One Special Mom

June 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Caren Gillespie

When The Next Family approached me to write an article about a special mother, my first thought was, “how do I choose just one?”  I know some pretty phenomenal moms, but here is one who really stands out.

Krista is a full-time working mother of three children: Mercer, (almost) 7, Haley, 4, and Kemper, 1.  When I say “full time”, I’m not talking about your typical 9-5 day.  Krista, who works in sales, is basically on call all hours of the day. She is not the type of person to do anything half-assed -especially mothering…

With all the work she has to do, one might think she’d have no time to be so present in her children’s day-to-day lives.  I, being a stay at home mom, have more time than Krista has, but I cannot imagine being able to participate in all my children’s daily activities in the way she does. She is a room mother, a coach, on the preschool board, and attends all school events.  She admits that being so involved allows her to have a bit more control of the environment of her son, who has a peanut allergy so severe that he must always carry an Epi-Pen. She is determined to not only make the school district a nut-free environment, she just might take on the world at some point….this is just how she rolls.  All the while, she is determined that her son not feel abnormal about his allergy and he takes it in stride.

I am in awe when I watch all she can juggle.  She runs her house in a coach-like manner with a “go get ‘em!” mentality and a soft mommy edge.  It works for her family, and their “dance” is inspiring to watch.  She could not have more generous, thoughtful, loving children.  You watch them and you know for sure they know they are Number One in her life.  She does get sad if she has missed out on anything with her children, and you can tell she has mom guilt with some of her choices (I tell her it comes with the territory).  But one thing you won’t hear from her is complaining.  Sure, she gets down or needs to vent, but most of that consists of her trying to figure out a solution for whatever is bugging her or what she could do differently in the future.  It’s inspiring really….

I recently sat down over some wine and appetizers to see if I could find out her secret.

Did you always know you wanted a big family?

Yes, I grew up in a big sports family and when one of us was away it didnt feel like the house was empty because at least two of us were home.  It was like our own internal community, which is what I want for my children.

How do you balance your family and working life?

Thats a great questionIts an answer I hope I will learn someday.  Do you know you have balance when you do?  I guess I just try to maintain acceptance and try and let go of some of the tactical things.  I basically keep two identities: my work and my home.

What is your biggest challenge with maintaining some balance?

Sometimes I wish I had more time in the day and sometimes I wish the day were over.  I try and make sure each day includes one-on-one time with each of the kids.

Describe your relationship with your husband.

I feel so blessed to have Steve; we have been best friends for 15 years.  I know he is always there for me.Hes my family!

Describe a good day.

A good day consists of no morning appointments so I can walk my kids to school, my work done early so I can play with the kids before dinner and time with each kid.  I want them to be tired because we had so much fun that day.

What do you do for yourself?

Not Enough!  I just know that when the kids are laughing its  good for my soul.  I do get to sleep in sometimes and am finding more time with my friends, but for the most part I am still trying to figure it out.

What is your 5-year plan?

Part of why I work now is so when my kids are preteen and teenagers I wont have to work as hard and can spend more time with them.

In a perfect world, how would your life look?

I would vacation every day and just watch my kids having a blast.  We would have no monetary responsibility.

What advice would you give someone else contemplating a large family while working full time?

Find what works for you, everyone is different but make sure you laugh every day.

I feel privileged to know Krista. Even with her every day demands she always tells me “are you kidding? I always have time for you.” She truly inspires me to be a more positive mother and to appreciate the time I get to spend with my own children.  She does it all so gracefully but she will be the first to admit it is not easy. It takes work, but it’s all worth it to her!


Enviro-Mentally Exhausted

April 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Eco

By: Caren Gillespie

If you met me in person, you might think I’m pretty eco friendly. Compared to many people in this country, I am! I’m a former Dead-head, long haired, yuppie hippie who started caring about what was happening to the earth from early on. I was very into Earth Day in the 90s. I planted trees, rode my bike everywhere, hiked the mountains and basically did what I could with what education I had and what resources were offered at the time. Flash forward to the new millennium and here in Seattle, you would think Earth day is every day. Here, “eco” has come a long way. Armed with my grocery totes, I fall right in with other Seattleites who gravitate to the “organic products” available to us everywhere. But I think we still have a long way to go.

we have access to so many things in this country that “help” save the earth but, in its abundance, it begs the question “does it really help?”

Consumer Reports recently did a study and found that a large percentage of Americans stopped buying eco-friendly products because they were too expensive and they didn’t feel they worked well. It’s amazing in a world with iPads and robotic surgeries, we cannot make a product that works better on cleaning my dishes than me spit washing them. In a nutshell (organic of course) here are my gripes about our uber-green movement:

Warning: Going green means actually turning green!

