By Gabrielle. Best confetti ever from Oh Happy Day Shop.

This is going to be a fun week at the Blair house! Our nephew, Josh Sabey and his wife Sarah Perkins (creators of everyword), arrived this morning to help us do some building — way up in the tree tops! We have two goals for the week: 1) install a zipline, and 2) build a rope bridge. So awesome!! Oh. And more Sabey helpers are coming tomorrow! Ben’s sister Lisa and her husband Mark, and our nephew Matt too. I can’t wait! The Sabeys are one of the best families in the world and we try to copy their parenting skills as much as we can.

But back to Josh & Sarah for a minute. Yesterday was their first wedding anniversary! That’s a big deal. This month will mark a big anniversary for Ben Blair and me as well: 20 years! And a few weeks ago, we went to dinner with friends who were celebrating their 35th anniversary!!

Anyway, I’ve got anniversaries on my mind. And specifically anniversary symbols. The symbol for year one is paper. The symbol for year 20 is china. The symbol for year 35 is coral.


For our first anniversary, we didn’t have much in the way of a gift budget, so instead of buying something, we wrote each other love letters — which was perfect for a paper anniversary! After that, I had big plans to use the anniversary symbols to guide our gift-giving each year. But that totally didn’t happen.

In fact, we actually haven’t been very good at celebrating our wedding anniversary. Two of our kids have birthdays the week after, and it’s back to school time as well, and over the years it’s been so easy to push off celebrating. So anniversary symbols have been almost entirely ignored.

What about you? Have you ever paid attention to anniversary symbols? Did your parents? Or maybe your grandparents? Do you favor the traditional or the modern symbols? Have you ever given or received a particularly awesome gift based on an anniversary symbol? I think it would be fun to read a list of gifts given from a couple who followed the symbols every year!

P.S. — Did you read Gone Girl? Since I read it, every time I think about anniversary symbols I think of that crazy (and NOT romantic) story!


A Few Things

July 31, 2015

Oakland Cranes

By Gabrielle. Photo by Ben Blair.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Has it been a good week? We have lots of fun stuff going on. Our 4 oldest kids took sailing classes this week run by the local parks & rec, and Ben Blair has his first sailing lesson this afternoon. We’ve never tried sailing before! But every time we’re near the Bay (which is practically daily), we have this overwhelming urge to be on the water more. We’re hoping that learning how to sail will fix that. Ralph’s class has the most adventurous program. Yesterday morning they sailed from Oakland to Sausalito on a Big Ship, and then stayed overnight on the boat. Very cool!

Maude had to cut her sailing lessons short this week — she has a week long back-packing trip through Yosemite with her best friend’s family. It’s always such a funny feeling to have the kids gone. Four kids at home feels so different than six! Any good stuff happening at your house this weekend?

I’ve got a few appointments this afternoon, but before I check out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Jess Lively interviewed me on her popular podcast! You can listen in here.

- The science of romance and “slow love”.

- The Prime Book.

- Bay Area to Standard American English Translator.

- On the death of Sandra Bland and driving while black.

- To celebrate their 100 birthday, the Minneapolis Institute of Art had a local bike company create fully functional “art bikes” based on famous pieces in the museum.

- If we loved teachers as much as pro-athletes.

- Paper flower headbands!

- Mobile school follows girls when they move for pasture work.

- Just the headline will get you laughing.

- 3-minute corn on the cob.

I hope you have a really lovely weekend. Thank you for the fun conversations this week! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Budget Game

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Over the next 8 weeks, I’m working with ScholarShare, California’s 529 savings plan, on a series of posts about family finances. I’ll be covering topics like creating a monthly budget, financial plans, saving for college, and teaching kids about finances. These topics are all super important, and depending on how a family approaches them, they can add or subtract a lot of stress from daily life.

But I know talking about finances can trigger worry or shame for lots of us, so I promise to keep things shame-free and totally approachable. ScholarShare feels the same way — they want to make saving for college as easy and effective as possible, and have lots of tips to help you get started. (And if you’re a California resident, you can even win $500 toward a college savings plan!)

For this first post, I’m going to start with the topic of teaching teens about budgeting, because we happened to have a real success story with this last summer. Last July I was casually chatting with my two oldest kids, Ralph and Maude, about college. We were wondering aloud where they might attend, and talking about dorm life, and what it’s like to get an apartment, choose your class schedule, and do your own grocery shopping.

