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Monthly Heroines

family life & style blog

The One Who Empowers Women By Sewing Hope

Debora Manusama

Happy World Refugee Day! My heroine this month is a mother and an entrepreneur who helps refugee women in Dallas to make an honest living by sewing little girls' clothes. No matter who you are and where you are, you can make a difference! 

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The One Who Is Fighting Modern Slavery

Debora Manusama

She is a mother of four (teenagers!), a wife, a speaker, and a freedom fighter who is on a mission to abolish modern slavery a.k.a human trafficking. Meet this month's heroine, Josie Carignan.

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The One Who's In The Business of Thinking Tenderly About People, Things, and Words.

Debora Manusama

"If sarcasm would have helped us, it would have helped us already. We need more tenderness." - Janielle Kastner. Read more about why this artist/playwright gives out 'Free Blessings' at an event. Handwritten printable blessings are included just for you!

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The One Who Transforms Others Through Jewelries

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

She's a military wife who started making jewelries at home in England, where her hubby was stationed a few years ago. Read how the Loren Hope brand is slaying the industry now, what she's learned, and tips to start your own business.

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The One Who Time Travels Through Stories

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

I'm super excited about this month's heroine. She is a dear friend of mine who seems to know just the right thing to say at the right time. She founded this community called Openseat, press play and watch the video before you read this article :) https://youtu.be/EVF9wkmzj54

She is a queen in the her own right, a storyteller, a speaker, and most of all she is a wife and a mom. This is Queen K. Smith :)

You describe yourself as a story teller. How did you get into it? Why are you so passionate about it?

I grew up in a very community centered culture in Cameroon, West Africa. We must have coined the phrase, "it takes a village to raise a child,'' lol! One of my fondest memories was when the whole family, 18+ of us (yep you read that correctly!), would gather around the fireside and listen to stories from the elders. My father was an incredible story teller; I guess you can say like father like daughter. I remember being captivated by stories at a young age. Those stories allowed me to time travel, and every time a story was told I felt something different. It didn't matter if I had heard the story before. I pulled courage and inspiration from the moments shared.

During some of the stories I held my breath during the conflict and exhaled when hope was about to break through! Now as an adult nothing has changed. I still marvel at people and their stories and I still love eating with people I meet. I want to know where they have been/where are they now/ and where they are going. As a story teller I get to take you on a journey (without paying for airfare lol).

A lot of people write stories, but not many are good in telling them. What makes the two so different?

I know some amazing story tellers, I honestly think everyone I encounter is a story teller. When I do I share, I do so with intention to build and not to destroy. A good story in the wrong environment does not accomplish anything. A great story teller paints a visual picture that will not appear if he/she is disconnected from their audience and merely just sharing an experience.

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Do you personally feel like stories could make an impact in people's lives? How has it helped you personally?

Girl yes! Stories are up there with chicken tacos with avocado! Stories help encourage, reveal, teach, to pass knowledge and they help us other understand others. I have personally learned from other people's story to avoid mistakes. I have personally helped others uncover their story and their core. Stories often times bring clarity and wisdom. 4

 To you personally, what makes a good story?

Truth and Authenticity makes a great story. The key is to not make your story look like someone else's.

 

 You are a mom. Have you always wanted to be one? 

Always!! I come from a huge family and I have dreamed about having a football team as well, jk. We have a beautiful 2 year daughter that I prayed for. I think she looks like me, that’s my story and I am sticking to it lol. Everyone thinks that she looks like her dad. I love my family.

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Do you tell stories to your daughter? If yes, what's her favorite story?

I sure do and I go all out.  She is two and I can already see in her eyes that she thinks I am dramatic. She has the beginner's bible with stories about Jesus for children; we thought that was perfect for her to learn about Jesus, the ultimate story teller.

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The cool thing is that most of the stories are the miracles Jesus performed, I want her to dream big. She loves all those stories.

 If people want to listen to your stories, where should they go?

I get to do Story Telling at our Open Seat Community and different conferences/events. One upcoming event in particular will be at the Miss Africa Texas Pageant this Saturday in Plano, TX. I also have a YouTube channel under the name, Queen K Smith. I have some upcoming stuff that I am going to doing specifically geared towards stories. Be on the lookout, you may visit my website and subscribe for upcoming activities and events.

The One Who Keeps Learning & Never Settles

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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Although I enjoy writing about my life and the fun things I do with my family, I miss writing about other people. After a thoughtful consideration and a little survey that I did with my readers, I have decided to revamp this section on my blog that has inspired many people since I first started it : Monthly Heroines! I don't know about you but I think our generation craves for the right people to look up to. So when I thought of who to feature on my 'comeback' edition, I thought of this girlboss that I've admired for a while, Kari Crowe, the owner of Melt Ice Creams and Motor Sisters Ice Cream. 

Read it, be inspired, share it, and happy national ice cream month!

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You are not a chef, you didn't have any experience in running your own ice cream parlors before, so what got you into opening Melt?

I had a passion for the food industry! I had been freelancing and photographing chefs, restaurants and food for a few years and when I started looking for a career change I really wanted an opportunity to add value to our community. Ice cream seemed the perfect fit for my community, it met my desire to stay creative and my excitement to build a business. The hot weather season that is so significantly long in Texas definitely creates opportunities for adding value with frozen treats.

Why ice cream (a seasonal business), and not a coffeeshop (people drink coffee year-round, at anytime of the day now) or anything of that nature? Watch the video to find out (and don't forget to subscribe! :)

https://youtu.be/IU34KpopNY8

After opening Melt, have you ever thought, "This was not a good idea"? What kept you going?

Opening a food business is no small feat, in my opinion it gets romanticized a little too often.  It’s hard grueling hours, and there’s no magic formula to make it successful.  I think as a business owner you always work through trying times and difficult seasons but how you respond, adapt and improve is what really matters.  We make mistakes, our employees make mistakes but the value for us is taking those mistakes and turning them into opportunities to learn to be better, smarter and stronger for our customers and the future of our business.  

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I think what keeps me going is learning to let go of things out of my control and improving the things that are in my control.  Building a culture and a team that understands our vision and the future of the company keeps everyone moving forward!