Light bulbs: I walk into my living room in the evening and notice a green glow….”Honey, why does it look different in here?” He replies sheepishly “Oh, I didn’t think you’d notice. I put in those CFL light bulbs.” Yes, I noticed! How do you not notice when your house has a hue of green? He put them in the bathroom too; this is where I get ready to face the world every morning! Yes, I know there are CFLs with different light ratings, but we’ve tried them all it seems and none come close to the warmth of the incandescent. Again, can’t we invent an energy efficient light bulb that reflects light the same as a standard? It’s a light bulb!
Laundry detergent: in our house the “whites” load is now anything but white. Look at an eco-friendly person in white closely enough, and you’ll see they aren’t wearing white but a shade of greenish-grey that all the “eco” detergents seem to leave.
Liquid Hand Soap: Great, they are sulfate free, but did you know that if you pour a whole bottle of oil down your drain, it will clog? If you read the ingredients of the Eco-liquid hand soaps you will see they are made up of mostly oil! It’s my theory but I have some clogged drains to prove it. Did you know that being green is chic now? Tell me you haven’t bought a hand soap or household cleaner simply because you liked its label. I have.
Organic produce:
If you are an organic produce buyer like me, you are also damned.

It’s not enough to buy organic, because if you do buy those organic grapes from Chile, your carbon footprint has increased because of the fossil fuels used to transport them to the U.S.!

So now some people think it is better to buy local conventional (non-organic) produce than to buy imported organic produce. I get it, we don’t want to use the Earth’s resources but we also don’t want to poison our children, so we deny them grapes and bananas and most other things because here, in Seattle, we have apples….apples people!

Grocery shopping on the whole gets a bit out of hand here in Seattle. It’s a brave soul who forgets their reusable bags at a grocery store—we actually came real close to passing a law banning anything else!

You feel the tension mount as the bagger utters those dreaded words almost spitefully and unforgivingly loud “PAPER OR PLASTIC MA’AM?”

Well at that point, you might as well have set a forest fire in the mountains. It is unrelenting scorn you will feel in this city, not an ounce of forgiveness. Let’s be honest. We’ve all been on both sides of this. With all this pressure, it’s no wonder that Amazon Fresh is so popular these days. No one watches you buy non-organic Cheetos and high fructose corn syrup-y soda. It’s all private; like that “Playboy” magazine that comes cleverly wrapped in brown paper so your mailman and neighbors won’t know your significant other likes a good “article” now and then.

Are you rolling your eyes now, thinking I am “that” mom who just doesn’t get it? Yes I get it, but succumb to it all? No way. I used to walk into a grocery store and have this unexplainable anxiety as I would shop. I had to let that go. I want my kids to enjoy food, not worry about it so much. I don’t want them to feel that anxiety in the school lunchroom as their friends envy the lunch they brought. “Hey! How come you got chips? The tuna came from a can, not fresh caught.” Honestly, I do teach my children what healthy food to put into their bodies and respect how it makes their bodies feel. They are happy with one small scoop of ice cream and consider that a treat instead of the gargantuan sizes restaurants serve these days. They know the difference, but they also know they have the freedom to make choices. I feel I also have that right. So yes, I will bring my reusable bags a ‘plenty to my local grocery store, farmers’ market and even Target and occasionally I will forget them. I have a compost bin on my kitchen counter with rotting food (which just seems like an oxymoron for a healthy environment, but it helps our Seattle parks), but an eggshell might find its way down my drain. I buy healthy food for my family and make most of our meals at home. I even bought part of a cow from a sustainable and organic local farm last year. Yes, I have my limits and am very conscious of my “footprint”, but to keep up with the eco trends that riddle our city, well, I don’t have that kind of time or money. It comes down to what works for your family and not necessarily the easiest route but one that doesn’t deter from more important things in life. Choose your battles, be mindful of your actions and consequences and don’t worry so much, it’s a good example for everyone.


Menage a spa

April 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Caren Gillespie

In the not too distant past, going to a Spa for a pampering session was considered only a luxury for the very wealthy or if you were lucky, someone bought you a gift certificate for an occasion.  Well, as a stay at home mom, sometimes the only pampering I receive is my head hitting my pillow.  I tend to shy away from paying loads of money for one hour of someone applying cream on my face or rubbing my back because well, that $120-$200 could buy me a dinner out with some girlfriends, a new pair of jeans, or go toward a vacation.