Suddenly, I had this moment of panic about teaching my kids to create a monthly budget. They earn money, and spend money, and save money, but at the time, I had never really talked them through a full monthly budget and what it’s like to live within one. I had this compelling I NEED TO TEACH THEM THIS RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE feeling. Hah!

So I sat down at my laptop and came up with a game/challenge. It’s a rough-draft sort of thing, but it turns out they really enjoyed going through it. A year has passed, and we’re still talking about the budget game, and getting requests from the younger kids for their turn.

What’s the challenge? Essentially, it’s a game that takes about an hour to play, where they go through 12 months of budget, and each month they have new challenges thrown their way. The goal was to go through all 12 months of pretend budgets and end with a minimum amount in pretend savings, plus a certain number of pretend “Social/Mental Well-Being Points” (more on those in a bit). I created a Budget Worksheet to help us play, plus a sheet of “Banker’s Instructions” and an explanation of “Budget Options” (you can download all 3 below).

It’s a game designed to boost my teens’ awareness of consequences that come from money management (or mis-management), based on things that they value (like their favorite chocolate milk). What do I mean? I’ll explain. And I promise, it’s actually way more fun than it sounds. : )


Click here to find out how the budget game works, and get a free download too.


By Gabrielle.

I think most people are a little scared of morning sickness. It can leave us feeling like we’ve just run two marathons in a row, when all we’ve really accomplished is a feeble walk from our bed to the couch. It can surprise us during an important meeting with the realization “Huh. The smell of paper makes me vomit.” And then one day, it packs up and leaves and we forget all about the ghastly beast that interrupted our well-being for a few weeks.

But there is morning sickness, and there is MORNING SICKNESS. The all-caps version sticks around all day and all night, despite the hours of operation clearly stated in its name, only departing upon baby’s sweet arrival. In Erika’s case, however, there is morning sickness, and there is MORNING SICKNESS, and then there is Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I hope none of you experience this. But if you ever do, you are not alone.

Here’s Erika Weaver’s harrowing story, and her very happy endings. Yes, endings. Three cases of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and three boys as reward! Welcome, Erika!

Erika’s story, straight ahead!



Images and text by Gabrielle.

Well, it’s been almost a year since I posted an Ask Design Mom question, but when I shared my 9 year blog anniversary post, I had a whole bunch of requests to post them more often. So here we go! I’ll do my best to make this a regular series again — and in the meantime, you can find the Ask Design Mom archives here. Now, on to the question!

Olive & June 2014-1539

Hi Gabrielle. You wrote a post a while ago about two extroverts raising an introvert. My family is the opposite. My husband and I are introverts and our only child is an extrovert (we think!). She is 5 years old and always wants someone to do something with her. The only time she can play by herself is watching TV or using the iPad. Even while coloring her coloring book she wants someone to do it with her. It’s very noticeable when compared with her same aged cousin. He is perfectly fine playing by himself and our daughter begs him to play with her. Do you have any suggestions for introverted parents raising an extrovert? — Angel

Find my answer straight ahead!


Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Peaches. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Sponsored by Blue Diamond.

I can’t pretend we’re healthy eaters every single day, but I do try hard to keep healthy snacks around the house, so that when the kids reach for something, the options are weighted heavily toward real food and away from junk food. The tricky thing is, we tend to find ourselves in snack-time ruts — the food that was once a perfect mid-day treat becomes boring because we’ve eaten it too many times.

So I thought it would be fun to work with the kids and use a “pairings” theme to come up with some snack ideas. I’m working with Blue Diamond on this post, so we used four of our favorite almond varieties as the base for the snacks.

One of our goals was to use items that are easy to keep stocked in the pantry — most of the options I’m suggesting below have a long shelf-life. Another goal was to avoid junk food, though I realize, “junk food” means different things to different people. We also wanted to come up with ideas that are really simple. Nothing to mix or measure. The hope is that these could be set out quickly with little to no prep.

