Lovely Small Business: Hoopla Room

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Can you tell I’m a sucker for well-designed children’s products? If you’re looking to furnish your nursery or kid’s room with unique pieces that stand the test of time, Hooplaroom is a beautifully curated online store filled with enough modern and whimsical pieces to make your fingers itch to grab your wallet. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Hoopla Room’s founder and CEO, Adeline Bron – another French mother living in the US. (Seriously, the French are just so stylish!)

Some of my favorite pieces from the shop are these charming polka-dot animal book ends, the ever-so-useful Three Sprouts toy bin, and musician wall decals. I also love how you can find certain pieces there like these super fun kids bean bag chairs that you can’t find anywhere else in the US (I mean, seriously, Little Miss would just DIE if she saw that.)

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So how exactly does this mom of four (!) do it all? Let’s get a little glimpse:
 
What were you doing before starting Hooplaroom?
I was a pharmacist in France. I came to the US seven years ago with a toddler. Two kids later, I thought it was really hard to furnish their room with products that were both practical and original. In every child’s room, I was always seeing the same kind of products: either from Target on the cheapest side or Pottery Barn Kids’ on the most expensive side. The colors were going from light pink to purple for girls and light blue to navy blue for boys. Very boring! I thought to myself ”it has to change!”
 
What are some of your favorite children’s brands right now?
In terms of organization, I’d say 3 Sprouts without any doubt! It’s actually the only American brand that I sell on my website. I first wanted to offer only European brands. I was looking for a brand that was making nice toy boxes and bins but I didn’t find any European brand as good as 3 Sprouts (both for design and practicality). Regarding kids clothing, I love Zara and H & M. And of course, Petit Bateau, great quality and beautiful design!
 
Where do you find you often discover your favorite items for the shop?
 I like to follow some French decoration blogs, Pinterest boards and websites. I also like to read French decor magazines (MILK is my favorite one). When I travel to Paris, I like to go to small boutiques and see what is trendy there. And last but not least, I attend a huge fair in Paris every year where I get to meet manufacturers and discover new products.
 
How do you balance running your own business and being a mom?
It’s hard! I have 4 kids including a newborn. It has been especially tough at the end of the pregnancy and the first few weeks after the birth. My rule is to schedule some time slots to work when the kids are in school and to stick with it even if the house is messy. If I start looking at the mess, I’ll always find something to clean-up instead of working. Every day, I stop working when I go pick up the kids from school. I often have to work on Sundays which I don’t particularly like.
 
What is the most challenging part of running your own business?
Running my own business is very rewarding because every little success is mine! I learned so many things building Hooplaroom from scratch. On the other hand, it’s also very challenging because I still have a lot to learn. Not having web programming skills is my biggest challenge. I’d like to study advance programming to be able to modify images on my website by myself. Right now, I need to ask my husband to do it for me. 
 
There’s been a lot of talk lately about French parenting vs. American parenting, and your’e a French mother living in the US. What have you found to be the biggest difference? Are there “American”-style methods you prefer in your own parenting and vice versa?
Generally speaking, I feel that French moms are stricter. They expect a lot from their kids even when they are little. For example, they expect children to sleep at night from a young age (4 month old) and to behave at the table very early. I am not saying that it always works but that’s the French mom’s expectations and I have to say the more you expect from a child the more chances you have to get a result. Also, a big difference is that in France, parents don’t childproof every corner of their house, they just expect the child to learn how to behave in the world of adults instead of all adults having to live in a child’s world.
 
The ”American” parenting method that I use all the time and that you’ll never see in France is the ‘time out’. I love it because it gives time both to the parent and the child to calm down. The child has time to think about what he did wrong and I like the talk that I have with my kid when he comes out of time-out. The nice thing about having experienced life in France and in the USA is to be able to take the best of each country and to learn that there is not only one way of doing things but you can get the same results using different techniques. 
 
