Matching Smith Studio Knits Hats

Monday, November 23, 2020

It's pretty clear that Neda doesn't really look like me. But, a dozen times a day she does something that's 100% me, and Brian just looks at me in shock. Like, "what did I get myself into?!" :) Like, she hates dirt. If she sees even a spec on the floor or on her, she'll get herself to me as fast as she can and point that it should be thrown away. And, everything has to be cleaned up, always. I think her favorite part of playing is cleaning up. The other day B had moved his shoes from the back den to the kitchen, he wanted to eventually move them to the front door. She pointed at them for them to be put away endlessly until he gave up and took them to the front door, where they usually are. Shoes, coats and hats have to be taken off the second we walk in the house; food must always be eaten in her high chair; 7pm is bedtime, no negotiation. I could go on and on. She's 14 months and a mini me through and through. Absolutely no chill.

I'm so thrilled Smith Studio Knits sent us these matching hats so we can look a little more alike. We are both obsessed with them. I wasn't sure Neda would understand that they match, but she couldn't stop giggling on Sunday when she noticed we had the same hats and same Patagonia jackets. I hope she always loves it and giggles about it. I have no plans to stop. 

Elaine, the owner of Smith Studio Knits, is such a sweet soul, it was wonderful to chat with her about her business and the community it has created for her. As someone who has only drops of gas left in the tank at the end of each day, I'm so inspired by small business mamas who never stop. 

Tell me more about Smith Studio Knits! When did you start it? What made you want to?

I had taught myself how to knit and crochet when I was a little girl. I did things off and on growing up, but I really started getting back into regularly making items after my sister’s started having kids. I became that aunt who was gifting handmade for every occasion. I had found a pretty active maker community on Instagram and had no idea how many people were selling their products. So I thought I’d give it a try and I first opened an Etsy shop in fall 2018. The timing seemed perfect, as I was transitioning to a new town and becoming a wife and stepmother. I decided to make the jump to building my own website in the beginning of 2020 and it proved to be such a pivotal decision. Having more control really allowed me to refine what I wanted my business to be and how I wanted to best serve my customers.

What makes Smith Studio Knits stand out? 

I think a major thing about SSK that’s unique is that I try and bring a personal touch to everything I do. The advantage of having your own business is that I get to shape every aspect of it. I tend to design with my own style in mind. Every piece I make is something I’d wear. I love classic style, but I don’t think that means the pieces can’t have a modern spin. 

As my business has grown I’ve also started to appreciate the aspect of slow fashion. The hours it takes from the initial design to the mailing of an order is hours and hours of work. The finished pieces are meant to last season after season and passed down from sibling to sibling. 

I try and be sustainable where I can be, too, holding onto scrap yarn to make one of a kind hats or custom items. I also do my best to support other small businesses when I can. All of my faux fur pom poms and product tags are from small shops throughout the US. I’ve also recently launched a luxury line of merino wool hats, which are 100% biodegradable, so that helps make our Earth a little happier.

Running a small business is a lot of work. How do you juggle it all? What makes it worth it?

It is a lot of work. I don’t think anything quite prepares you for the different hats you wear (no pun intended). One of the hardest things for me is keeping work hours. I tend to always be thinking of my to-do lists, replying to emails, seeking out new designs. And if I’m sitting, I’m knitting. Being a seasonal business also has its challenges. The Fall Harvest line was designed this past summer and even though we haven’t had our first snow here in Wisconsin, I’m already brainstorming for spring and summer. 

Another behind the scenes facet of a small business is becoming part of a community. I can’t say enough about all the wonderful women I’ve met through social media and local markets. Their support has definitely kept me going on those days where I feel super lost. Being able to reach out and ask advice is just invaluable and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be able to be running this business without everything I’ve learned from them. As I’ve grown, I’ve also been able to lend advice to others and that definitely makes it worth it.

Lastly, my step daughter seeing all the different components of my job has been super encouraging. She sees me knitting, packaging orders, and helps me do mail drops. I think it’s so important for her to see a woman starting and running a business. Hopefully when she grows up she’ll know she can be her own boss and that she is completely capable of shaping her own career.

Thank you, Elaine! We'll be thinking of you and Smith Studio Knits every time we get cozy to go out this winter.