June, Betty and Maude helped me experiment with flavors as we came up with the pairings, and it was a really happy way to spend an afternoon. Though I didn’t predict this, I can imagine us holding a “pairing” activity whenever we’re getting bored of our current snacks. The kids ended up feeling ownership of the ideas, and for the sake of the experiment, they tried foods that they previously thought they didn’t like. So if your kids are bored, I definitely recommend using the “pairing” theme to come up with new flavor combinations and snack ideas. It’s super fun!

Now, on to the pairings!

Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Raisins. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Pairing #1: Whole Natural Almonds + Raisins

It doesn’t get simpler than that! This is definitely a favorite go-to snack for several reasons. First, it’s literally two ingredients — raisins and almonds. There isn’t even added salt! Second, this requires zero prep. Pour the raisins and almonds in a bowl and you’re done. Third, even though it’s simple, it’s super satisfying. I have a huge sweet tooth, so the raisins help with that, and the almonds really satiate my hunger quickly. Lastly, this combo works anytime. As an after school snack, in my handbag on-the-go, or even as something to snack on during dinner prep.

Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Raisins. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

A variation on this? If peaches or nectarines are in season, they pair wonderfully with Whole, Natural Almonds as well (as pictured at the top). The flavors are perfect together.

Healthy Snack: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Pairing #2: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami

It’s hard to beat classic Smokehouse Almonds. They might be the perfect flavor. They’re wonderful on their own, but to beat snack boredom, they’re great for pairing as well.

Healthy Snack: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

This particular grouping has a lot of good food going on. You could practically make a meal of this “snack” — it would be ideal on a road trip or hike, or for a simple picnic. We paired the Smokehouse almonds with slices of salami, slices of Gruyere cheese (though any favorite cheese would work), and something new to us: dried, salted, green beans.

Beyond snacking, I thought this combination might also be fun as dinner party hor d’oeuvres.

More pairings ahead!


By Gabrielle.

At some point during the process of preparing these tours for publication, I usually ask our tour guides for just one more photo or just one more story or just a few more sentences about that sweet thing they mentioned in passing. Or “Where did you get those vases, because they’re super chic?” In Shelly’s case, I simply asked for a few more close-ups of her stunning gallery wall plus maybe a bookshelf.

And this is when she told me she was in the process of moving out of this home, away from her stunning gallery wall plus definitely her bookshelf! I still wanted to show you her home and share her words, because she has a lot to say about following our gut instincts and being brave and tackling DIY even if it scares the heck out of us. Also, there’s that gallery wall.

Please welcome Shelley as she takes us on one final tour of her home! She’s been in her new state for a day as of this writing, and so far, so good.

Hello! I’m Shelly and I’m living in Illinois with my best friend, lil bean, and pup. I could gush about my family all day.

My husband, Jeffrey, and I met at Purdue where I fell head over heels for him and his pet bunny. My mood is VERY much affected by his, which is good because he is the yin (calm/quiet/thoughtful/patient) to my yang (anxious/loud/quick to speak/impatient). He is a curious learner who can figure out how to do/build/navigate just about anything, but most of all, he makes me laugh.

My daughter makes us both laugh. Constantly. She is almost two years old, and such an empathetic, kind-hearted child. She’s great for a pat on the back, share of her cookie, or silly face to make you laugh. My husband has instilled his love of books while I have instilled my love of dancing in her.

And the pretty continues! Straight ahead.


The Treehouse - a wordless picture book

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I think you’ll love this month’s round up of books! There are knock out illustrations, really good stories, and a non-fiction selection as well. First up, let’s talk about The Tree House, by Marije and Ronald Tolman. This is a wordless book — which means the images have to work even harder. But they totally do!

The Treehouse — a wordless picture book The Treehouse — a wordless picture book

A polar bear rides a whale to a tree that’s growing out of the water. How’s that for a magical opener? And it just gets more fabulous from there. Polar Bear isn’t alone for long — as the water recedes, more and more animals join him. Some by land, some by air. Your kids will want to study every image.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Remember Iggy Peck, Architect? Well, today I’m happy to introduce you to Rosie Revere, Engineer. It’s written by Andrea Beaty, with gloriously detailed illustrations by David Roberts. Jessie Arora, the founder of Embark Labs, sent me this book to welcome our family to the Bay Area. Such a sweet gift!