And finally, what’s your favorite item in the store right now?
Regarding your question: I think my favorite Hooplaroom item is the garland light. It can really be the final touch to add color to any room. It goes well in a child’s room, a living room (on top of the fire place) or just anywhere in the house. It can look different in each different house and I love that.
 
Thank you Adeline, it was lovely chatting with you!

 

There, and Back Again

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I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again – 2014 is kicking my ass. In the span of 8 gone-in-the-blink-of-an-eye months, I feel like I’ve experienced most of the major life events at once. I had a baby, lost a job, bought our first house, found a new job a few weeks later, moved with an infant and toddler (yes, we’re insane), lost my lovely and wonderful mom and celebrated Little Miss turning 3 a week later. Just writing that out makes me feel exhausted all over again. 

But you know what, life goes on. 

And through all this I have been floored by the kindness of friend and strangers and the resilience of the human body  who, even on just a handful of broken hours of sleep a night, just keeps on moving, one foot in front of the other. Because sometimes you just don’t have a choice. 

I finally feel like I’m coming through on the other side, and feel the winds of “normal” (or whatever that means) seeping back into life again, and it feels good. Great, even. Sure, there will always be moments that catch me by surprise and the grief comes back again, but, for the most part, I’m still standing and thriving… and ready to start writing again.

Now if only the Littlest Miss could stop waking up at 5:30am. Baby steps, right?

* A lovely friend sent me a sweet package with one of those box signs printed with the above quote on it, which I love. Thank you again!

 

Lovely Baby: Pumping Essentials for the Working Mom

If you’re a mama or mama-to-be who’s getting ready to go back to work soon, your pump is about to become your new best friend… or maybe more like a frenemy.  Pumping at work is hard work and, honestly, sucks a lot of the time (no pun intended), but knowing you’re doing it for that sweet little baby of yours can make all the difference. Having been down this road twice now, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way and have come up with 5 of the most useful items any pumping working mom should have.

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A good-quality pump – This is not one area to go cheap on. Getting a full-featured pump like the oh-so-popular Medela Pump in Style or a hospital-grade one like the Hygeia Enjoye is a total must if you’re working and pumping. I’ve owned both and they’re both great. Nowadays, many health insurance companies will pay for your pump too – the only caveat being that you  may not be able to choose which pump you get, which is kind of a big deal.

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A hands-free pumping bra – Yes, these look totally ridiculous in the Amazon pictures, but after the pump itself, this is a must for me. I’ve used the Simple Wishes one and am now on my second, and it is hands-down worth the money Trust me on this ladies. You don’t want to be pumping with no hands free. Now you can be free to browse your iPhone, flip channels or even read a book if you really want. Or, if you’re a real trooper, keep on working while you pump.

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Extra parts – Order an extra set of everything – tubing, valves, flanges, the works. You don’t want to be stuck at work when one of those parts tears or goes defective. ALWAYS have a back-up set.

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Extra bottles – Unless you love washing millions of bottles and parts every night, I’d suggest getting an extra set of bottles to pump into so that if you are feeling lazy one night, it’s not the end of the world to not wash the day’s used bottles right away.

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Cleaning cloths – These awesome Medela cleaning cloths are a lifesaver when you’re not near a sink or don’t want to wash your parts in the bathroom or in front of male (or female) coworkers. There’s no water required – and they get the job done.

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Gallon-sized ziploc bags – The first time I went back to work and started pumping, a friend gave me this genius tip. Always bring a large plastic bag with you so that you can store all the parts inside of it between pumps WITHOUT having to wash them all every time. Since you’re sticking it in the fridge with your milk, there’s no cleaning required until after your last pump of the day. This is a HUGE time saver!

Working mamas, anything I missed that you consider an essential?

 

Lovely Children’s Book: Following Featherbottom

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Personalized children’s books are all the rage lately, so I was super excited to get a chance to check out the latest offering in this genre from MarbleSpark. I loved the fact that Following Featherbottom touches on my love for travel – something I hope to pass on to my children – and is not only highly entertaining for kids to read (more details on this later) but highly educational as well. The personalization option is just an added bonus.