(This post was sponsored by Smith Studio Knits. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

A Slamdunk Holiday Gift for Kids: Pinhole Press!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Neda's five favorite things, in no particular order, are: her family, her octopus, eating berries, watching CoComelon and reading books. As long as she's with one of those people or doing one of those things, she has a guaranteed smile on her face. Lately, she'll put down a toy she's been playing with and pick out a few favorite books then scoot to your lap and sit patiently as you read them. Sometimes we'll lay in bed for 30 minutes reading before bed! One of her first words was "gook" at 10 months. I love her quiet, pensive nature. 

She also loves identifying family members in photos. We have dozens of Instagram photos printed on the side of our fridge, and at least twice a day we quiz her on who's who. She (as competitive as her mother) loves getting them right and will give out a little squeal! 

So, this Pinhole Press book of names and faces was a no-brainer! We were hoping to give it to her for Christmas, but knowing how much she'd love it, we didn't last. 

Neda's book includes a page for each of her family members, her beloved octopus and cousin dogs :) While I was hoping the mom page would be her favorite, she makes us sprint to the pages of the "woofs." She also loves the front cover, the Neda page — who can blame her? 

We read this book at least 10 times a day —  in bed, in every chair, on the kitchen counter while we wait not-so-patiently for dad to make dinner — and I think it'll be a good distraction in the car, where our sweet girl likes to stretch her vocal cords most. 

It only took me five minutes to make the book, and I know it's something she'll cherish even when she's older. I'm thinking of making her a few more, too. One from our summer adventures, one featuring family abroad and one with photos of her best friend Maddie since she gives me my phone and wants to go on Maddie's mom's Instagram to look at photos of Maddie every morning before school! 

She smiles at every person's face every time, like she wasn't expecting to see them in the book this time around, ha! It's incredibly sweet. And, I love how she tries to say names or convey her excitement. While we've been seeing family sparingly, Covid has kept us away from visiting my sister in Wisconsin and Brian's sister in Missouri. But, Neda's still quick to identify her Khaleh Shabz and Auntie Kelly :)

In case you were wondering what it's like to take photos of a toddler...

We're getting Neda some plastic jewelry, crayons and bubble bath for Christmas, and I think she'll giggle at the sight of all of them! If you're stuck on what to get your littles (or even big kids and adults!), I can't recommend these Pinhole Press books enough.

P.S. Pinhole Press is offering readers 15% off with code MAKETHEMOST15.  

(This post was sponsored by Pinhole Press. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

ADAY Outfit Repeater Challenge

Monday, October 19, 2020

Repeating outfits isn't much of a challenge for me these days since I go almost no where and see almost no one. We've created a little bubble of family and friends we feel comfortable socializing with, but day-to-day, it's just me, B and Neda, playing with toys in the living room and making countless snacks in the kitchen. Or, towered over my computer on the dining table, working in my own bubble 9-5. Over the weekend I wore a more exciting outfit for a gathering that was ultimately canceled "What a waste!" Brian said as I got into my pajamas that night. Ha! 

But, when ADAY reached out asking me and my sister to be part of their outfit repeater challenge, we were both stoked. Repeating we're good at, and we were excited to repeat something new after months in the same sweats (albeit the very best sweats). Shabz chose the Like a Boss Sweatshirt in Sand, and I chose the Something Borrowed Shirt in White. We were tasked to wear the tops as often as we could October 1-15, and it was really fun to send each other our looks each day. The challenge is over, but we've both already worn our pieces this week. 

Here are my 10 favorite looks from each of us. I mostly wore mine with leggings, ADAY's Easy Day Pants and Turn It Up Pants (I had both before the challenge). After weeks I felt less like a hermit in the school pick-up line, at the grocery store and on my lunch-time walk :)

Curious, are you inspired to wear unique outfits each day? What's your motivation? I know I should, but to be honest, if I change before noon I call it a win.