I read on your blog, that your husband quit his job last year. As a wife,were you panicked at all? What encouraged you guys to stick with Melt and go all in for this business together?

It was a very calculated decision that we planned for and he kept great relationships with his industry peers.  Mark coming on board brought a wave of leadership and dedication to push the organization to new strategic growth.  We have such different strengths that we can play off of and I’m so grateful for that.  

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What is the biggest lesson you've learned about opening/running your own business so far?

I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one. There are so many small things we learn every day and every week about business.  I would probably say...

the most impactful thing I’ve learned is to always keep learning, never settle.

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Any advice for my readers who might want to open their own business in the near future?

Dive into researching and understanding your market, your customer, and your product.  The more knowledge you have up front, the less surprise you’ll have when you launch!

Anything exciting coming up for Melt and Motor Sisters that you'd like to share? 

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Moving MELT was a big feat and our grand re-opening last weekend was amazing, our team and our customers rallied support. It was beautiful to be a part of! The new shop (1201 W Magnolia Ave #115, Fort Worth, TX, opens Tue-Thurs & Sun 12 pm – 10 pm and Fri-Sun 12 pm – 11 pm) allows us more production space, a larger patio and a larger parking lot as well as extended summer hours! We now have additional permanent flavors, seasonal cone pairings and seasonal sundaes! Coming up, we have Christmas in July, one our most beloved days of the year. We will celebrate this mid-year holiday with all things Christmas-related on July 23, you don’t want to miss it!

I’m proud of Motor Sisters in Dallas because the brand embodies women empowerment and  the ice cream offerings are fun and funky! Have you had the Amelia Earhart? It’s a combo of salty and sweet, crushed pretzels, crunchy peanuts and lots of nutella sauce! The Truck Yard is such a fun and eclectic place to be a part of!

 

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What are your all-time favorite ice cream flavors?

This is a tough question! I have loved a lot of our non-dairy options like Coconut Curry and the Velvet Vegan! But currently the summer sundae is my favorite!!!

The One Who Wants to Help Others Get Debt-free

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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As the new year approaches, most of us have started to think about our goals for 2016. But today I do not want to talk about those 'basic' New Years Resolutions like "lose weight" or "eat more vegetables", because we have the tendency to fail them by like January 15th haha! I want to encourage you to start planning out the bigger life goals for 2016 like "pay off the car debt" or "get a degree", you know, to help you and your family thrive and get on to the next lever in 2016.  

So when I thought about who to feature in this month's 'Heroines' section, this young lady's name instantly came to mind. While most girls strive to be fashion bloggers or even reality stars, Naima Barnes want to help people to get out of debt and stay out of debt through her work as a financial planner and through her newly-launched blog called Finance Your Life.

 

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"I've always wanted to help people," she uttered as we started our conversation at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse one Saturday morning. Growing up seeing her parents being in debt and having to work hard to get out of it, has motivated Naima to help people through the field of Financial Planning. However, it was not until after her first internship during her college years at Ohio State University, that she knew this was the path she was going to pursue. "To see our clients go through different life stages and to know that they are going to be okay because we've helped them, and that they don't have to worry day to day about money anymore, gave me great satisfaction. That's when I knew this was something that I wanted to do."

 

Click play to watch the full interview and don't forget to subscribe :)

 

https://youtu.be/dM87t0oukEs

 

Naima reminded me that everyone from millennial young professionals, recent grads to 40 year-olds go through changes in life. And "we all need a blueprint, something to guide us financially throughout those changes". That's why she started her blog, which also has an instagram account filled with useful financial tips and inspiring quotes.

 

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Her biggest inspiration is Sophia Bera, a pioneer in virtual, personal financial planning through an online platform called Gen Y Planning. In the future, Naima also aims to start her own financial planning company while growing her blog.

 

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Speaking of future and time, she said something that really stuck to me.

Time always on your side. It is the best thing that you could ever use for your money. Because as time goes, your money could also grow. That is, if you save up of course.

Happy planning and saving, friends! And have a wonderful New Year ahead! :)

The One Who Wanted to Change The World in One Day

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

In a world where everyone tries so hard to impress people they don't even know or like through social media, I am very careful with who/what I'm feeding my mind, and therefore life, with. I am not so much interested in those who impress me anymore, but rather those who inspire me. And for this blog's 'heroines and badasses' posts, I don't want to just feature famous mom-bloggers. I want to feature real moms who are achieving their dreams in their own way, without having to 'sacrifice' their kids. So I was excited when I found out about this event planner slash mother of two. This momma right here doesn't just plan kid-friendly events. Through her creative event studio, Maxwell and Gray, she plans events that provide mothers with creative and fun activities which allow them to bond with other moms as well as their children. On top of that, she puts a little more thought and depth in to them. Meaning, these events are with purpose, mamas. Meet Stacy Hillstead. 

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After having a little chit-chat at one of her events back in October, I invited her for a playdate a few weeks ago. It was a busy, chaotic day for both of us and I must admit that it wasn't as smooth as we'd like it to be. Our boys were a little fussy and sleepy, but thankfully we managed to have a good conversation and take some pictures in between our toddler-chasing, or as Stacy'd like to call it, our 'Juggle Struggle' :) 

 

She seemed more calm than me though. And when she told me she had just gone to another meeting that day for her upcoming event, I wondered, "How does she do this?" and more importantly, "Why would she want all this trouble with event planning and mothering?"  - especially because she just moved to Dallas too! 

 

So I asked her these few questions. Read along and get inspired! 

 

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A lot of moms give up their dreams for their kids, but you seem to be discovering and pursuing new dreams after having kids. You used to plan weddings, and now you're planning events for moms and kids, with purpose. How did you come up with that idea? And in your opinion, how important is it for moms to pursue new dreams after having kids?  

