with my childhood friend called, "I'm her."

At what must have only been six years old, we would spend afternoons in a sun-drenched Victorian pouring through catalogs with images of women in suits and evening gowns.  The object of the game was to locate the most beautiful women among the photos and put your finger on her photo as a placeholder of ownership to her loveliness.  By quickly reserving the photograph of the most striking model, you somehow absorbed the status of that image.  And even at such a young age, it was evident that beauty was power.  These shiny magazines were visually priming us for the secret society to which we would someday gain membership.  But they were also programming us to the dangerous competition of image ranking.

Like most, I mentally outlined a matrix of the narrow box into which the criteria of beauty fit.  From this seed, the fruits of perfectionism, scarcity, and materialism flow.  Finding my way to discover beauty in imperfection and joy in the common was not an easy road.  I fear that the avatars of social media and visual stimulation of society's, "shoulds" will make this resolution nearly impossible for Ella.  When she looks in the mirror I want her to see her value and strength instead of inventorying her imperfections.

Her query as to my impression of her beauty took the wind out of me.  I looked into her deep brown eyes and knew that a disclaimer of beauty being unimportant would be contrary to what she had deduced of the world...just as a blanket decree of her being the fairest would eventually leave her mistrustful of my judgement.  Instead, I responded that I knew kind girls to be the most beautiful.

"Think about it Ella", I said.  "Isn't Grandma beautiful?"  "Isn't your teacher?"  They are beautiful because we love them.  Because we are joyful around them, all of the light that fills those happy moments casts a softness of beauty.

Ella has been practicing kindness as the secret to loveliness.  She thinks of it with 1:1 correspondence and asks me if her hair is glowing after helping someone with a task or errand.  When I catch her feeling confident or proud after being especially helpful, I tell her, "Ella, you look absolutely beautiful.  Were you especially kind today?"  She smiles and spins for us.

I can't dissuade her from buying into the allure of striving to feel pretty, but I hope to outline the dimensionality of true beauty and to look to herself, rather than to culture for that definition.        


"If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that's all that you really are.  Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage.  These are the things I cherish so in you."

-- Marmee, Little Women

Sunday, September 25, 2016

DESIGN MOM FEATURE

Dear Olive,

About a month ago, Gabrielle Blair graciously invited us to share a little about our home and the motherhood journey on her award-winning site Design Mom.  Gabrielle is a designer and mother who rotates between the States and the French countryside.  Her work was praised as a "Website of the Year" by Time Magazine and a "Top Parenting Blog" by the Wall Street Journal, Parents Magazine, and Better Homes & Gardens.

So honored to have worked with Gabrielle.  Check our our  feature here.




Thursday, September 8, 2016

SEW COOL

Dear Olive, 

I read an article several years ago about a famous architect whose parents refused to buy him toys as a child.  Instead they bought him any materials he requested and insisted that he make his own toys.  The kids were clammering about buying a new stuffed animal and; using the above practice, we made our own instead.


They really got into choosing their colors and stitching the creatures.


We drew and cut the dogs.  This was a first sewing experience for all.


They've been carrying their pets around all day.  


This is my first step to my dream of increased child labor in our household.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

BACKYARD LIVING

Dear Olive,

Have you seen Brooklyn Limestone's Beautiful Backyard series?  It reminded me that we won't have summer forever.  This weekend, we are going to try to slow things down and lounge about outside.


I'm looking forward to Bing Crosby and some cocktails under the bistro lights.


I mentioned here that we added a fireplace mantel in the screened porch, which will be a great backup plan if the mosquitoes don't get the memo about my citronella candles. 


A few weeks ago we updated the balcony off of the Leisure Suite.



