Archive of ‘FAM’ category

Not a Bit of Decent Pimento Cheese Anywhere

We moved to Chicago and I can barely believe it.

Being Southern is ingrained in Will and I. From the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes and down deep in our souls, we are the South.

We thought our kids would be the same. We imagined them to grow up saying yes ma’am and no sir and y’all. They would have snappy, colorful fashion sense and enjoy their grits and one day their bourbon. They would love a good Steeplechase and a tasteful monogram.

And maybe they still will. But for now, we’ve left the South. And one week in, all I can complain about is that you can’t buy a decent pimento cheese anywhere. The rest of this town is fantastic!

We’re temporarily living in Streeterville with views that will drop your jaw. Here’s what you can see from our living room at night.

Streeterville Night View

We’ve walked to the grocery store, the neighborhood Italian joint, and (three times a day) to the dog park. There’s a playground in downtown where Clara totally flipped her lid. The Chicago Children’s Museum is colossal and the Shedd Aquarium has penguins. What more could a kid desire?

One week in we feel exhilarated by our ultra-urban lifestyle. And while we know the new will eventually wear off and we’ll be grateful for a new version of city living that caters more to families than tourists, we plan to live it up in the meantime.

I’m going to try to write! Not just for the other Southern ex-pats here in Chicago who might relate to my tale. Not just for our friends and family back in Nashville who have asked for a glimpse into life here. But because I believe there aren’t enough women executives talking about both their careers and their families. You see, we moved here for my job. I’m the newly-appointed General Manager of the Chicago and LA offices of my company, Critical Mass. I love that for the rest of my kids’ lives, when they speak of the adventure of living in Chicago, they’ll say we did it for “mom’s big job”. I feel so proud and humbled to have been given the responsibility of the health and future of our office here. And I’m ready to take this town by storm!

That’s all for now. I’ve got to have the grocery delivery folks add a few ingredients to our cart so we can whip up some Masters-Style Pimento Cheese. Where there’s a Will (capital W intended), there’s a way.

– Julia

Looking Like A Mom

Looking “like a mom” should never be an insult.

At this moment in time, I have a 22-month old and a 3-week old. And like any moment during my existence on this earth, I am not a morning person.

Yesterday I had the stark realization that in order to get out of the house at all on a given day, I needed to drag my butt out of bed before Clara (my toddler) wakes up and get myself dressed and put together. Otherwise, the cycle of dressing, feeding, and changing all three of us just takes too long and we never leave the house. I do not wear cabin fever well.

Last night Marshall (my infant) woke three times. One of those times, he was hellbent on throwing a party in the nursery. Very little sleep was happening for any of us. I was so exhausted that I feel in bed in yesterday’s clothes.

And this morning when the alarm rang alerting me that it was time to get dressed and put together, I ignored it. I of course was already dressed. I wore yesterday’s clothes to drop off Clara at school this morning. Guess what? She got there just fine, lovingly dropped off with her lunch and her nap-time lovie ready to learn and grow. What I look like doesn’t really matter, does it? Not today anyway.

like a mom

 Some days, this is what a mom looks like. This is also what any exhausted survivor looks like whether that person be cramming for exams, writing on a deadline, taking care of a sick relative, creating a proposal for work, etc.

Some days, this mom looks like a fierce business woman ready to innovate, take risks or close a deal. On other days, this mom is ready to hit the town with girlfriends or my husband. And yet when I’m gussied up for those occasions, no one compliments me by saying “You are really rocking that mom look today, Julia!”

As my friend Sonya Benham points out in her awesome piece on ABCNews, sometimes moms do sport sweatpants and no makeup. Ok maybe oftentimes. But that’s no reason to designate “looking like a mom” as an insult which is all-too-often what we do. One mom even says this to another, as if this is in any way ok!

Let’s stop using this lazy, inaccurate, insulting simile and focus on building each other up rather than putting mom-hood down. Being a mom/woman/human is a beautiful thing after all.

Seriously, read Sonya’s piece and then follow her blog Parlor Diary to get lots of ideas on how to be your most beautiful you … once your infant decides sleeping is cool.

xoxo,
Julia

Clara’s Top 5 Book Picks @ 14-Months

Little Miss Clara has started showing preferential treatment for the items on her bookshelf … BIG TIME. Pick something other than one of her favorites for a nighttime reading and she flails, stiffens, slides off your lap and toddles over to her bookshelf to fish out the proper one. She can recognize them by simply the spine. All of this at 14 months. Girlfriend has opinions! We are in for it. :)

Here’s a look at Clara’s top 5 book pics at 14-months. Enjoy!