 

I've always had crazy dreams. Ask my husband and he'll tell you that I wanted to change the world in a day. I've always had a deep calling in my heart to do something to help women but I never knew what that looked like. And having studied journalism growing up, I always had a passion to tell peoples' stories but again, never knew what that looked like. Fast forward to when when I first got involved with events as a wedding planner... I realized I could tell peoples' stories through events. The events could go deeper and actually be the end result of really cool people planning something really inspirational. And after I had my kids, I wanted so badly to connect with other moms and to find things to do apart from "the norm" (as much as I love the norm). I realized that I could, in fact, combine my two passions of helping women and storytelling through events to create events designed around moms and for moms that are still creative and well-executed. And my purpose with these events is to take that next step and dig deeper. Rather than just throwing something together haphazardly, I specifically reach out to small business owners to collaborate with who have the same passion of reaching and inspiring women.

 

 

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I feel like kids are the greatest inspiration for a mom to follow new dreams. God is always calling us to "go" in some shape or form and while scary, I think the most beautiful thing we can do as moms is to live out our dreams right in front of our children so they too can be inspired to reach for the stars. I'm a firm believer in timing and that there is a reason for everything. Whether your dream is to be at home with your kids or to be the next CEO, I've learned that if you're doing what you love, you will feel a confidence unlike anything else. And when you feel confident as a mom, you are able to love yourself more and in turn, love your kids even more.

 

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What has been the biggest challenge in doing all this so far?

 

The biggest challenge has been time. Honestly, finding time to plan and network and share my business and dream and connect with other entrepreneurs and women while being a mom of two kids is just as hard as it sounds. It's possible but it's a challenge. And sometimes you feel guilty for wanting to work for a few hours when you want to be with your kids. Or when you're with your kids, you find yourself wishing you had more time to work - it's an honest challenge and it's real but I find myself praying for energy at 10 or 11 at night to make this work. The other challenge is doing it alone. It's scary. When I decided to start my own business and to just "dive in", I didn't know exactly how it would work or what would come of it, but I just followed my heart and continue to do so knowing that amazing people are being placed in my life to encourage and uplift and support, which is more than I could ever ask for.

 

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How do you overcome it/them?

 

With the help of three things. 1. My husband. Honestly, I believe a marriage has to be so strong once you become a parent. And even stronger after you become a business owner. He is constantly supporting, encouraging, challenging and helping with the kids - all of which I could never do alone. 2. My faith and drive. My dad always said, "If you do what you love, work hard and serve the Lord, the rest will follow." And I believe that. There's a lot I don't know these days, but I DO know I'm following my heart and am on the right path. My faith keeps me going when I have self-doubt or fear or exhaustion. 3. Sharing. To my point above about it being scary starting a new business or following your dreams, I've come to learn that sharing your story and passion with others is the best piece of advice. People are always willing to help and if nothing else, lend an open ear. I've found by opening up, meeting new people, sharing about my mission and spending time with others has been the biggest blessing these first few months.

 

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Last one, 3 things you love about Dallas?
Community - It is incredibly family-friendly but still inspiring and unique and creative where you can do fun things with your kids
Restaurants - I never knew Dallas had great restaurants but after living here for several months now, we've found amazing hidden gems of local eateries that we love.
Libraries & Parks - I was never one to always go to the public library, but now that I have kids, I have found myself exploring new museums and libraries and have been blown away by the public library story times, play areas, etc. Also, the parks. Compared to where we lived in San Francisco, they are so clean, so safe and so easily accessible. We find ourselves outside all the time!
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If you are in the DFW area this weekend and looking for something to do with your kiddo, sign up for her event, Gathered. 
Gathered
Or if you are more interested to give back, sign up for her December event :) 
Coffee+Caring
Don't forget to show love and follow her on instagram!

The One Who Juggles Motherhood and Online Business

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

I can't remember how I found her instagram account, but I remember getting interested at this momma's profile picture. I was almost certain that she was a fellow mom-blogger. But she turned out to be an Etsy shop owner! "Whoa, does she also stay at home with her kid?," I wondered, "How does anyone manage to do this?"  

I've heard a number of other mothers who really want to do their own thing, starting up a blog or a business or something, because they know that they have the passion, the talent, and the education to support them. But, they're either too scared or too lazy to do it. It seems so hard, right? Building something from scratch? Maintaining it, pouring your all to it. But then, isn't it all worth it? Isn't having a flexible schedule that allows you to spend more time with your child while doing what you love worth the hard work?

Yes, I know, it's easier said than done. But this woman right here seems to be doing it pretty well! Ready to learn from her? :)

Meet Jacki Brown.

 

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Have you always wanted to be a mother? 

Yes!  Recently my mom found an old essay I wrote when I was about 10 about what I wanted to be when I grew up. The first thing on the list of things I wanted was to be a mom. I've always wanted to be a mom and have a big family and lots of babies, 1 down hopefully lots more babies to go.

I was a full time college student before becoming a mom, so I worked jobs here and there, including a tutoring job, alongside school but I never entered the real workforce per say. I graduated with my BA in Psychology at UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) 20 days before I gave birth to Eli! So I went from full time student to full time mom just like that.

 

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Motherhood in 3 words for you

Hard, funny and awesome.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I think it ultimately started with a desire for both Zac and I to work from home for ourselves or to free up time to be able to travel and road trip! Little Native was started last November by me as a way to do something I really like and make some extra income then we finally decided together that we wanted to start a leather and woodworking business called Arrow & Board this past August. Of course our dream of working full time at home for ourselves (or in an airstream on the road into the middle of Montana or something ;) is still far off but maybe someday! Today though my husband just started a new job and I am enjoying life at home with my babe all while running our businesses!

 

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What does your husband think about all this?

Zac is very supportive of anything I do and is my main go-to guy for questions about either business. He's a numbers guy and I'm a creative so we work well together (most of the time ;) and support each other.

 

Any mommy-entrepreneur that inspires you?

My aunt! She started and runs love41.com it's a for-profit company that gives all their proceeds to orphans, widows and street kids in Rwanda!

 

What's the biggest challenge in balancing business & family life?

Time! When Eli is awake during the day I try to not work on filling orders etc. I try to spend my time more intentionally focused on him. Same thing with my husband, we always try to at least eat dinner together in the evening and try to go to bed at the same time ( these two things sound so easy and maybe most people have them down but they can be hard for us to do).