It takes a lot for me to fork out the money for pampering, but lately, I am realizing that sometimes, in a world of people (big and small) that only really know me as the peacemaker/need-handler, I also need to be “mothered”.

I set out on a quest to figure out the different types of pampering that a frugal mom like me could obtain. I took the plunge and set out to do some…eh-hem… “research” to find the different types of spas that are offered.  In order to do this, I first had to decide the different tiers.  I broke it down into three categories, beauty school, local day-spa, and the high-end hotel/travel spa.

Beauty school

In arriving at the Gary Manuel Aveda Institute of Seattle, I had to remind myself I was actually walking into a very large and hip classroom for wannabe hairstylists and spa folk.  After checking in, I was led downstairs into a dark room with curtains dividing off all the clients, much like a WWII hospital but with better lighting and soothing music.  I remember feeling a bit cold but I was told exactly what to expect by my service provider and I disrobed and prepared for 2 hours of care.  One thing to keep in mind when you visit a school of this nature is that it is a learning environment, and therefore not unusual to hear an instructor come in to help evaluate the “plan” of the student.  The other part that was a bit distracting is the other students were not exactly the most professional –treating it as a classic classroom with giggling and gossiping.  All in all, the goal for pampering was accomplished and the school provided me with some much-needed R&R but not without its drawbacks. ($)

Day Spa

In visiting the day spa, Habtitude of Ballard, I was one of their first appointments and greeted the minute I walked through the door by all those I passed on the floor.  They were genuine in their greeting and I was happy and relaxed being there.  I climbed the stairs to the services area and was greeted by someone who showed me the locker room with robes and a locker for my belongings.  She gave me the choice to sit in the plush waiting room or the sauna until my esthetician was ready for my appointment.  The environment paid homage to the northwest’s Native American roots with its earthy colors and Native American music piping through the rooms.  I felt at home.  My facial was soothing, although I am not a fan of “up selling” which happened for the first 5 minutes of my initial consult.  I gracefully denied the extra miracle creams and massages and was underway.  I then had a massage scheduled and waited for a while for my masseuse.  She came and informed me that she didn’t think I was her client because I didn’t look pregnant.  She explained they had written pregnancy massage for me….not sure about how I felt about that one! In the end, the day spa felt like a place I could visit regularly but the prices are a bit steep and they really nickel and dime you on things like the sauna visit which was $18 on its own.  ($$)

High-End/Travel Spa

After checking into the new Four Seasons in downtown Seattle, I settled into my lovely room and slipped into my complimentary robe and headed to the spa.  I scheduled a Thai Massage at the Spa at Four Seasons and was very curious to experience what it was all about.  The front desk person greeted me and showed me the locker room where I could put on my workout clothing for my massage.  Clothing?  It was explained that this was a massage where I would be stretched and twisted and would need to be comfortably clothed.  I waited in the serene and immaculate relaxing room and waited for my massage therapist while reading a magazine and sipping on chilled lemon water.  The color palette was soothing and pristine throughout the spa.  After being taken into the room filled as advertised with basalt rock and glass tile, she instructed me to lie on a table and explained this was considered a “lazy man’s yoga” and not a traditional massage.  She twisted, rubbed and stretched my limbs for the allotted 80 minutes and for me, being a runner, this was greatly appreciated.  I could have used one of the traditional massages to follow for that chance for aromatherapy and possible slumber.  Instead, I headed back to the dressing room where they provided a lovely tile and marble laden steam room, with eucalyptus spray and ice buckets of lavender-infused washcloths to enhance my experience.  I could have lived there for weeks. After my visit to the Spa at the Four Seasons, I then realized why it was considered a Mecca for pampered souls.  They have it down to a science and have the ability to transport even a local to a place I would rather not leave. ($$$)


($) $20-$50

($$) $75 and up

($$$) $135 and up


Eco-Friendly Product Guide

April 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Eco

By: Caren Gillespie

Here at The Next Family we not only care about our families and friends but the earth we live on. We are always bouncing around ideas of how we can make MORE of a difference. Please join us and spread the word on how we can sustain our world. We would love to hear from you on what products and ideas you have adopted that you feel help us get one step closer to our goal. Who knows, we may even feature it in one of our “green earth” articles in the future!

Contain those “garden nourishing” scraps!
In Seattle, we are asked by the city to compost our food scraps. From meat to veggies, we put it all in our yard waste and the city stirs it into a garden stew for our wonderful parks or for your home garden. It’s easy with this 1 Gallon/4QT/3.8L attractive stainless steel finish that looks good on your kitchen countertop. For easy organic recycling – store peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, greens, clippings, vegetable scraps, and other organic waste for transfer to your garden composter. Includes filter set in tight fitting lid to keep compost odorless. Sturdy stainless steel handle. It works wonderfully and we feel like we are doing our part for our city and our earth. See Compost Keeper


Make composting even easier and cleaner!