Ringing it at #5 is the fabulously interactive Birds of a Feather
by Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau. This lovely, over sized book is too large for Clara’s bookshelf so is stored on top alongside a couple of other over sized tomes. Clara will reach up over her head, look through them all, and then pull this one down and bring it to Mom or Dad for a tour. I say tour because at her age, this book is much more about an experience than it is a read. Every page includes fun flaps and realistic illustrations of all sorts of birds from around the world. Clara especially loves the page where lifting egg-shaped flaps reveals the bird that laid them. The language of the book is simple but scientific. I imagine she will enjoy this book for literally years. Coincidence that one of her first words was bird? Maybe not.

Coming up just behind at #4 is Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) by Dorothy Kunhardt. Yes, good ole Pat the Bunny which was originally published in 1940. My girl, like her mother, thinks a good classic never goes out of style. Clara actually owns 2 copies of this little gem but the first we set her loose on is already so tattered and torn that we’ve retired it and we’re on to the second copy. She interacts with every. single. page. My favorite is when she presses her nose against the mirror, leaving a little cloud of condensation behind. Adorable.

Sliding into our countdown list at #3 is the new classic, Llama Llama Red Pajama written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney. This delightful book, with it’s rhythmic rhyme, is a joy for both parents and kiddos. In fact I’m rather fond of quoting it when Clara demonstrates a flair for the dramatic; “Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama.” It’s interesting to watch her expressions as we read this one. I can see her start to tense up when baby llama gets really wound up and start to relax again when mama llama reminds baby of her love. It’s a real page-turner for the one-year-old set in that way.

Garnering deep love at #2 in our top 5 list is Margaret Wise Brown’s The Fish With the Deep Sea Smile. This book has a similar rhythmic rhyme to LLRP (above) and has been updated with fabulous modern illustrations. Clara likes to read this book all the way through once and then go through it again, this time turning the pages herself and pointing to the fantastical fishes that grace each page. Sidenote: did you know that Margaret Wise Brown wrote hundreds of children’s books (not just Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon)? What a fun lady.

And topping our charts is Lots of Lambs by Laura Numeroff and Lynn Munsinger. Clara absolutely adores this book. We read it practically every night. It’s chock full of fun interactive content like flaps to lift, textures to feel, and wheels to turn. The illustrations are light-hearted and clever and it’s got that rhythmic rhyme that makes my gal all giddy. Tonight I had to pull out the packing tape and do a little repair on this fan favorite to make sure it’s part of our bookshelf for many months more. I have books that I remember from my childhood and something tells me this will be one of Clara’s. Memories in the making, folks!

xo,
Julia

We’ve Got a Hankering for a Playroom

Plastic Toys Playroom

We’re classic new parents. Here’s the evolution of our thinking on the toy situation:

During our pregnancy:
“She’ll have mostly books and classic wooden toys so she can use her imagination and not be so susceptible to ADD like other kids. We’ll tell our families to use restraint with purchases so she’s not spoiled and our house isn’t over-run with plastic. Oh, and no TV whatsoever until she’s 2. La-de-da.”

6 months into parenthood:
“Let’s just take the coffee table out of our den altogether so she has some room to crawl and clear these shelves under the TV for her toys. Did you see how interested she was in that plastic, singing ball popper when we were walking through Target the other day? Yeah, well she really loves her Melissa & Doug wooden grasping giraffe too so we’re cool. I know we said no TV but she’s not really watching it so it’s no big deal to have it on, you know, just at night.”

8 months into parenthood:
“Hey honey, that V-Tech singing, light-up, rolling, uber-plastic toy suitcase that we’ve had our eye on is on sale on Amazon so I ordered it today along with a huge singing, light-up, rolling, uber-plastic walker. Yeah I can try to pare down the toys in the den a little so the shelves aren’t overflowing anymore. Oh did I tell you that Clara watched 45 minutes of Turbo while laying on the couch with me the other day? It was so stinking fun and I’m so proud of her attention span!”

13 months into parenthood:
“She would go bonkers for a ball pit, don’t you think? And she’ll be coloring in just a few months. Man I really wish she had a table on an easel or something so she can get creative. Or even a tent to read in! Yeah honey I can pare down the toys in the den again … they really are overflowing the shelves, you are right. I keep finding the meats and breads from her play kitchen under the damn couch. Speaking of the play kitchen, could you scoot it over a little bit so the remote can reach the cable box?”

Ergo begins the playroom planning fest ergo HOURS spent on Pinterest. We’re thinking of converting our downstairs guest bedroom but retaining the functionality with a built-in daybed. We’re doing this the DIY route so you’ll get to follow along on the blog.

Here’s a sneakity peek of what we are thinking.