Rosie Revere, Engineer Rosie Revere, Engineer

Though Rosie may seem a bit quiet during the day, her nights are filled with visions of inventions. Not every invention is a hit, and Rosie is tempted to give up her dream of becoming an engineer. But maybe her invention “flops” aren’t as bad as they seem.  The whole book is written in memorable rhyme, and the message of the book is so encouraging, it appeals to kids and adults alike.

Keep reading for two more books!


A Few Things

July 24, 2015

Apple Jacks

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness I CAN NOT WAIT to have my family back today!!! Ben Blair and the 5 youngest get home from Cousins Week this afternoon, and Ralph gets home from Scout Camp tomorrow. Hallelujah! I was having fun for the first few days, I went to a couple of movies, read like crazy, did some exploring around town, and ate some of my favorite treats (like sugar cereal!). But after that I was like a ridiculous combination of lonely and couch potato. Hah! I’m clearly not very skilled at living alone. : )

I’m going to sign off so I can think of something fun to welcome everyone home (have any ideas?). But before I say goodbye, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- For Seinfeld fans. Comedians in cars featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

- An open call for essays about childhood.

- The prettiest paper blooms.

- Where are all the aliens? It’s long, but I loved reading all the theories.

- So much beauty! A G0Pro camera attached to a sea turtle.

- A new theory about addiction.

- This shower curtain kicks you out after 4 minutes.

- Is that really an opinion? Or are you just wrong.

Edible Sprinkle Bowls.

- The trolls are winning.

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


P.S. — Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts on Monday’s school post. I LOVE your comments.


By Gabrielle.

If I ever feel like my day is overflowing with challenges, I’m going to re-read Maggie’s account of her day. She’s a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Ethiopia, and her daily life is probably very different from yours or mine. For example, it might take her 15 minutes to properly and politely greet everyone on her way to work in adherence to local customs; there is no casual smile and wave allowed, even when sour moods are in the air! The internet is unreliable and slow. Also, her house has no indoor plumbing.

It all kind of makes me a little sheepish when I’m stressed about wrangling traffic or tackling a super long must-do list!

I’ve repeated one of Maggie’s thoughts to myself more than a few times since I interviewed her: “You can’t think about things you can’t have if you want to survive in the Peace Corps.” I guess that applies to all of us in some way or another, don’t you think? Please help me welcome Maggie! You’ll want to hear about her bedtime rituals; they’re quite lovely.

Maggie’s unique Ethiopian day, just ahead!


Homemade and All-Natural Skin Care Recipes - made from ingredients you already have at home!

Photo and intro by Gabrielle. Expert advice by Rachael Weesjes. 

My new friend, Rachael, is an esthetician. In April, she generously shared her best skin care tips, and lucky for us, she also offered to share her fabulous at-home concoctions to solve our skin concerns. These are natural, food-based, creams and cleansers — I’m betting you’ve got all the ingredients you’ll need in your kitchen right now. So let’s get started! Glowing skin, straight ahead!

A lot of people avoid the word oil when it comes to buying products for their skin. They think they have oily skin already and that’s a bad thing, so adding more oil to it will make it worse. But I wish everyone would throw that mindset out the window today and never let it back in!

Oil dissolves oil. Say it with me: Oil dissolves oil. Cleansers for oily skin tend to be drying, so your sebaceous glands, which are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete the oil, are going to go into overdrive because they are getting the message that all the oil is gone and they then produce even more oil than before. That leads to more blocked pores, more blemishes, more oil, more cleansing, and round and round it goes.

Let’s start with a cleansing option. You’ll need two oils for this part. First is castor oil. This is your base oil and you will not be using a lot of it. For oily skin you will use 30% castor oil to 70% of your secondary oil choice. You might want to tweak the amounts depending on your own personal results. You know those travel-sized shampoo bottles? Perfect size in which to mix your cleanser.

Your secondary oil will be a vegetable oil or sunflower seed oil or sweet almond oil. I like extra virgin olive oil. Castor oil will remove the impurities in your skin, has anti-inflammatory properties, and will heal your skin as well. The EVOO prevents dryness. Remember, if you use too much castor oil you will end up with super dry skin.