(This post was sponsored by ADAY. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Neda's Summer Checklist!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I should probably come to terms with the fact that it's fall, but to know me is to know I live for summer (it's on my tiny bio even!). There's just so much to love, and even though this year it felt a little upside down, I still wanted to make sure it was special. So, as a lover of lists (and I like to think Neda is as well), I made Neda a little summer checklist in June. And, we checked everything off days before fall :) I wanted to share the list and a photo from each event on this little scrapbook. It was such a wonderful season for our little family. I think the day we went strawberry picking will be one of my favorite memories forever. 

Also, a few people suggested a fall checklist on my Instagram, but it already feels too chilly to me to be motivated to do much, ha! Though, I am hoping to get her to an apple orchard this weekend, and we're going on a short hike with family. And, I tried that Starbucks pumpkin cold brew everyone's talking about yep, delicious. Still, bring back summer!

1. Try ice cream!

2. Go to the pool!

3. Ride a bike with mommy or daddy!

4. Go camping over night!

5. Go berry picking!

6. Have a dinner picnic! 

7. Go to the beach!

8. Go for a boat ride!

9. Take a vacation!

10. Dine al fresco at a restaurant! 

264 days until we see you again, sweet summer! 

Strong Mom Strong Fam

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I try to keep this blog light and focus on all the good in my life. Because there's a lot of it, and capturing that is what I created this little corner of the internet for. But there are bad days, of course. And this time last year, there were a lot of them. 

I haven't been shy about sharing the many tears shed since Neda came into my life, but I don't know if I was honest enough with myself, until recently, to openly talk about what a difficult time this was for me. As someone who has been battled anxiety and depression for decades and been diagnosed by any medical professional I've encountered (it's bad when your dentist spots it), I was prepared for postpartum depression. B and I knew it was a possibility, more so for someone like me with a history of it, and what it looks like on me. We were ready. 

The first night in the hospital, I wept. I blamed it on being tired. The day we came home, and for weeks that followed, I did the same at roughly 2pm and 7pm. I blamed it on hormones. I was in a terrible place, feeling very, very down, like that heavy feeling you get in your chest when you're sad about something. Why? I had no idea. But I had a feeling it wasn't good. Over the next couple weeks, I felt worse and worse. And I felt so guilty because I had a wonderful baby, a loving husband and a great life on paper. Yet, I was inexplicably falling apart. I felt utterly overwhelmed and exhausted by everything in my life. I remember driving one Saturday morning and seeing a highway sign towards Memphis, Tennessee. I wanted to drive there, alone, so badly. 

Throughout it all, I was very transparent with Brian. I told him I was losing weight, that I was unbearably sad, that I wanted to leave everything behind and move to Graceland. He came to my postpartum appointments, and I told him I was going to lie to the doctor about how I was feeling, that I didn't need another diagnosis in my files (every doctor saw right through it and looked both of us in the eyes and told us things were not OK). I was never at risk of hurting myself or Neda, so I thought it was OK. It wasn't OK. 

At the time, I wasn’t able to mention my sadness to anyone. Even now, I don’t know what I would have said if I had talked about it. And I didn’t want to admit–even to myself–how lost I suddenly felt. It was disorienting and inexplicable, and I felt like it would never end. My sadness felt like my new way of being.

Writing down these words feels strange now. That time feels so far away from me, now that a year has passed, but it was so rattling and all-consuming at the time. Overall, for 12 weeks–from mid-September to early January –life felt really, really dark. The clouds eventually parted, but before that I couldn’t bear thinking about the future. 

I wanted to share my experience, since, hopefully other wonderful mothers who go through this will recognize it for what it is, and get help for clinical depression, instead of just thinking that it’s them, their own life or failure to handle motherhood. 

Reading others' stories has made me much more comfortable with my own, and it was such an honor to get connected with Lauren Regula a few months ago. Lauren is a three-time Olympian who had three kids in three years. Just writing that blows my mind. She talks openly about the postpartum depression she battled for six years, and her story is incredibly inspirational. I interviewed Lauren on her family life, her company Strong Mom Strong Fam and how she juggles it all. Thanks for being so open, Lauren. We really are all in this together. 

I don't even know where to start. You're truly an inspiration. Let's start with three kids in three years. How on earth did you manage that? 

I wish I could remember more to explain how it all went. Life was a blur. There were more tears than I anticipated. Although, looking back at pictures, I know there were many great memories as well. Thank goodness for photos to jog my memory.  