My biggest problem with the whole composting movement was having rotting food sit on my counter, taking it to the yard bin and then having to clean out the rotted leftovers out of my compost bin.  Not anymore!!  Now these compostable bags fit nicely into my composter and voila, no clean up!

These are made of corn and 100% biodegradable.  They have all different sizes for all of your garbage needs! See Biobag


Yummy Body Products!

I recently found these in a hotel while on a trip and fell completely in love with the scent alone.  I wanted to make sure I was able to smell it all day.  I looked up the products online and found they were not only heaven “scent” they were also eco friendly!!  Bonus!!!  See Sprout Out

“A fusion of natural elements blended to personify nature and the environment; the Sprout Out® Collection features exclusive Naturally Kind™ formulations combined with certified organic extracts of rooibos, cardamom seed, yarrow and ginseng to gently care for the skin and hair. The green citrus and herbal fragrance perfectly capture the scent of a leisurely stroll through an English garden.  Their formulations contain no sulfates (SLS/SLES), DMDM hydantoin, parabens, phthalates, petrol-derived ingredients, mineral oil, urea, DEA, TEA or propylene glycol.”


Round up those reusable bags in your car

This is a dream for those super organized and eco conscious people.  The Tote Buddy rounds up all those loose reusable bags into one neatly folding tote.  See The Tote Buddy

“It’s the world’s first reusable grocery bag organizer. The Tote Buddy neatly organizes reusable bags allowing you to keep them close at hand for all shopping trips. By using The Tote Buddy and reusable bags, we’re helping to keep hundreds of thousands of plastic bags out of our landfills and oceans.”


Lunches made Easy!

Do you ever wish there was that lunch fairy that would come in the middle of the night to make healthy and nutritious lunches for your family?  Well, this is not exactly that but it does help us with that sometimes daunting task.  Now I don’t have to search for all those bags and containers to pack my son’s lunch anymore.  This is a great product!  See Easy Lunchboxes

“Pack lunches fast with our single-lid, 3-compartment plastic food containers. Save time and money packing work or school lunches. This System pairs food-safe reusable lunch containers with roomy cooler bags. It’s the green, sack lunch alternative — sized just right for kids and adults. was born out of my response to disturbingly unhealthy school lunch programs. I resolved to send my kids to school with nutritious meals, using little to no wasteful packaging! “

They’re BPA-free, SAFE and environmentally friendly, too!

Clean those babies safely!!


Both of my babies have eczema and about the time I had my little girl, the studies for sodium laurel sulfate and the effects it has on the reproductive system came out.  Needless to say, I took caution with my babies’ skin.  I immediately turned to a tried and trusted product from California Babies.  They only contain organic and sustainably grown ingredients with No fragrance, scent masking agents, clear formula chemicals, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or DEA. See California Baby

. .

Nut free baby oil

“No Nuts in this Baby Oil! Really -this is 100% Free from any nut products. Our baby safe formula is made with a delicate blend of only the finest oils we could find. We have added organic jojoba, apricot and grape seed oils to help Nourish, Protect and Moisturize your baby’s precious skin. Our special blend is then enriched with soothing Calendula and Vitamin E that gently absorbs into baby’s delicate skin and leaves them soft and snuggly!! (of course we know they already are!!)” See Spoiled Mama

All of their products are free of parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, artificial colors and this company takes an uncompromising stand when it comes to the environment- they power their website by the wind (read more about this on the site) and package all of their products in recyclable jars and bottles.

The products are yummy for moms, dads and babies!



January 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Caren Gillespie- Stay At Home Mom


“Wash, rinse, repeat.” These are the words I use to sum up my life these days as a SAHM (Stay at Home Mom). They work for the obvious tasks -laundry, dishes, children, floors – but they also work for relationships, friendships, motherhood. It’s my cycle of life.

I am in my 8th year of marriage to a wonderful man who adores me and our children. He works full time and is getting his MBA. He is very helpful but he is away a bit more than we both would like. I have a kindergartener and a two year-old and I run a fairly smooth household. I say “fairly” because I do not believe anyone can run a house flawlessly with humans involved, especially with a mix of little/ big/male/female. It just gets messy.
Let me elaborate…

One of my worst days on the “job” I was, ironically, taking a day to myself (a necessity I realized early on as crucial to sanity). I had a lovely day of shopping and sushi with an old coworker while my 18-year old babysitter took care of the children. While wrapping up our lunch, I received a text from the sitter, saying she felt ill. I rushed home to find her lying on the couch while my two children napped in bed. I wrote her a check and wished her well. She informed me very nonchalantly on her way out that she had clogged the toilet.