Once it’s mixed, pour a puddle into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together to warm it, and start to massage your face. For the castor oil to do its job properly, massage for five minutes. I say five because everyone always does three! Then, take a hot washcloth and lay it over your face, leaving it there until it’s cool. Wipe away the oil with the washcloth. You will probably have to repeat this step two or three times to make sure you’ve removed all the oil. This is actually where many people stop because they find that their skin is moisturized enough just from the cleansing. And you can stop here if this is how you cleanse your skin frequently, but if you want that little extra treat of a facial you can continue with the next steps. I will add that if you start to do the oil cleansing method, you really should do it only at night before bed;  if you are washing your face at night, there is no need to wash it in the morning. And bonus! A lot of people don’t find the need to cleanse every night once they start with this method.

Next is toner. Mix two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar – it must be organic – and two teaspoons of tap water. Dip a cotton ball into the mix and wipe your face. If you find the vinegar too strong of a smell, wait five minutes after toning and then rinse with water. Otherwise, continue on with the facial. If you find your skin reacts to the vinegar, dilute it more with the water.

On to exfoliating! Grind one tablespoon of oats, add one tablespoon of honey, apply to your face, and rub in gentle circles for three to five minutes. Rinse off with water.

And now for the mask, which is my favorite step because you get to be a scientist and mix up ingredients any way you want! This one is a lemon and egg-white mask. Lemon is rich in Vitamin C, it’s great for getting rid of sun spots and uneven skin tone, and it will help exfoliate. You will notice tightness once you apply the egg whites, but that will go away once you remove the mask.

Beat one egg-white until it’s frothy. Add lemon juice (the equivalent of half of a lemon) to the egg-white, apply it to your face avoiding the eye area, leave on for 15 minutes up to 30 minutes, and rinse off with warm water.

I like to use coconut oil as a finishing cream. Choose the organic, unrefined kind. It is a hard white substance when cold, but at 24 degrees Celsius it melts and becomes oil. Melt about half a tablespoon in your hands, and massage your face with it.

You may find that your skin will get a bit worse before it gets better. Apple cider vinegar will definitely open up blockages and a lot of oil will be released, which can cause more breakouts. But be patient: it will subside once your skin adjusts to how nicely you are treating it!

Solutions for dry and aging skin, just ahead!


By Gabrielle.

When we last visited Meghann in Amsterdam, I made her promise to show us around her new home once she moved to Saba. (Quick geography primer: Saba is a Caribbean island and the smallest special municipality of the Netherlands. It consists largely of the potentially active volcano, Mount Scenery, which at 2,910 feet, is the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There is no crime, little traffic, and a close-knit local community. It sounds like Heaven, doesn’t it?)

I couldn’t wait to hear all about how they adjusted, get a first-hand peek into what homes look like on the island, and how it feels to live on a volcano! With 2,000 other people! (Are the city dwellers out there choking right now?! Hah!)

I’m so excited to share Meghann with you all again. Welcome, Meghann!

Except for my family — my husband, Koen, and our kids Tipp and Loula — just about everything has changed from my last appearance on Design Mom!

We went from city living in a densely populated, super flat country where there were more bikes than people and where sweaters are worn for more than half the year, to a sparsely populated volcano in the Caribbean particularly known for diving in its underwater world. Everything in life feels pretty new right now.

Even before we got married, we’d always thought we’d move abroad for our jobs for some time. We had travelled a lot, both before we met, together as a couple and also with our kids. In 2012, we even had the opportunity to live abroad for my job for six months. While I was starting to think that maybe I was fine just staying in Amsterdam for the rest of our lives, Koen was starting to get the itch to go. He was also ready for a new professional challenge.

I love the reason behind their decision to move. Just ahead!


Back to School1

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I get emails about this topic all the time, and I’ve had a draft of this post written up for a full year! But I’ve hesitated to publish this because it’s such a stressful topic for so many people, and I don’t want to inadvertently add to anyone’s stress. Please, if you start reading this and you’re not into it, just skip it and move on. I promise, this is not a directive on how to pick a school, and I don’t claim to know where your particular child should go to school. This is just my thoughts on the topic for my own family.

For me, realizing that I wasn’t willing to stress about school, started when we lived in New York. People that live in New York are crazy when it comes to schools. I’m not sure that statement is even up for argument. And I don’t blame them. It’s intense. Our oldest turned 4 the month we moved there and school started a few weeks afterward. As we settled in, every time we met someone new the big question was: Where is Ralph going to preschool? And the stress wasn’t because we lived in Manhattan. We were in a little town just north of the Bronx, called Tuckahoe.