The basic storyline of the book involves a special delivery stork, Featherbottom, who has been tasked with finding the perfect name for a baby-to-be by finding letters from all around the world. Little readers then follow him country by country (each country matching a letter in your child’s name, like the Phillipines to find a “P”, etc.) until all of the letters of their name have been found. FYI, Little Miss’s full name (first, middle and last) is a total of 17 letters, so that’s 17 countries. And the beautiful watercolor illustrations of each country also has a bunch of objects on the page that also start with the same letter, so that as your child grows older they can start to look and find these items. For example an abominable snowman and alien in Antarctica.

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Author Phil Hausler explains how he came up with the concept for this book:
“Eight years ago, my wife and I were expecting our first child.  We were considering family names for our first-born that I knew we probably wouldn’t find at the souvenir gift stand (we eventually named him McCoy).  I remember how bummed I was as a kid when I couldn’t find my own name, Philip (one L!), at the tourist souvenir stand.  So I started toying with the idea of a personalized book.  As a ‘weekend project’, I decided I would try to write a children’s book.

After a bunch of detours, I eventually wrote Following Featherbottom. At that time, I still only imagined this as a project for my own (future) kids. But one night I emailed an early draft to my sister and she called me early the next morning to say my story had made her cry.  That was the first moment I ever considered publishing Following Featherbottom for anyone beyond my own kids…quite a ‘weekend project!'”
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Little Miss adores this book and constantly asks us to read her the “Little Miss book.” She loves seeing her name spelled out in the end, and finding the letters on each page. We are definitely getting a copy for the newest addition so she has her own special copy. Personally, I think this make such a wonderful and unique birthday gift for any child.

If you’re interested in checking out Following Featherbottom or some of the other personalized book offerings from the MarbleSpark, check them out HERE.

** Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book for review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Lovely Video: Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos

So my brother sent this gem of a video to me and I can’t help but share the joy. I mean, come on, hamsters eating tiny burritos – what’s not to love?

As the caption on the video reads, “Sometimes love is best expressed through tiny food.” Enjoy and read on below. 

Produced by new comedy production team, HelloDenizen, it apparently took them three weeks to train three hamsters to eat the miniature burritos. As one of the founders, Joel Jensen, shares, “Hamsters are not very bright… Basically you hope (the hamster) goes to the chair and then hope it sits in the chair and if it stays in the chair you put the burrito in front of it.”

Sounds about right to me. Happy Hump Day all!

Lovely Baby: Sleep Deprivation Makes You a Drunk

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Day 2 of a full 6 hours of sleep, and I’m flying high like these lovely balloons here. Coincidentally, Joanna over at Cup of Jo has a post up today about what a sleep-deprived society we are a part of (based on this Atlantic article), and how sleeping only 4-5 hours a night (ha, that sounds AWESOME to me!) for even just a week puts your mental capacity at the same level as a drunk person! Craziness!

I don’t feel like I act impaired, but that’s what drunk people say too, right? People that know me, have I been acting a bit…. off lately?

Lovely Baby: Sleep, I Missed You

So for the first time in almost HALF A YEAR (yes, 6 months, people) both girls slept through the night at the same time. This is a major deal. I woke up this morning a) butt early because my body was so used to getting up every few hours, and b) feeling like this:

Everyone was right – all babies are different, and so far the major difference between Kid #1 and Kid #2 has been in the sleep department. Little Miss was always an awesome sleeper, and outside of the first month when we had to wake her to feed her every 2 hours, she’s always slept through the night, and quickly hit that mythical 12 hours of sleep a night all parents wish for. So we were beyond lucky and spoiled.

Enter the Littlest Miss.

While she naps pretty decently throughout the day, nighttime sleep has been its own beast. She did fairly decently at first, and even had a week of 6+ hours, then we hit the infamous 4-month sleep regression. That lasted forever. She was literally up every 1.5-2 hours. That means we were sleeping in half hour to 1.5 hours increments.

