Global Parents: Blair and Peter

Doing some research for something else, I stumbled upon a wonderful blog called Wisecraft recently. Nonchalant Mom decided that Wisecraft's creator, Blair, would be a wonderful Global Parent for this month! It is all helped by the fact that she lives in Seattle, Washington--a place that I have never had the pleasure of visiting but throughout my life I have loved the people I have met that live there. Blair will be joining Nonchalant Mom periodically to check in and share with us some of her Wisecrafting ideas and opinions for kids... I love her ideas, her style, and her enthusiasm for wholesome pleasures - her unique interest is something I hope you will come to love just as much!

Blair, and her husband of 15 years, Peter, live in Seattle, Washington (USA) with their daughter Emma (11) and son Ian (7). We have asked a few questions which Blair has delightfully answered, and you tell me... but I certainly learned some tricks! I hope you do too...

Emma and Ian

So, you own your own business right? Was this something you started before having kids, or was it related to having kids.....
I have a background in apparel design, but became an at-home mom when Emma was born. Peter has a background in brand design and marketing. He's had the idea that he could make a go on his own for a while, and once both kids were in school full time, about 2 years ago, I thought I'd like to do something in the working world, and we decided to give it a try being co-owners of a retail brand consulting company. That's how Story Trading
began. Its now been a year and a half and we're going strong. We combine our talents and each of us brings a little something different to the table, which we are finding is quite valuable.

kids morning charts

So, your kids are bit older than some of our recent interviewees - what's the average morning ritual like at your home?
Emma rises with the birds (I would argue even before), Ian tends to get up at a more civilized time. On school mornings, I have to wake them both up to get ready. They stumble down to the kitchen for breakfast (usually I make fruit smoothies, and put lots of sneaky things in there that are...shhhh...good for them. I also make biscuits and freeze them for mornings when there is no time to bake (I'm from North Carolina, we like biscuits!). We really try and slow down for all meal times, sit together and spend a few minutes talking. Although for summer and weekend breakfasts, we have introduced the concept of mom leaving the cereal boxes out so you can serve yourself, its great and they love to feel they are getting their own breakfasts, and mom and dad get a few extra minutes of quiet.

From there, they get dressed (with random guidance from me when they need it, just so no one wears shorts when its snowing), attempt to tidy their beds (this is a work in progress) and they are off. We are looking forward to the upcoming summer mornings, when school is out, to have more time to slow down in the mornings even more.

Do the kids go to school, are they home schooled, etc?
They go to elementary school, Emma is in the 4th grade and Ian is in 1st.

How do the kids get to school, etc..?
We drive ourselves to school, carpool when we can. Always hoping we can one day live close enough to our school to be able to walk to it.

It's almost always difficult to be the mother also running a thriving business - our readers will be curious to see if you have any good tidbits relating to how you balance this difficult task - do you have strong family support, a team of specialists, a nanny, a great assistant, good partner or patient mother, etc etc....?
You're right, its not easy to balance it all. Especially because it all happens at our house, we don't have an outside office. Once I drop the kids off at school, I come back home and usually get right to work in my office on the main floor of our house (Peter's office is in our basement.) When the kids are home from school, that's when the real balancing act begins. Making a schedule and sticking to it is really crucial, and I'm still trying to get better at this, but its really what works. Summer days are usually me working in the morning, and doing something with the kids in the afternoon, or vice versa. And usually fitting in late night work here and there when we are faced with big deadlines. Last year we had a great relationship with a teenager down the street who came over a couple afternoons a week to play with the kids, go on hikes with them around the neighborhood, etc., which was a huge help. Other than that, its really Peter and me (no family nearby). We have no cleaning lady (I wish!), no nanny, its all us. We realize that even in the chaos, it is a gift we have given our family...to be able to do our work here at home, have a flexible schedule that allows us to spend more time with the kids.

Lunch Time!!!

What happens around lunch time on the average day? Any special concerns around food, or diets, etc? Anything about the food or daily ritual that may be different or unique to readers elsewhere in the world?
Lunch is the most freeform meal of our day. Meaning sometimes it actually doesn't happen at all if we have a big snack. (Ian seems to eat all day anyway, so stopping for lunch can seem redundant.) When I do make lunch for the kids, my emphasis is on nutritious choices, and I find that they will pretty much eat whatever I put out, so I try to make it look pretty and be healthy (this really works for them!). Carrots with the green tops might be a bigger hit that simply sliced carrots...Sandwiches cut with a cookie cutter seem more fun, that sort of thing. Emma is enjoying herbal tea these days, so maybe I'll make some and put it in her favorite tea cup (the fancier ones, of course). The same sort of idea works for their packed school lunches as well.

Ian at the Olympic Sculpture Park

Is there lots to do with kids in Seattle - anything special other readers might like to know about that you do with your own kids?
Seattle is a great place to raise kids, there's never a shortage of activities for all ages around town. We have a fantastic zoo, and newly remodeled aquarium, children's museum, there's tons of beaches to explore, snow skiing and mountains are just a short drive away. I plan to take my kids to the Central Library, designed by Rem Koohhaus, and to the newly remodeled Seattle Art Museum this summer. Currently, one of our favorite places to go is the Olympic Sculpture Park, a free, open-to-the-public outdoor space.