Since Ben Blair was starting his graduate work at Columbia, and I had baby number 3 a few weeks after we moved in, money was tight, and our only considerations for pre-school were essentially that it be cheap or free. You can imagine my shock when I found out that it wasn’t uncommon in our area for people to pay $20,000 or more per year for pre-school tuition. And these weren’t imaginary people with private jets. These were my friends and neighbors who didn’t drive fancy cars or take exotic vacations.

Lots more discussion ahead.


A Few Things

July 17, 2015

San Francisco at Dusk

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello Friends. How are you? Was it a good week? We’ve had a busy one. Ralph tackled his Eagle project this week! He’s making a video for the non-profit group that created Slavery Footprint. The organization helps companies certify that their supply lines don’t use slave labor. And then tomorrow, Ralph is off to Scout Camp. His last one ever!

Yesterday, Ben Blair and the kids started the drive to Utah so that Maude, Olive, Oscar and Betty can attend our annual Cousins Week. June went with them too — she’s too young to officially attend Cousins Weeks but can’t wait to see her grandparents. Which means, I’m going to be at home solo next week. For the first time ever! (At least I think it’s the first time.)

I have high hopes of tackling a long list of tasks, but there’s a chance I might just read a ton instead. We’ll see. Have you ever stayed home while your family traveled? Do you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down? I told Ben that if I’m miserable, I’ll fly out and join them. : )

Before I start my solo week, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Is it time for Jews to leave France? So troubling!

- The trickiest extra credit question ever.

- If male actors were described the way female actors are.

- Wow! Have you seen this new line of clothing for kids with autism? No fronts, no backs, no tags, no zippers or buttons. So cool!

- Have you ever heard of ghosting?

- Crystal clear solar panels for windows.

A eulogy for Twitter. Do you agree it’s fading? I’m not so sure. Black Twitter seems to be incredibly active.

- Apparently, Amazon Prime Day was not that great. Did you find any deals that day?

- 800 songs from the 90′s in order of date. That’s 55 hours of music!

- Hah! Strawberry-rhubarb is one of my favorites.

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


P.S. — One of the tasks on my list is to make an appointment at the Apple Store so that they can help me figure out why my laptop storage disk is full. I keep almost nothing stored on here, and am a minimalist as far as apps go. So I can’t figure out what’s taking up all the space. Have you ever had this happen?


By Gabrielle.

When Mat told me he’d read all of my Living With Kids tours from the column’s inception, it made me smile. He said loved seeing the homes and being inspired by all the ways different families accommodated their kids. It made me so happy, I read his note twice.

Truly, that is all I’ve ever wanted these tours to accomplish! I am overjoyed at the idea that each peek might impart a dose or two of “Let’s try it this way!” or “Whoa, I never thought of that.” or even “Honey, we’re painting a wall of flowers and it’s going to be amazing!”

Also, he and his wife own a soda and cookie shop (in Meridian, Idaho if you’re close by!),  and he discusses finding balance and making time and going to bed a little later than they should and waking up a little earlier than they’d like…but his parenting philosophy is based on a story that might make you misty. I want you to read it, and I hope you’re inspired by it like I was.

Welcome, Mat!

We are Gigi, Mat, Chloe, Cameron, and Maisie.

Chloe is going into fifth grade and is our oldest. She is thoughtful and, when you first meet her, a little quiet. You might never guess the girl who is always reading heads directly to the steepest slopes when she skis and wants to lead out on any hike no matter how long. She has a tendency towards perfectionism, which we discourage at home because living with a perfectionist makes you want to tear your hair out.

Cameron is going into third grade and is the happiest kid I have ever seen. It takes him 30 seconds to bounce back from any trouble. I don’t know if that stems from inborn resilience or if he intuitively understands that a seven-year-old’s problems aren’t too serious, but in either case it simplifies things. When school is in session he strength trains every day with friends so they can one day defeat The Pokemon. He is generous in the way that children can be, happy to share or give away whatever he has.