Now, I’m not someone who needs a ton of sleep and function pretty well on little, but this was ree-donk-u-lous. After the first week of this nightmare, we became zombies, barely making it through the day and dreading “bedtime” (the time most parents look forward to) because we knew what was to come. Then about a week ago, she started sleeping a little bit longer (like in 3 hour stretches – woohoo!) here and there. But ,of course, life can’t be so easy. That’s when the toddler, who has recently been potty trained, started waking up at 4am hollering that she had to go potty. So if it wasn’t one child, it was the other.

But all this doesn’t matter anymore. Because I got to sleep for 6 glorious uninterrupted hours! And it could’ve been more if I weren’t so dumb and went to bed so late. So, today, even if it’s just for a day, this is me:

I’ve also decided that four is the magic number. Once I get four straight hours of sleep, I feel like a new woman. Obviously more is preferable, but I’ll take four any day over the alternative.

Happy Hump Day and hope everyone sleeps well tonight!

 

Lovely Stroller: Joovy Too Qool Review

joovy too qool

Writing about baby stuff has its perks, and one major plus is getting to be one of the first to try out awesome new baby gear. This past month I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to try out the newest luxury double stroller on the market, the Joovy Too Qool. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t heard of Joovy before, but lately, this children’s brand best known for their Stand-On Caboose stroller, has been coming out with a lot of innovative and stylish new products (like this new HiLo high chair.)

I never knew until I had kids what a big, overwhelming deal shopping for a new stroller is. It’s like buying a new car! There are a million different options at a million different price points and the truth is, there’s no way to know what features you’ll want or need until Baby is actually here and been here a few months.

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The Too Qool is awesome because it can be used as both a single and a double stroller, which is convenient when you don’t want to have to lug a giant double stroller around. Both the 5-month-old and toddler sat in it for a long time with no complaints. So here are my pros/cons.

Pros:

  • Awesome colors to choose from – we tried it out in Jade and it’s a beauty.
  • Can be used as either a single or a double stroller
  • Generously-sized basket
  • Generous sun-shade
  • Fabrics are very cushy and seats generously padded
  • Drove very easily over many cracked city sidewalks.

Cons:

  • When used as a full double, and having the seats facing each otherthe kid in the bottom seat is very cramped and close to the other footrest, and when reversed, the bottom rider is totally hidden from view – but to be fair, this is also the problem with the Uppa Baby Vista.
  • Only the top seat reclines fully – the bottom one reclines a little but not all the way (again, this is the same with the Vista)
  • Folding it isn’t too laborious, but the back seat does need to be removed first.
  • The basket is awesomely large if you’re using this as a single, however, once the second child is in and their feet are in the basket, your space becomes very limited. I would recommend purchasing some Mommy Hooks if you’re going to use this as a double most of the time.

The Too Qool also has a ride-along board accessory that Little Miss just about flipped over and refused to get off of (although I personally find all ride-along boards a little awkward – where is the kid’s head supposed to go exactly?) and the graphite frame which we got it in is sleek and stylish.

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You can use this from newborn to toddler. (NOTE: The TooQool will be releasing car seat adaptors in the near future that should work with most of the major infant car seat brands.) Here’s the official features breakdown:

•      Anodized graphite aluminum frame
•      2 – Fully padded, reversible seats with full recline, leg support
•      2 – Removable, washable seat pad inserts
•      Easy release, full size wheels with sealed bearings
•      Sealed bearing steering
•      Cantilever 4-wheel suspension system
•      Quick step swivel wheel locks
•      Leatherette wrapped hand-stitched handlebar and bumper bar
•      2 Oversized canopies – front has a zippered extension
•      Large storage basket

All in all, the $799 price tag is a lot to swallow for any stroller, but if you’re looking for a stylish and versatile full-featured stroller with the option to grow with you family, I think you’ll be very happy with the Joovy Too Qool. Also keep in mind that the price includes the second seat which isn’t the case for other configurable double strollers.

Disclosure: I was given this stroller to review, but all opinions are 100% my own.