I can handle this, I have unclogged a toilet before….right? Suddenly, from a distant bathroom, I heard a “fluuuush…..”, followed by my son’s wail: “mooom……the toilet is overflowing……!”
Noooo!! It was too late….I had Niagra-effing-Falls in my bathroom and it was flowing fast! I rushed my son out of the bathroom and ran down to the garage to get the rags for this type of situation. Upon opening the garage door, a dripping noise alerted me to the sight of water -from the “falls” -soaking our stored goods. I surrendered and started to cry….

The one thing that will make me lose it is Out-of-Control-Poop; it gets the best of me every time.
While bawling, cursing, and dialing my husband, I cleaned up our babysitter’s “mess”, infuriated that a good day could go so bad in a the blink of an eye.

In times like this, I think of the mom who wakes at the same hour everyday, gets her kids ready, and drops them off somewhere for 8-9 hours. She goes to work and uses her brain to solve big people problems, all while sipping on a latte, joking with coworkers and getting paid. I understand: it, too, is hard work. But she gets paid! Bonuses even! Ah, Wednesday morning donuts. Happy hour….how I would kill for a real Happy Hour. My “happy hour” is not the happiest. I may be imbibing, but only because my kids have had long days, are hungry, and are (I am convinced), trying to make me crazy!

My husband comes home from work sometimes, complaining about the hour of traffic he just endured. I daydream about an hour in traffic –all by myself, my own music, music that does NOT contain the lyrics “fruit salad, yummy yummy”.

But, I suppose one woman’s dream is another woman’s nightmare. I don’t have to worry about meetings, reviews, complaints from customers. Actually, I do get complaints, but my “customers” don’t have to like everything I’m selling, and (at least, for now) I am bigger and can call the shots. I guess you could say I am the CEO at this house, albeit working for free.

I know I am fortunate. These years at home with my kids will stick with them- and me -forever. The labor duties I endure now will probably be the same moments I miss when they drive off to college.
For now, all I can do is stick to my mantra: wash, rinse, repeat. It works.


By: Jamie Lee Kim- Working Mom

Silhouette With Clipping Path of Business Woman with Briefcase

You’ve heard the phrase, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” Well, behind this full-time working woman, there is a whole team —a nanny, a nana and a husband —-and I still feel like I could use more help!
My little guy has no idea that I have to wake up at 5:30AM each morning for work. So, because he doesn’t know any better, and more so because he’s so darn cute, I allow him to use my belly as a pillow and my face as a punching bag as he dreams away about gumdrops and fluffy clouds or whatever it is that one-year olds dream about.
Let’s face it. As important as a career may be, my investment in my baby is forever. Obviously, if I had to choose between my baby or my job, my baby comes out on top (in my case, literally). But there’s this Asian guilt that gives my conscience hell when I feel like I’m underperforming at the office.
Because I have a 60-mile, one-way commute into work, my employer generously allows me to telecommute 3 days of the week. On the days I do drive in, it can take more than 2 hours to get there. By the time I reach the parking structure, I’m ready to head home. Nevertheless, I drag myself out of my car (after a discreet 30-minute nap), and log in eleven to twelve hours at the office before heading out to battle the evening traffic. Needless to say, when I get home, I am hungry, tired, crabby…and frankly, I need to be babied.
I recently met a full-time mom of three (did I mention I only have one?) who seemed ultra-content with her present situation. I looked at her enviously and thought, “she looks so happy. She doesn’t have to get up early for work. Man, she has it good.”

But I was there! I was a full-time, stay-at-home mom for 3 months (during my maternity leave) and it was brutal. Poopy diapers, colic, spit-up, acid reflux, feedings around the clock, on and on and on. There was no end in sight.

Now I’m starting to realize: mothering ain’t easy, whether you do it all day long or when you get home from work. A stay-at-home mom might crave a respite and adult interaction; whereas a full-time professional feels guilty because she’s shortchanging her baby, her employer, and even herself. Nothing seems right.

Like every other hard part of life, this has to pass. I hold out hope that someday I can leave my two bags under my eyes at home, because Lord knows I have enough bags to carry to work. Until then, I’m happy to provide my belly as a pillow for my little guy. He needs a secure resting place, and if I can’t give that to him during the day, the least I can do is provide him a soft cushion on which to lay his head every night.