I intend to lay under the stars in that hammock for as long as possible.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

MAGIC WORDS: How to Reduce Sibling Conflict

Dear Olive,

I have unearthed the secret to reducing sibling conflict and rivalry.  I read this book.  And this one.  And this other one.  Nope, no magic there.  The real magic came on a grisly winter day when, stuck in the house with preschooler angst, I literally locked myself in the bathroom and let "Baby Fight Club;" as we like to call it, ensue.  Since the first rule of Baby Fight Club is that you don't talk about Baby Fight Club, I won't bore you with the bloody details.  You know the drill anyway.  Luckily, that dirty toilet respite was what I needed to cut through the gore.  Here's what happened:


"Prizes, prizes," I shouted bursting into the room.  "I have prizes for best friends who can solve a challenge."  God almighty, they actually stopped.  Gabriel looked at me with snot and tears plastering his face and Ella raised her puffy eyes.  Was that a trickle of blood in her scalp?  It didn't matter.  I had their attention.  "What challenge?" They responded, suspiciously.

"Oh, a treacherous best friend challenge," I sang enthusiastically.  "What we have to do?," quipped the little one.  Oh, well the floor is going to turn to lava pretty soon and best friends will have to help each other build pillow stepping stones to get to the prize.  Apparently, they were not overly saturated on the old pillow /  lava game and so I shined like a freaking genius.  Never mind the fate of my millions of throw pillow babies.  Sacrifices must be made.

Here are the rules for "Best Friend Challenge."

1.  You must work together.  If you do all of the work on your own because you can't convince / compromise with your partner, you get no credit.


2.  Don't come bellyaching to me:  If you tattle or if I have to solve your problem, you automatically lose.


3.  You don't get to know what the prize is ahead of time.  And if you complain about what you get, I get to enjoy the old fruit bits with which I am baiting you.  I'll eat them right in front of you too.


4.  Basic family rules apply.  Hands and feet to self, kind words.  Infractions can get you disqualified. 



I am telling you what Olive, this thing was no joke.  It bought me a solid 15 minutes.  I've used it tens of times since (with different challenges and prizes) and it is truly a charm.  Magic even.  


Here are some of the Challenges I recommend:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Cleaning up rooms
  • Doing a shared craft
  • Picking apples off the backyard tree
  • Putting together a difficult puzzle
  • Finding certain books at the library
  • Finding the earring that mommy keeps losing
  • Pulling weeds
  • Packing school lunches
  • Wrapping Christmas gifts
  • Spraying the sidewalk down with water
  • Any of these
  • Or these
  • And also these

Magic words mike drop.

Monday, August 22, 2016

PINK BATH REVEAL

Dear Olive,

Our pink bathroom construction days are at their end.


Just in time for the salvation of my sanity, I can finally use a facility absent of prying preschooler eyes.


I couldn't be happier with the finished product.  I'm so glad that we didn't compromise on the vision and even more pleased that Julie convinced me not to try to squeeze a claw foot tub in the space.

The recessed cabinet turned out to be a perfect fit and the contractor even built up the top of the cupboard so that it met the ceiling.  Everything above the glass doors is new build stained to match.  I used this product again to achieve the finish and was reminded of how easy it was to use.


I found a few original pink tiles and we added them as trim to the corner bench to create a cohesive look between the two spaces. 


Our contractor created a recessed alcove for our shampoos and convinced me to upgrade to this shower fixture, which was a great recommendation.


We went with penny hex for the black stripes and on the floors.  We used glossy tile outside of the shower and matte tile inside, apparently so the floor would not be a slippery death trap.


The cupboard opens to reveal a desk, which I painted with Sherwin William's Cyber Space to match the walls.


I organized our towels and toiletries in the desk so that I can use it as a vanity.


Here are some things I've learned in our remodel:  
1.  The right contractor makes all the difference.  Ours had a great attention to detail and was very gracious about problem solving and small changes.

2.  Hire someone else to take measurements.  I suck at tape measuring.  Hiring a designer to map out the elevations was key to preventing the whole thing from becoming a giant sinkhole.

3.  Painting a small bathroom seems easy.  It is not.  It will not take you the 30 minutes you estimate. Because it is small (much like children), it will be difficult and uncooperative.  It will take you two weeks of evenings to complete.  Afterwards, you will have more paint in your hair than on your brush and people will judge you at the grocery store for having black fingernails.  Your character will not be better for this.  Next time: Hire. It. Out.


From the before to the dream to the plan to the construction to the after, consider yourself schooled in pink bathrooming.