Follow Julia Perry’s board Playroom on Pinterest.

Anybody have any advice for playroom organization?

XO,
Julia

Darling Brand You Must Get To Know: Feather Baby

Feather Baby Kimono Hoody Jacket

How cute is my girl in her Feather Baby Kimono Hoody jacket? There are even little bear ears sewn into the hood. 2 grown women have told me they would wear this! HA!

Feather Baby’s not sponsoring this post or paying me in any way. I just believe this is an exceptional baby clothes brand and you should know about it. Look for it in stores, buy it online … it’s great stuff!

Why?

  • The styles are so adorable – seriously some of my very favorite of Clara’s wardrobe.
  • The quality of the clothing is readily apparent from the moment you first run it through the wash and slide in on your baby’s fat arms.
  • Everything is 100% organic cotton, sourced from Peru, and certified FairTrade.
  • Prices are appropriately high but their sales are really good and fairly frequent.
  • I recently had to make a size exchange and their staff was courteous and helpful.

Will’s step-mother has gifted us several items from the line. The below dress was our pick for Clara’s one-year photo shoot because the smocked style is classic enough to stand the test of time but the print is fresh and modern.

Feather Baby Handsmock Dress in Pink Garden

Feather Baby Handsmock Dress in Pink Garden, $78 original price on sale for $68.

They have a store in Atlanta that I am dying to check out next time I’m there but you can also shop online or find local boutiques near you that carry the line.

Feel like oggilng some squishable babies in painfully cute clothes just for the hey of it? Here’s the spot.

Feather Baby has announced a new toddler line called Frisk that I plan on getting to know, too! They launched in Gilt.com in August. Fancy!

xo,
Julia

 

 

Clara Got Mail from Dolly Parton Today

Yes she did! And your kid can too.

Do you know about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library? It’s an awesome program. Your kid can receive a FREE, age-appropriate book, addressed right to them, every month from birth to age 5. Amazing, right?

This is Clara’s library of free books so far.

Imagination Library Books

Any kid can qualify, regardless of their economic status, as long as there is a local organization funding the program. So here in Nashville, the United Way fulfills the books and administers the program. You can check to see if there’s local support for Imagination Library where you live here.

I know you are thinking that these books can’t really be cool. And of course some are better than others … but overall you can count me impressed. So you can get a feel for what you can expect, I’ve included Amazon links to the 11 books we’ve received so far below.

 

In collecting these links, I noticed that almost all of these books are at least $10. That’s nearly $100 worth of free books (in just one year!) to spark Clara’s imagination, increase her verbal skills, and delight her parents when she toddles over carrying the latest one for us to read to her. Dolly will have sent Clara 60 books by the time she turns 5. According to the website, nearly 700,000 kids are registered for the program in the US alone. That is a boat load of books. Go, Dolly!

Dolly Parton

Our girl Ms. Parton is from right here in Tennessee, you know. She grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee, quite near to where my grandparents lived for most of their life. It’s beautiful country but poor in places. Dolly started this program in her home county to support literacy and a love for reading, imagination and creativity. Now it has expanded to multiple countries and hundreds of thousands of kids. It’s such a simple thing, providing free books for kids, but so effective and just plain exciting. It won’t be long before Clara starts looking for those books in the mail. Imagine how pumped she’ll be on days they arrive! It’s exciting for me too! Will and I are cultivating a whole new appreciation for children’s books (good gravy they can bring such smiles), in large part thanks to this program.

Check to see if Imagination Library is available where you live today!

xo,
Julia

 

Snapshots of My Heart, Taken When I’m Not There

Clara and The General

This touching photo of Clara relaxing with our 19-year-old pug “The General” appeared on the private Facebook group we use to share photos with family today. It made me smile. Then it made me wince. This is the life of a working mom sometimes, when the most touching moment you experience of your child all day is relayed by your nanny’s iPhone camera. I was not there to see it for myself.

I thought about this photo on my ride home for a long time today. I had left the office at 5:15, proud of myself for keeping my commitment to myself and our nanny Kayla to be home at a certain hour (my husband Will travels for work constantly so Kayla is at the mercy of my sometimes chaotic work schedule). Then cursed traffic struck and the commute I had thought would take 20 minutes took over 40. As I watched the minutes tick by on my dashboard clock, I thought about the fact that I would get less than 1 hour with my daughter before bedtime once I arrived home. Less than 1 hour!

In this photo she looks so safe and happy, content to study her block and babble to her old and sleepy dog. She’s got considerable dog hair on her leggings, evidence of an afternoon of productive, messy play in our hairy den. We work hard and have had some good luck and these things have contributed to our ability to hire a nanny that makes her feel safe and happy. I’m so grateful for this and the fact that Kayla takes the time to photograph Clara for us.