 

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Obviously some days I can't achieve all the things I mentioned, some days I just have too much to do (today is one of those days) but having the mindset of intentionally spending time with my boys helps. Plus I work my butt off during naptime.

 

It takes time. Don't get discouraged, starting Little Native was slooooow gooooing but I kept going and it paid off. Stay inspired, keep on keeping on, for me that was continuing on making designs for shirts or creating bags and having fun with it. You'll get there, keep up the good work.

 

Where did you get the idea to start Little Native shop?

It honestly came out of a want to have Eli dressed really cute without having to pay a whole lot of money but it's turned into something more! We are part Comanche Indian so the Native American Indian inspired designs seemed fitting and with the idea that every kid is a "Little Native" to somewhere I thought it was a great name for my brand!

 

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I started looking into hand screen printing and found out that it was easier than it looked so I tried it and loved it! I've got a lot to learn still but I'm getting there and looking to the future with new ideas for Little Native.

 

 

How do you find inspiration for your new designs?

I stick to Native American inspired designs! It's part of my heritage and family so I take those classic designs and draw them out myself into my own style of design and then make them into screens for tees.

  With Arrow & Board, how involved are you in the whole process (production, marketing, etc)?

My husband does most of the woodworking part but for the leather working I am very involved, I know how to make all of our products by hand and am frequently the one who is filling orders on a day to day basis. Other than handcrafting products I am the social media and photography girl! I'm learning more about SEO and how to get our company out there and seen by people. I'm excited about the future of Arrow & Board!

  Any future plans for the brands and the family?

Currently some of Arrow & Board products include Apple Watch Bands, iPhone 6 Wallet Sleeve and a bohemian style fringe bag but we are working on a simple wallet, a field notes case and a couple other things. Arrow & Board is fun and I feel like it has lots of potential to do really well! Little Native has had the same designs for quite a while so I've got plans to get some new designs out (I really want to do a thunderbird print!) before Christmas. Plus I've started making personalized hand stamped leather bracelets, that was inspired by all the leatherworking involved in Arrow & Board.

 

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As for our family, we are moving to Austin in the next couple of months, my husband just started a new job there! We're in the process of putting our house on the market and house hunting for a new place. We are going to miss our family and our church home and friends here in San Antonio but know and trust that this move is part of the plan that God has for our lives. We can't wait to see what He has in store for our businesses and our lives there in Austin! Oh and yes, babies, I want more and we're ready, so whenever it happens it happens!

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At the time of this interview, Jacki hadn't find out about the fact that she's actually having another baby. Show love and congratulate her on instagram here :)

 

 

 

The One Who Keeps It Real

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

It's been almost a year since the last time I did an article on inspiring mothers. With the sickness (back in June) and everything that happened in between, I just haven't been able to do interviews and photoshoots in the past few months. But I've realized that "Heroines & Badasses" is one of my favourite article to write because I am not writing about me, I am writng about other people! Now with the rise of "#momsoninstagram", it's not easy to find someone who is real let alone relatable. Some are too staged with their photos on instagram, some are too 'up there and unapproachable', and many just don't even try (I'm sorry, I know we all have struggles, but I needed someone who has the right balance between being stylish and being real for this article, although not all mothers whom I've interviewed for this section is a blogger). So I was excited when I found a fellow Dallas mom-blogger, Camille Elena.

  

You know, when you see someone and you go, "I think I can get along with her." Yeah, that's how I felt looking at her photos on instagram. Not because we are so alike, in fact we're not. But because she seemed stylish without trying too hard, very casual, and relatable as a mother. She's not like one of those fashion bloggers who are just 'up there' you know. So yeah, I decided to reach out a few weeks ago and we ended up having coffee together last week. And, she brought little Zara with her!

     There was no attitude, she did not try to overcomplicate her answers, she turned out to be exactly how I thought she would be.

Motherhood in 3 words for you : Learning, stretching, and moving.

 

Have you always wanted to be a mother? Why? Not necessarily. The thought of having kids horrified me, especially since I was trying to finish up my degree at the time. My plan was to have kids at 30, or none at all. That is, until I met Robert.  

 

Why did you decide to become a stay-at-home mom? I worked part-time at ISP Studios as a production assistant and book-keeper while I was in college. Soon after having Zara, I graduated and tried working while being a new mom, but it was hard taking a newborn along. So I stopped for a while and decided that being a stay-at-home mom was best for the time being. She won’t be this little forever.

 

The best part about being Zara's mom?  Having a stand-in cuddle buddy when Robert is at work.

 

  

  

How would you describe your style? Clean, classic, chic but with hints of however I’m feeling that day thrown into my outfits. I like to add elements of bohemia, the 70’s, and edge. I also love neutral colors, but I’m not opposed to color either.

 

How do you make the time to dress up nicely and do your make up with a kiddo running around? (I honestly need some tips on this haha) One thing motherhood has taught me is the art of distraction. Most of the time Zara just simply wants to be with me, so whether I’m taking a shower or putting on makeup, I’ll usually let her hop in with me (clothes and all) or let her play in my makeup bag so she can feel as if she’s participating. It takes twice as long, but it makes her happy!  

  

As Zara continues to grow, how would you teach her about balancing between loving fashion, and having an inner-beauty? How do you do it with yourself so far? Well, the first thing I want to instill in her is to be confident in who she is and that inner-beauty is what matters the most. I also want to teach her that being herself in her love for fashion is also important and not to get too wrapped up in trying to be/dress like everyone else. Being different is what’s beautiful!

 

Who inspires you to be a fashion/mom-blogger? My mom of course! I sincerely believe if it weren’t for her, my sense of fashion wouldn’t be as keen as it is today. She is such a fashionable woman who has always dressed smart and appropriate for her age. And to be honest, she has always been more fashion-forward than me. She has always told me to wear what I want, because when I’m old I won’t be able. I am also inspired by other moms who are going through similar situations as me. In a sense, it’s as if we’re going through it together when we share stories and when we connect.