My husband Dave and I actually planned to have three kids so close together, although we thought it might take a few more attempts than it did to get pregnant. When I realized I was pregnant with our third who would be due three years after our first, I definitely pictured our future family cannon-balling into the pool together, skiing together, and doing all sorts of adventures together... I managed to miss out on thinking through how the baby-years would go. 

One of the best quotes my best friend Peyton told me to lean on was "this too shall pass." The good, the bad, and the ugly. And that is exactly what happened and can sum up how the years have passed — and continue to pass. 

I suffered from postpartum depression, too. And I carry around anxiety every day that those darkest moments will come back. It also scares me when I think about having another kid in the future. Any advice? 

The very first thing I would like to say is that there is an answer... Sometimes it might take a little playing around, but there is something out there that will help. It's like a puzzle. You might not get the first piece to fit but that doesn't mean the puzzle is broken, it just means you haven't found the right piece yet. 

I was always afraid to get help because I was petrified that if nothing worked my "safety net" (aka having a resource to fall back on) was gone and it was proof that I really was broken — forever. 

I lived with postpartum depression for six long years. Some of the times I knew something was really wrong. Other times I just thought "This is the way it is now. This is normal." It has taken me years of therapy, doctor's appointments, bloodwork, and downright scrapping and clawing my way back to feeling like myself — and although it may be a lifelong battle, I am finally back to my pre-kids self most of the time. My only regret is that I wish I would have asked for help sooner. 

A few tips off the top of my head: 

  • I have learned the difference between depression (which normally comes about when thinking about the past) and anxiety (which normally comes out when thinking about the future) and just that distinction has helped me know where to focus my healing energy. 
  • Self-care is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have. I have always been big on self-care, but my experience has solidified my stance on the fact that you can't pour from an empty cup as a mother. I have really leaned into areas of self-care that I may not have been as open to like meditation, journaling and breathwork. But when I was at the bottom of the barrel, I was willing to do anything to feel better. Little did I know, depression or not, the tools I have acquired have allowed me to be so much more for myself and my family, that when the crazy opportunity of training for another Olympics came my way, I was able to say YES.
  • And finally, I have learned to treat myself as if I were treating someone I love. As moms, we are so quick to get down on ourselves and be really hard on ourselves. We often treat our family, friends and even pets better than we treat ourselves. 

What happened to softball during the years when you had three babies? What was it like to transform overnight. Everything you did, were, had to be set aside, no?

I had played softball my whole life. Actually, softball was my whole life. I went to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and my team ended on a heartbreak loss, and my dream of an Olympic medal was shattered. We came 4th. I was so ready to be done with softball, and the storybook ending that I was so intent on having didn't end up the way I dreamed of and I was devastated. Actually, to be honest, I was bitter. 

By November of 2008, I was pregnant with our first child, Grace. I don't remember all that much, but by 2012 we had three kiddos and didn't even know who I was anymore. I went from being a driven, dedicated, determined and confident Olympian to a worn-out, unhappy, demotivated shell of myself. Softball wasn't even in my thoughts, nor my future plans. I just tried to make it through each day, week, and month. I had to find myself again... and it would take seven long years. 

But now there are three beautiful, amazing kids, Strong Mom Strong Fam and your THIRD Olympics. Wow. What does that feel like? 

Fast forward to 2020 and not only did we pick up and start a couple of businesses from scratch, but I am now taking my hubby and kids along on my third Olympic Journey. 

I had been training like crazy and away with Team Canada when the world shutdown for COVID. I still have plans to make my third Olympic Roster and head to Tokyo 2020+1. I feel energized. I feel determined. Dedicated. Motivated. I feel like my old self, but even better. 

I created Strong Mom Strong Fam when I got the invitation to rejoin Softball Canada and train to make my third Olympic Roster. I think all too often as moms, we put ourselves last. We often think it's normal to be too tired to pursue our own dreams but I am here to say that just because it's "common" doesn't mean it's normal. I took all my learnings and put them into a program to help mom reclaim strength in their bodies and minds and give them the confidence so they can live a fulfilled life.

How do you manage it all? 