Maisie is 16 months but already has very firm opinions about what she does and does not like. She is by far our most stubborn child, and we are on the edge of our seats wondering what life is going to be like when she is a teenager. Happily she is also very affectionate, toddling over to give hugs and kisses to whomever is closest.

Gigi and I met in law school 15 years ago and have been together ever since. She is smart and beautiful and hard working. She was, is, and always will be my ideal girl. I knew I wanted to marry her when she loved our first backpacking trip despite having never been camping. We both continue to work as attorneys – Gigi is in-house at a university and I have my own practice – and take turns running kids around. Planning and organization are Gigi’s strong suit,  and I’m constantly amazed how much she can get done in a day. I’m more of the wild man in our relationship, always thinking up something, which can both excite and stress Gigi out.

If you read nothing else, read Mat’s final thoughts! Just ahead.



July 13, 2015

Cassette Tapes

Image and text by Gabrielle.

You know that scene in The Incredibles, where Mrs. Incredible calls her husband at work and tells him that after 3 years, they are officially moved in? Because she finally managed to unpack the last few moving boxes? Well, we are totally living that same scenario at the moment. Wednesday will mark 2 years since our move to Oakland, and I have a handful of boxes that need unpacking and that I’ve been ignoring since we arrived here. I’m determined to finish tackling them this week.

Probably the smart thing to do is just throw them all out, since I can’t remember what the contents are, and since we clearly haven’t needed whatever is in those boxes for 2 years. (Actually, they’ve been boxed up for almost 5 years, because they were packed before we moved to France). But alas, I can’t help myself. I want to go through each one and make sure there’s nothing we will miss, before I eventually toss the rest.

I started last Friday and look what I found: Cassette Tapes!!

Now despite what those unpacked boxes are communicating, I’m actually decent at purging. And I don’t have a full tape collection in all its glory. I downsized many years ago. In fact, I only saved 5 cassettes — each one kept for sentimental value. There’s the first cassette I ever owned, a gift to me from my dad for my 11th birthday, Starship: Knee Deep in the Hoopla. (I listened to We Built This City approximately 1 million times while choreographing dances with my 6th grade bestie, Renae Gardner.)

Then, there are 3 tapes from local bands — including my brother’s band, Fumbling Planets. And there’s also 1 mix tape I saved, a Christmas gift from a high school boyfriend. I remembering saving it, thinking it would be fun to be able to show my kids a glimpse of what it was like when I was a teenager. (I kept a few issues of Seventeen and Sassy magazines for the same reason.)

But I’ve never actually shown the kids, because they were a little too young to care when these tapes were packed up years ago. Which means, finding these felt like striking gold! And in a further stroke of good luck, we actually own a cassette player at the moment — something that has not been true for most of our marriage.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait for my kids to hear their Uncle Josh’s first album. I threw the tape to 17-year-old Ralph and said with a big grin, “Go turn it on!” And then saw the expression on his face and immediately realized: he has no idea how to work a cassette tape. None. He’s never put one in a tape player. He doesn’t know about rewinding and fast-forwarding, and that you just have to sort of guess when to stop if you’re rewinding in search of a specific song. He doesn’t know about turning the tape over so you can listen to side 2. None of my kids know any of this!

It was such a trip showing them how it works. It was for sure the oldest I’ve ever felt.

And of course, the whole time I was getting a major dose of nostalgia. Those songs I hadn’t heard in so many years, but that I know by heart! I started wondering what the last time I listened to a cassette tape was and I couldn’t remember. I bought my first CD player during my sophomore year of college — 1993 — ushering in the end of my cassette tape collection and the beginning of my CD collection. And these days, I only have a handful of CDs. Like a lot of people, my music collection is mostly mp3s.

It made me wonder: do any of you still have cassettes? Your whole collection, or just a few? And if yes, do you have a way to play them? For readers in their twenties or early thirties, have you ever used a cassette tape? Have any of you ever introduced them to your kids? I’d love to hear your stories!

P.S. — I found myself trying to explain to my kids how important music was to me and my friends as a teenager. That we would memorize whole albums. There was no Youtube. No Snapchat. Music was everything. You too?