  

 

I've seen a lot of blogger post about the struggle to stay sane in this social media-crazed world, because as you know, we often find ourselves comparing ourselves with the other bloggers. Honestly, I feel that way too every now and then. What do you do when you feel that way? Any words of encouragement or tips? I try not to compare myself to others simply because I wasn’t taught to compare myself with anyone growing up. Instead of comparing, I like to see what I can learn from other bloggers on how they style their outfits or engage with their followers. I also keep in mind that they’re people just like me who are not perfect and who are just trying to put their best foot forward. So my word of encouragement to anyone reading is this: No one will ever be as good at being you than YOU.

 

How is your Mr. doing so far in terms of supporting your passion for fashion and blogging, what does he think of it? I think at first he was a bit skeptical and annoyed when I would ask him to take pictures, but he’s coming around to it. He’s not into social media at all, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have to take so many pictures, but he does understand that I enjoy doing it. I balance it out by blogging at night before I go to bed or while Zara naps, so it doesn’t interfere with family time. Now, I don’t think he minds it so much.

 

Fall is coming soon, any must-have fashion item for fall? Because I am a lover of shoes, the item that I am lusting over is the cut-out leather bootie! I recently purchased some Dolce Vita brand booties and I just can’t get enough and I certainly can’t wait to incorporate them into all my summer outfits, because let’s face it, the summer heat isn’t going anywhere for a while in Texas. And I am a firm believer that getting a new pair of shoes is like getting a whole new wardrobe, so the possibilities are endless!

 

She also encourages us mothers to know what we can and cannot pull off in terms of wearing fashion items and trends. "Lady Gaga can pull off just about anything because she's Lady Gaga, but what she got on might not look good on us! So make sure you know what works best for you, find your own style," she said.

Since we brought our kids that day, the chit-chat and photoshoot surely didn't go as smoothly as they might seem in the photos. I had to bring an iPad, a spare car key, and some blackberries to calm J down. Camille had to nurse Zara in between shoots, Zara bumped her head in my car when I hit the brake (because I thought the traffic light went green when it actually went red), I mean it was crazy! But it was real. And that's what I love about meeting up with real mothers.

  

   

When asked about the message she wants to convey through social media and blogging, Camille simply answered, "Be relatable."

Well said, mama.

The One Who Does Her Part

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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I'm not sure of when did the phenomenon that Anthony Bourdain once described as the Hipster Apocalypse officially started, but in the last 7 years, I have seen more and more of hipsters or their wannabe's walking around the planet, even in third-world countries. Who are they and what do they look like? In a nutshell, the males usually have this long beard (if not hair) and tattoos. They wear skinny jeans and round-rim hats. The females are usually dressed in some boho-vintage-inspired outfit (probably bought at Urban Outfitters or American Apparel). They  are into arts, vintage vinyl, vintage camera (and polaroids). They drink craft beer (and even the gluten-free ones). And they are usually into bands that nobody's ever heard before as well as indie movies that nobody really gets.

infograph by MIchael Mahaffey

 

Yeah, the infograph above has pretty much summed it up. Hipsters are basically the 'anti-mainstream' people, which I think is pretty ironic since being a hipster is almost as mainstream as being gay in America these days.

They usually live in Denver, Austin, or Brooklyn (or aspire to do so). Many of them are vegan or vegetarian (or paleo or whatever), they shop organic and certified fair-trade products, do yoga, and yet smoke on regular basis at the same time. Yeah more irony right there.

Okay why am I talking about them, again? Oh yeah, I am writing a prologue of my friend Karen's inspiring story, because she kinda reminds me of those hipsters I saw at Williamsburg, Brooklyn where my friend Kathy used to take me back in summer 2011. Not because Karen hangs a dreamcatcher on her walls or wears flower crowns in the summer, but because she is just a 'normal' person who lives in Dallas, not into weed nor Bon Iver but is actually abiding by the natural and organic lifestyle in its truest form.

You shop in an all-organic grocer? She volunteers in a co-op and gets produce, meat, eggs, and even yoghurt delivered to a pick-up point straight from the farm. You use eco-friendly diapers? She uses cloth diapers. You drink kombucha? She grows it herself at her own kitchen! Seriously, how hippie can a person be? Haha...

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I find the fact that she is a very normal yet very 'earth-loving' person to be fascinating. "I'm an undercover hippie", she joked to me once. Whatever you call these people who choose a more natural lifestyle like Karen these days, I think we ought to learn from her. Cause everyone has a story of why they do things the way they do,

and the following is hers.

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I have always been passionate about health and well-being. Having volunteered in associations like the Amigos Sin Fronteras, I knew from a very young age, that helping other people especially with their health was something that I wanted to do for a living. So I went on to study stomatology in BUAP (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla) for almost 5 years before studying dental hygiene for another 3 years in Houston, Texas. Throughout these years spent learning and working in medical field, I was exposed to so many different aspects of the industry that were quite traumatizing, including witnessing  a woman in labor and c-section surgeries. "I wouldn't want to see all this when I give birth one day. I want to get anesthetized and sleep through the whole process," I said to myself.

While still studying, around year 2008, I started to experience many symptoms that lead to confusion. It took the doctors 9 months to diagnose me with hyperthyroidism. I had to take so many medication, my blood pressure sky-rocketed, and if I was to follow their advice I would have to take the medication forever -- which can't be good, right? Moreover, they told me that it would be hard for me to conceive a child. And if I ever got pregnant, it would be a high-risk pregnancy, since I would have to take some hormonal meds (that I was allergic of). Lastly, they told me that it was better for me to have my thyroid removed.

On top of it all, my liver was intoxicated and I couldn't handle the medication anymore. And then in 2011, my sister, who'd just given birth naturally at home, suggested me to look for alternative treatments. I then stopped taking the medication at the beginning of 2012 and started consulting my health with a chiropractor, who taught me that healing and health start with the right diet. I thought I was healthy, I mean I used to give nutritional consultation back then. But I discovered that what I Iearned in school was largely influenced by the food industry (for example : they used to say that coconut oil is bad for you because of the fat, but the truth is, it is actually good for your heart, read more here. whereas the popular canola and corn oil are more suspicious because most of them got GMO's).

So I started to do an intense detoxification diet : no wheat, soy, canola, corn, and dairy.