Any special toys or books, etc that your kids love that other parents might not know about or have at their disposal?
My kids adore books, and I'm quite happy about that. They are voracious readers and I believe it has everything to do with how much reading we all did as a family when they were toddling around. Ian is obsessed with Legos, and Emma loves American Girl dolls and everything that goes with them. We are also big big fans of audio books, and have the entire collection of Boomerang Audio Episodes for Kids, my kids are addicted to them (so am I). The creator of Boomerang became a client of ours after reading about how much we loved the programs on my blog, weird how the world works.

What's the afternoon ritual like around your house on an average day? Anything different in the way you handle things that other parents might find interesting or useful?
Afternoons are anything goes when we are all at home. We believe that the kids definitely need downtime, or just time to do their own thing, and I think they have come to really enjoy this in the afternoon. They will go to their rooms on their own, to read, play, draw, whatever. Sometimes they just play together, there are some elaborate pretend games that get created in those afternoon hours. We started the idea of "quiet time" when the napping season stopped around age 3 or so, and were firm about it. It stuck, and now I believe we all benefit from a little "me" time after lunch.

Two Green Stuffed Peas!

Days seem to be busy, even when we try to keep them from being overscheduled with activities. Kids have busy lives, and frenetic energy to live those lives. I have always been insistent that at the end of the day, we have our dinner together, at the table, as a family. I believe it is very important to reconnect as a family, talk about our day. We have a ritual that we do whenever we have trouble thinking of what happened in our day (as kids often do). We go around the table, and each person says answers "What was my Rose today?" and "What was my Thistle?" I learned this little trick from a friend, years ago, and its definitely a keeper. It gets everyone thinking, and I love calling the "bad thing" a Thistle instead of a thorn, the lesson being, even with the bad things, good things can result, and we can learn from them.

Anything special or different about your afternoon snack routine, etc?
On school days, the kids come home absolutely starving. I have found that if I have a healthy snack in the car, waiting for them, they will eat it without any complaints (this was a very happy discovery). In Seattle, there is a coffee shop on every corner, and the temptation is always there to stop in there if we have a few minutes to kill. We're trying very hard to get creative about bringing our own snacks, maybe choosing to run around at the park for a few minutes instead, or heading home and making "afternoon tea" (or hot cocoa). During the summer months, afternoon snacks usually happen outside, in the treehouse, with stuffed animals.
Evening meal? What's that like - any special circumstances on average, any special foods, etc...?
I plan a week's worth of meals on Sunday, go to the market and buy the items I'll need for all those meals. Looking at our calendar for the week, there will be nights we will have a quick meal ready to go (pre-made pizza crust, that the kids can add toppings to), and once or twice a week I'll have something new for the kids to try (these don't always go over well, but my emphasis is on trying). Meal planning has been great for our family, it keeps us from falling back on less healthy, fast food meal choices, and saves money on eating out.

What's the night time like around your home? Any special routines for the kids or you in preparing homework, getting the kids ready for bed, etc?
My kids are really good about getting ready for bed, and they go to bed early by comparison (shhh...don't tell them that), usually 8:30. We did early bedtimes when Peter was working outside the home so he and I could have some time in the evening. They read for a half an hour or so before bed, often to each other or alone. The bedtime hour is pretty calm around here. Again, I think its because that's the way its alway been for them, we established their routine and stuck to it.

Any ideas from the past about parenting that are coming back to haunt you, or instruct you (from your own parents, etc), or help you, or scare the hell out of you now, etc?
Hmmm. Well, I am the more submissive parent, and Peter is far more strict. We often clash as the kids get older and things come up (like should we let Emma get her ears pierced, I say sure, he says no, he won). I think I had submissive parents, and in many ways I see the advantages of that, but I also see how effective clearly stated rules and intentions have been for them. Our household mantra is "Behavior has consequences", meaning its all really quite simple. Good and bad behavior have natural outcomes. The kids have understood (and tested) that many times, but I hope it is something they will carry with them always. The one thing that scares the hell out of me would have to be the idea of raising teenages. I see lots of sleepless nights in my future!

Any special natural remedies or foods in your home that you might like to share with other readers? Anything you learned from your culture or family, etc.?
We have always been open to natural remedies, but also use modern medicine as well. Luckily, our kids have been pretty healthy throughout their lives, so no big worries. They swear by their rice pillows for tummyaches and it usually does the trick. For Emma's seasonal allergies, we buy locally pollinated honey for our toast and it has probably helped us all. I am a firm believer in supplements like omega-3's (especially for boys, I read somewhere that they can't store it the same way girls do, but don't hold me to that) and add it to smoothies, along with probotics, wheat germ, all kinds of stuff they would spit out if they knew!

Anything else you might like to add that we didn't touch in our questions, or that you feel other parents might like to know about your family - could be informative, funny, a little tidbit, etc etc?
Well, I was once given a tip by my good friend that if you needed a moment from your child, ask them to go look for a book or toy in another room that...well...is most likely not there. Weird? You tell me. Those 5 minutes of them looking...and you taking a deep breath could be the best spent 5 minutes of your day.

Another trick is...whenever you're closing the car doors, tell the kids to touch their nose (to get those little fingers out of the way). It works every time.

And lastly...hugs speak volumes. Give lots of them!

Thank YOU Blair! We look forward to working with you!