It has taken two years to really hone in on a system that allows me to feel like I am where I need to be when I need to be there. I am a scheduling freak. I have an evening routine, morning routine and weekend planning with my husband, Dave.

Something else that helps is I am constantly learning about myself — and I am talking digging deep. I need to be connected to my why because when I lose sight of my why, it's easy to fall off the dedication-wagon — and I don't have time to fall off any wagons.

I am also a big believer in making the time versus finding the time for things that matter to me. I manage what is between my ears as well as I possibly can. I believe that if I can manage myself internally, then everything on the outside will be where it needs to be.

But, let's be honest, I am human and I am still a mess at times. I am still prone to meltdowns. I have just learned how to manage them better and get over them faster than I used to so I can continue to move forward — even if it's baby-steps for a few days.

I'm far from an athlete, but my friends and family know of my mantra: "You never regret working out." You just don't. But it can be so hard to find the motivation. Where does yours come from? 

So true. I have never heard a person say "I regret that workout." Taking ownership of my own life, especially when I felt I had none in the depths of depression has been huge for me. I love the saying "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."

My motivation also comes from what I want my future to be. Most moms don't even know what they want for dinner tomorrow or for the rest of the week. I put a lot of time into daily, monthly, weekly and yearly goals so when I picture myself in the future, I know what needs to be done today to make that happen. I never want to let my future-self down. 

I started with it, and I have to end with it. You're an inspiration. What's your advice to anyone out there that needs an extra boost right now?  

I live by the equation DO x BE = HAVE and there is only so much we can do. If we want to have more, we need to be more. There is only one person who can nurture that "be" part — and that is ourselves. 

For parents, one of the things I ask them is "Look at yourself right now and picture your kids in the exact same position when they are your age. In what area would you want more for them?" If your relationship with your spouse is lacking fulfillment, then ask yourself if you would be happy for your kids in an unfulfilled relationship. If you are uncomfortable in your own skin and overweight, ask yourself if you would be happy to know your child is uncomfortable in his/her own skin when they are grown up. 

If you are lacking passion or purpose and feel like you are floating through life empty, ask yourself if you would be happy for your kids if they end up feeling that emptiness like you. 

And if you wouldn't want that for your kids, then you shouldn't tolerate it for yourself. Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to get really clear on who and where you want to be. Once you are clear on who you want to be, you can start on the path to getting there.

(This post was sponsored by Strong Mom Strong Fam (love their inspirational tanks!). Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Our Home Office

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I'm that nosy person that's looking deep into your grocery cart while you check out, who opens your medicine cabinet when I use your bathroom, who reads your texts over your shoulder on the subway. I'm curious! And, right now, I'm most interested in people's home offices. Where are you working?! What does it look like?! My company doesn't allow webcams, but on the off-chance someone has one on, I'm squinting to read the titles on the bookshelf behind them. Family photos are what I'm really looking for. I can't help it!

So, it's only right that I share :) Here's a peek into our office. Which is also our laundry room. And our gym. And our pantry. It's small but mighty, and with a few recent updates, it feels more productive and comfortable. Is it our dream space? Far from. But six months into spending the majority of the day in there, we're finding ourselves more and more satisfied. 

Early on in quarantine we made two major changes to the room. We swapped our old desk for one Brian inherited from his grandma, and we bought a Peloton bike. B had his eyes on his grandma's desk for decades, and I'd been bugging him to get the Peloton for months. So, we're both quite satisfied :)

From there, we made little changes to make the room cozy and functional. We moved some art and posters from around the house to the office (and used all Wayfair frames), and we make sure our beverage fridge is always fully stocked. We also use this little basket for recycling materials, which isn't stunning but feels aesthetically nicer than a diaper box or random pile by the door.

We also finally went through dozens of file folders and cleaned out all of the unnecessary stuff we've been hoarding for years. Now we have it consolidated to two file boxes (which are beyond full and about to burst, but only two!).

It's lots of little changes, but it's a little space. So little that if one thing is off, like too many shoes by the back door, it quickly looks disheveled. But, for now, it works well. Some days we're frustrated, but most days it works well. And, since we'll be working from here for the foreseeable future, that is a very good thing.

Shop the post: frames, beverage fridge, recycling basket, file box 

(This post was sponsored by Wayfair. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)