I know that God gives us miracles, but I also realize that it is our responsibility to take care of our own body. We ask Him to do His part all the time, without realizing that we need to do our part and give thanks

My healing started when I realized that I was already healed. That all I needed to survive and to be healthy was already there. I stopped asking for healing and started to give thanks for it, while doing my best to keep my health. I even gave thanks for a baby that I did not have yet.

I felt at peace and my whole attitude changed when I started to be grateful and to take that step of faith.

And in less than 2 months, I got pregnant.

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Now I knew that if I'd gone to the regular ob-gyns, they would've treated me as if I had a high-risk pregnancy. So I went to a midwife, who could tell my baby's position just by touching and feeling my belly and not by conducting an ultrasonography observation all the time. I did everything naturally, my thyroid level was normal, and my whole pregnancy was easy (I didn't even experience morning sickness). Finally on March 2013, I gave birth to my precious Benjamin through water birth.

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Even during labor, I embraced the natural pain that I felt. I knew that it was there to give me a sign that Ben was going to be born soon. It was a moment like no other, and it got us, my husband and I, closer than ever before.

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I believe that our part as human is also to consume things the way God has created them to be consumed, or in other words naturally. That's why I still breastfeed my little one and eat healthy. And that's why I question everything now regarding my child's well-being, like the benefits of immunization and even the school system.

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Not everything is bad as bad as you think and not everything is as good as you think. The key is to ask the right people and do your own research.

The One with a Handmade Love

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

This particular interview is special because it's the first one that I've done live since moving to Dallas. For months, I've been interviewing mothers whom I've found inspiring in their own way from all over the world, through sending emails /instant messaging / social media chats. This one however, was 'real' and I actually took these photographs myself (I think they're pretty good for a self-taught amateur photographer don't you think? hehe...). Anyways, it all started when I met her at my church' nursing room on one Saturday afternoon. She stood out from 5 other mothers who were there nursing their babies because she was carrying her baby on a really unique-looking carrier which happened to be a custom-made Mei Tai. Other mothers noticed it too and started to ask her about it. Now I, being all shy and trying-to-be-as-subtle-as-possible kind of blogger, didn't want to approach her until there was no one else in the room. Long story short, it was not until 1 month after that day that I managed to finally interview her.

Crystal, is her name. And the following is her view as well as experience on everything from baby-wearing to running a business at home.

***

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Growing up in a rural area, I have always been used to making things from scratch. My parents are farmers, my dad crafts leather goods, my mom makes canned food, and both of my grandmas were seamstress. Creating things with my own hands comes naturally for me.

I decided to study Fiber Arts when I went to college and that's where I fell in love with African fabrics. What attracted me the most about it was the way that it was used by African society in so many ways, one of which is in baby-wearing. Many years after, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I then started to dig deeper on the benefits of baby-wearing. I did a lot of research and decided that it was the best for my baby and me.

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I found out that baby-wearing fosters the much-needed parent-baby connection which will nurture the baby's confidence. Many might claim that carrying your baby or toddler 'too often' might cause him to be clingy, over-attached, and over-dependent. But I experience the contrary. My kids are fairly social. They are confident, they have no separation anxiety, and I believe that it's due to their established sense of security through baby-wearing.

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I am actually a part of the North Dallas Wearing Mamas, I've been doing it since I had my first child and it has more positive impact on my kids and me, more than most people think it has. I mean, even if you have back issues, you can just wear your baby and he will act as counter pressure to solve it. How great is that? However, I am not against strollers, at all.

I just love the practicality, since I do on-demand nursing. It's just easier for us moms to read our baby's cues, you know. We can quickly tell if they're hungry or needs a diaper change or a nap. It actually reduces crying and therefore relaxes the baby. Plus, you can freely do your chores and cook with your two hands while nursing him in your soft-structured carrier! It's a win-win solution.

I make my own soft-structured carrier (in this case, it's Mei-Tai, as seen in picture below). I choose the color, pattern, and style according to my liking. A lot of people like it when they see it so they often ask me to make their custom-made carriers. That's why I develop Fox Paper Scissors, where you can find things like nursing/teething necklaces, women's & baby clothes/accessories, soft toys, knitted garments & accessories, homegoods, and much more.

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Since working on these homemade goods, I have become a work-at-home mom. It is not easy, but I am committed to give the best for my kids. It took me a while to find my husband. I had a series of relationships with people who I just couldn't picture raising a family with. So when I finally find him and started a family together, I just knew that I wanted to do it in the best possible way, and to us that is as natural as possible. Of course, that doesn't mean we're perfect. My daughter still plays with an iPad every now and then.

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I am quite of an idealist who just wouldn't let anyone else influence the core principles of my kids. And I am blessed enough to be able to take care of them myself at home.

So far we garden, we mostly eat organic, and we are thinking of adapting some elements of the unschooling method. I am not prescribing it though, I just want to adapt some elements of it. I do not want to put too much emphasis on what my kids can and cannot do. I want the kind of education that actually fosters their creativity through playing, traveling, and of course, art.

 

The One with 4 Kids & a Fashion Blog

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

I must admit, having a toddler running around (yes, J started walking 2 weeks ago), making breakfast + lunch + dinner 5 days a week, doing the laundry and blogging in between have made "getting stylishly dressed" for a day out seems impossible. However, I've come to realize that taking care of myself is crucial not only to me but to my kid(s). I mean, I wouldn't want them to grow up with a mother who does a great job in taking care of everything and everybody else but herself. What kind of principle/message am I communicating/teaching by living that way?
I think a person's "inner beauty" should actually visible. Not only through her attitude, words, and actions, but also through how she represents herself. And in this case, through how she wears her clothes.

I found this mother's blog when I was looking for some inspiration. And to my surprise, she can manage to look so effortlessly good with 4, not 1, but 4 kids running around!!!!  Whaaatt....??