A Few Things

July 10, 2015

Blairs and Clarks

By Gabrielle. Photo by Ben Blair.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I hope well. I was traveling yesterday for a funeral and arrived home late last night — and then, this morning, I opened my laptop and started reading the amazing comments you wrote on my blog anniversary post. I am so touched! I can’t even tell you. I’ve been getting weepy all morning at your sweet words. As soon as I finish this post, I’ll respond to as many as I can.

And while I work on that, here are a few things that I thought you might find interesting:

- Colorado’s effort against teen pregnancies is a startling success.

- I totally have an obsession with tiny houses, but this article still made me laugh (warning: some cussing).

- “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.” Do you agree?

- Since we’re staying closer to home this summer, this guide of 30 places every California Kid needs to see is inspiring us.

You don’t have to hate anyone to be a bigot.

- Compelling new ideas about how to discipline children.

- Three kickstarters I bookmarked:  We Brave Women, and the LooGun. And this one I’m especially excited about. It’s called Everyword. It’s a crowd-sourced, really visually compelling site, that my nephew and niece are starting, where every single scripture in the Bible will get its own page, and then anything ever written about that individual scripture (both academic comments and more casual comments), or art inspired by that scripture, will be referenced on the page — it can incorporate all types of media. Free to use and completely non-denominational. And they only want $10 max donations.

- So fascinating. The mixed up brothers of Bogotá.

- Three cheers for a Malawi Chief who annulled 330 teen marriages and enrolled the girls back in school.

- Famous films re-edited to highlight Hollywood’s race problem.

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


P.S. — The photo at top is from Wednesday. We spent the day in the city with the Topher & Lisa Clark family. In the photo, we had just picked up ice cream at Ghiradelli Square. Topher is one of Ben Blair’s earliest childhood friends, and they both married just a few months apart from each other. They are one of our favorite families. After hitting all the tourist sites, we came back to our house and ended up letting all the kids stay up watching movies waaaayy too late, so we could talk into the wee hours of the morning. Made me super happy.


By Gabrielle. Illustration by the super talented Erin Jang.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ve likely agonized over taking any sort of medication that could potentially carry risks. “Will it hurt the baby?” is a phrase probably uttered many, many times over that nine-month period, right? And usually, if our doctor assures us it’s all good, then it is.

But what if our doctor is wrong? What if the worst of nightmares comes true and suddenly the medication we took that was most assuredly fine was most definitely not fine? What if it does hurt the baby?

This is a story about that nightmare come true. Almost. Please join me in welcoming Sara Gillis. I hope the lessons she learned will help you get through your own moment when you feel like you’ve just let down the world around you. We’ve all had one or two of those, haven’t we?

Sara’s story, straight ahead.


Nine Years

July 8, 2015

Muir Woods

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Friends. It’s my blogging anniversary! Nine years ago today, I started Design Mom (here’s a link to my very first post).

Nine Years!

Over 6000 published posts. And another 60+ in drafts from over the years that may or may not ever see the light of day.

There are all sorts of related things I want to talk to you about. Things like the awesome phone call I had this morning concerning a super cool new series for the blog. I want to tell you about the insanely talented designer I reached out to for a blog redesign. I want to tell you about the podcast on parenting that Ben Blair and I are thinking about starting. (Sidenote: Would that interest any of you?). I want to to discuss blogging in general; how it’s changed, how it’s remained the same.

I would love to reminisce too! I want to remember when I used to have “guest moms”. I want to think about the first house tour (there have since been 195!), the long-running Secrets to Living Well column, the DIY posts. I want to ponder 2013 — the year I had a ton of regular contributors. I want to make a list of significant blog moments (things like the first giveaway, and the first award). I want to think about all of the different people who have helped make this website grow and thrive.

And I want to hear how long you’ve been reading! Are you new to Design Mom? Have you been reading since New York? Do you remember when Flora June was born in Colorado? Did you start reading when we lived in France? Do any of you remember the Ask Design Mom posts?

I’m fully aware that this blog would be nothing without YOU, the readers. And I’m forever grateful. I mean it from the bottom of my heart (and understand how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true). Thank you for reading!

P.S. — One of our favorite families is visiting from Utah, and we’re spending the day in San Francisco, but I’ll be thinking of the remarkable Design Mom Community all day, and promise to jump into the conversation as soon as I’m back at my desk.


By Gabrielle.

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.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!

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