When I finally conquered the traffic and walked through the door tonight, Clara started to squeal from the other room and quickly toddled into the kitchen to put her arms in the air and reach for a hug. This must be what heaven feels like, right?! As Kayla put on her coat and gathered her keys, Clara reached for a goodbye snuggle from her before returning to my arms. Clara loves her “La-La” … how wonderful is that?

On days like today I can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be a stay-at-home mom. Right now I am fulfilled by my work. I love developing my team. I’m exhilarated by the start of a new marketing assignment. I’m challenged by my boss to run a financially healthy account for our company. My clients, my colleagues and my company are truly terrific. If I subtracted that from my life and added in new discoveries in fine motor and language, budding friendships, counting and reading, trying new foods, dancing and laughter, tears and tantrums, and countless trips to the zoo, library, museum, park and potty, would something seem to be missing? Or would I miss work at all? Would I wince when former colleagues shared stories of new clients won-over or award-winning campaigns launched when I wasn’t there? I honestly don’t know.

My work is fulfilling and not to mention a really good living. But motherhood is joy. Today, thanks to some great people in my life, I get to have it all. The balance may not always be what I want. Between 9 and 5, I may have to settle for nothing but snapshots of the thing I care about most. But the truth is, right now, the blessings in my life knock me flat on my ass if I think about them long enough. I’m content – really, truly content. And lucky. And grateful to God.

XO,
Julia

 

Ringing in the New Year with Patient 0

Meet patient 0, our little contagion.

Contagion

This poor little gal got the stomach bug on the 26th. We thought she was over it. Alas, she was not. And unbeknownst to us, she took out our entire childcare team (my folks + our nanny and her husband) with brief but impactful visits on the 29th. We were therefore left without a babysitter for New Year’s Eve and unable to invite others over lest they should come down with what might as well be the plague. Just awful!

So what did we do? The Mister spent some time in the kitchen with this guy.

Lobster

I whipped up a few party crowns to add to the festive mood.

Crafting Crowns

We took some family photos with the tripod/timer and scored some of the best shots of the three of us from the ENTIRE year. Will thinks they are dorky and refuses to be represented online with these photos so you only get 2/3 of the Perrys here on the blog. However, copies are headed to family as belated Christmas gifts and they will be thrilled. Score.

Clara and Julia

After we put the little gal to bed, Will and I had a romantic dinner and then headed to the couch for a screening of The Family. The movie might have been the low-light of the night (well, except maybe for Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy acting like teenagers in Times Square – so lame).

Otherwise … our New Year’s celebration was PERFECTION.

New Year's Dinner

 

Happy 2014!

Clara’s First Birthday!

My little nugget Clara turned 1 just before Christmas and we threw a brunch par-tay!

Originally, I was going for a small cake-eating party with just family and a few friends. Then I started pinning. Aaaaaaaand, next thing I knew we had over 20 adults and a dozen children coming over for brunch the Saturday before Christmas and also the day we were flying out to Jacksonville for the week. We were polishing silver on Friday night. I’m cray-cray.

Here’s the Pinterest board that inspired the leap from just cake to full-on-party-down. Follow me on Pinterest while you are perusing!

Follow Julia Perry’s board Clara 1st Birthday on Pinterest.

I didn’t get a ton of great food photos but here’s a snapshot of the menu with links to the recipes:

For the record, the Whole Foods cake was delicious, cute and the sheet cake pictured above plus a 4″ smash cake for Clara was under $40. Plus, they are open late so I could go put in my order after work and bedtime while daddy was on baby duty. Check, check, check.

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Children’s Book Review: The Day The Crayons Quit

If you are looking for a witty and creative children’s book for the early elementary set, The Day The Crayons Quit is a slam dunk. If you are looking for illustrations that will transfix your 1-year old and narrative that charms the pants off adults, I speak from real experience when I write that The Day The Crayons Quit is also the book for you (this one was a Christmas day hit for the whole family)!

In this wildly imaginative book from author Drew Daywalt and illustrator Oliver Jeffers, crayons voice their coloring complaints to their owner, Duncan. Each page is a hilarious, hand-written letter that details the tribulations of life in the crayon box. Red has tired of holiday duty. Favorite Blue has been worn to a nub. Yellow and Orange aren’t speaking due to a disagreement over the true color of the sun.

While the humor will be lost on toddlers, it won’t be lost on you. Buy this book now to enjoy with your family for years to come.

Available locally at Parnassus Books. Also available on Amazon: The Day the Crayons Quit. Subject to availability … this little book is selling like hotcakes!