Her style is real. Not too fancy and glamorous like Kim or Beyonce. Which what we, real everyday mothers, can achieve too ourselves! Decent, not flashy. Nothing speaks class more than subtlety, right?
So let us learn from her. A stylist, a wife, a mommy, a soup stirrer and an "occasional dinner burner" whose life soundtrack includes Bach, Brandie Carlisle, First Aid kit, and "(sadly) Frozen". She drinks tea, thrifts and blogs during her spare time ("wait, what is spare time?"), here is Shalice Noel.
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I played with dolls since forever and I used to babysit too. I was that kind of babysitter that turned off the TV and played with the kids the whole time. I loved it! And after my husband and I got married, we got pregnant shortly after. 3 months into the marriage, to be exact. My first daughter (now age 6) arrived at our first wedding anniversary. It kind of makes us laugh now but it was one tough year!
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With so many activities done during the day, I write in the wee hours of the night, which makes for hard mornings. I keep all random ideas noted in a folder on my phone so no matter where I am, I can document inspiration. Because we all know the best ideas are when we least expect, like when your hands are wet while doing laundry.

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Speaking of laundry, while taking care of my 4 kids, I have learned to spend a little time on myself. To forget the laundry, because it'll always be there. I mean, I haven't seen the bottom of my laundry basket in months! Spend a little time on yourself, mothers. On your hair, get a new lip stick, get fitted for a new bra and jeans that actually fit! I've found that the number one problem mom's have is not getting properly fitted and wearing the wrong sizes. No one feels good when frump is going on.

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I have always been into fashion. I used to prep all my outfits the night before and devoured fashion mags and pinned looks on boards. The old fashioned way, ha! Now to 'keep up' with it without spending too much money on it, I think it's best to invest in your closet. Namely a good bag and a good pair of shoes. If you follow me on Instagram or my blog you'll notice I use the same pieces over and again. This is because I've learned through trial and error how to shop smart. And what pieces will carry you through the seasons. I blog about this at www.shalicenoel.blogspot.com/costperwear. Feel free to check it our and get inspired!

I'm working with some great companies, a giveaway planned and had a blast modeling Anthropologie's FW line last week. I definitely succumb to baby fever and I'd love to have a 5th kid, but who knows. Because life will never slow down from here or get any crazier?

***

The One Who Makes Her Surroundings Beautiful

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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Ask her what she loves to snack on, and she  will definitely say "peanut butter toast and banana slices" :)
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*photo by Sugar Fit
As for what she loves to do, you don't have to ask. Just check out her styling & decorating IG account where she makes it obvious that keeping her surroundings beautiful is her passion.
a wife, a mom, a DIY and decorating maestro, here is Reneé Richello.
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Growing up, I have four younger siblings, so being around babies and kids is nothing new for me. I actually looked forward to having my own. It was hard to believe that it was real at first, when we found out about my first baby. My husband and I were "ready," or so we thought! It was a wonderful time, preparing to become parents. Fast-forward to today, we are incredibly happy and blessed with two boys, Joseph Isaiah (2 y.o) and Domenic James (1 y.o).
Juggling motherhood is not easy, but it does not mean that you can't keep your house tidy and pretty. One thing that I've learned to be very helpful is to clean and pick up toys at intervals throughout the day, and have my boys help. For example, if we are leaving the house, we take a few moments to pick up and put away. We also do this before nap times and before bedtime. I want them to learn that their toys don't get put away magically!
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Also, for toy storage, I love having lots of baskets and a designated place for everything. It's so much easier to clean up when there's a place to put it all! I've learned as well to just make lower cabinets, shelves, and tables for the boys and their toys so I am never worried about something being broken or dangerous.
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More than just keeping it tidy, I also love to keep my home pretty. My mom is an artist and from a very young age she inspired me to make my surroundings beautiful. She put a very special corner cabinet in my room when I was a teenager, and there I often practiced styling and decorating.
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I am very inspired by nature ~ I love bringing nature indoors. I am always drawn to light and bright spaces, and designs that I can do myself inexpensively.
I just bought some lovely gray chalky-finish paint, so I'm experimenting with painting many small furniture and decor pieces ~ one being a stool for my boys bathroom to help them reach the sink. My next big project will be turning my boys' closet into a reading nook ~ I can't wait to start that one!  I'm just getting started with a handlettered print business, and will be opening a shop soon!
If you are looking for some decorating inspiration, my favorites are magazines like House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Country Living, and Better Homes and Gardens.
Keep it clean, fun, and beautiful, mommas.
 

The One Who Just Wants to be a Mom

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

Just like gaziollions of other 21st century human being in the world, I spend probably upto 30 percents of my day (or more) instagramming. What? Oh come on, admit it, you guys do too. It's so fun to just look at pictures of people we don't really know and find out what they're having for lunch. Haha. I usually look for inspiration to write on instagram by clicking the 'explore' button and just by checking out what's popular. I like the idea of getting inspired by others through looking at their pictures, without having to 'add' them as 'friends' because that would be awkward (no offense, facebook, I still love you). I follow tons of other mom-bloggers, successful momma-preneurs, and mom-instragrammers who posts cool pics of their babies and their lives in general. It just charms me to see others enduring motherhood with their own style. Just like this momma right here. Screen shot 2014-08-21 at 8.13.48 PM

Young, stylish without trying too hard (cause I am not really fond of those who dress up too 'voguish'-ly - if that's even a word-  to look good on instagram), Krissa looks like an everyday mom who manages to grace motherhood without forgetting to take care of herself. Here's her beautiful little story that I hope will put a little smile on your face.

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On Being a Momma

I went to collage and majored in Studio Art. I met my future husband there and eventually dropped out. "Art is just my hobby," I told my dad, and "What I really want to do is be a mom!". The first time around, motherhood came as no surprise to us. Jeremy and I were freshly married and doing what married people do. He was on his xbox and I was figuring out the pregnancy test like a kid with a new toy. I yelled the test results from the bathroom and we screamed and laughed and danced. So nervous but loving it.

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Although, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage shortly after, I like to remember those first feelings we had. We had a few more miscarriages and a long, scary 9 months but 3 years later I gave birth (emergency C-section) to the chubbiest and healthiest baby boy I have ever seen, Archer Atlas DuBois.

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On The Biggest Challenge That Comes with Motherhood So Far

No time for the hubs was the worst. Archer turned into my "new best friend" and we did everything together. Jeremy would start kissing me and I would hear a faint baby coo and be up in the nursery before he even opened his eyes! (I feel ya, Kriss, kisses v.s. baby coo's are never easy to choose from - moz)

IMG957095 As much as I felt bad for Jeremy I'm glad that I was so infatuated with my little babe. I mean yeah, sleeping in Archer's crib might have been overboard but at least I embraced that precious newborn stage. Jeremy says he hardly noticed. So I guess we're good there...

On Lessons Learned & Her On-going Projects

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I've learned to take care of myself (I eat my veggies now). I've learned to be more patient; and I've also learned that family trumps all. My dudes are inspiration and I want to be the best that I can be for them!

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Right now I'm working on a couple of projects. I have the BITSYbb denim, which is a distressed jeans and shorts line for babies. I'm also trying to open a local baby store full of unique baby products (this is a long-term project). All the while, I redo furniture with my big brother for his shop. And to top it all off, Jeremy and I are currently trying for another boy ;)

The One Who Didn't Like to Cook

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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There are way too many people who are into taking self-potraits nowadays. From work-out selfies, getting-ready-for-the-day selfies, I'm-taking-a-vacation "thighs selfies", to of course me-and-my-baby selfies. Ain't nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I just want things that are more inspiring to be on my instagram feed! So I decided to explore the social media and stumbled upon this extraordinary momma's instagram called @peachpiku that's got pictures of cute food like the one below. Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 9.05.11 PM

As it turns out, this particular mom promotes making homemade meals for your own child in the most creative ways, and I think we should get to know her a little closer than her food art.

Vicka Queenthantina Angelika is a former banker who is now a stay-at-home mom of the 1.5 year little man, Muhammad Athar Benzema, in the city of Indramayu, Indonesia.

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With her husband working abroad, Vicka has learned to enjoy raising Athar with only the help of her parents. And so far, I think it's pretty clear that she is doing just fine. With no further due, here is my little chit-chat with the woman behind those gorgeous food art posts.

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1. How would you describe motherhood so far?
Alhamdulillah, I feel very blessed to be given such amazing responsibility of raising, educating, and guiding my God-given son. Being a mom is not a goal nor a dream, it is a phase of life that I was meant to go through once I've decided to be a wife :) That's what my mother taught me. I am grateful that I got my baby right after tying the knot, remembering there are a lot of other women out there who'd have to struggle just to get pregnant.
2. Wow, what a genuine thought on motherhood. Speaking of, do you actually cook for Athar? Are those instagram posts "real"?
Yes of course, the food I post are homecooked meals I've prepared myself for my own son, even though not all of them suits his taste. Sometimes he would eat just a little, and other times he would not eat them at all :) But it is completely normal, in my opinion. So if anyone asks me on IG, I would just answer them honestly, I do not need to 'maintain an image' or anything like that.
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I'm not doing this to be seen as a crafty and clever mom whose son is such a good eater, because he's not always like that at all.  I am doing this because I was inspired by other mothers (like the ones at Mama Koki Handal) who cook homemade meals for their kids, which I think is a positive thing that I can do too. I love the fact that I can share the food I cook for my son with other moms on instagram. It's like talking with a bunch of friends and staying updated without even stepping outside my home. And you know being a stay-at-home mom will make you feel quite 'outdated' at times, right?
3. Agreed :) But anyways, have you always been such a great cook?
The funny thing is, I was always the person who thought of cooking as something super complicated and unappealing! I didn't even like helping my mother in the kitchen. But I have grown so much now, particularly because of Athar. And my love for cooking has grown too :) It has grown to the point where not cooking feels wrong...maybe because it means there's nothing to post on instagram! hahaha!
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4.Now, with a mom who's a good cook, is Athar a good eater?
From the first time he got introduced to solid food, Athar has never eaten that much. He eats, but with a small portion. Every kid is different, some are really good eaters and some are not.
20140805-113209-41529427.jpgThat's why I do not want to force him to finish his food all the time, because I know he still gets great nutrition from breastfeeding. I am not saying we do not have to be consistent in feeding our kids, I'm just saying that we do not need to panic when he is not eating that much.
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As long as his body weight is normal, and he is not affected by any disease, he is fine. So far, Athar has been very healthy, he is a strong boy. Thanks to breastmilk too of course!
 5. Appreciate the honesty. Now do you plan Athar's meal everyday? How do you do it so creatively?
I get this comment all the time on instagram. But the truth is, I don't think I am that creative. I just love what I see other moms do on instagram and pinterest, put my little spin on it and voila! Those are what you see on my posts. I usually think of them the night before and do some shopping at the market the next day before cooking them. Again, Athar does not always eat them. But it's okay, I see this more as my project as a mom. Does that sound selfish? Hahaha..
6. Not really, you go momma! :) Okay last one, you promote breastfeeding on your IG profile, you must be a total believer! Any thoughts that might help other nursing moms out there?
Yes, I really believe in breastfeeding. At first, my breastmilk didn't come out until three days after Athar's birth. Afterwards, I have been eating a lot of veggies and thankfully, it has been enough for Athar. It is a struggle, but it has challenged me to stay creative. One time, Athar refused to drink from my left breast, and it hurt because it started to get really full and 'swollen'. I had to figure out a way to make him want to drink from that one again. Not so long after, he turned and drank from it, and it has been running very smoothly until today.

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According to my Moslem belief, a mom ought to nurse her baby for 2 years. It says so in the Quran, so I abide by it. All I need to do is to pray, keep my motives right and my heart straight, everything else will fall into place.

 

The One Who Has Got Something to Give

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

The idea of being away from a career, a precious little world made of lifelong best friends, and all of the familiarity of a home country might often seem to outweigh one's need to be with her husband abroad. As you might know, a lot of women choose to do a long-distance marriage for such reason (among many others, I don't judge, really). However, moving abroad might still be 'appealing' if your husband is being assigned to work or to study in big cities like New York or London. But what if he is being allocated somewhere more remote and unpopular? Will it be a deadend? chica1

Not to this hijabi mother-of-two, it's not! She bravely decided to follow her husband from Indonesia all the way to New Bedford, Massachusetts (never heard of the city before? Same here! -moz) about 4 years ago with a 4-month-old baby under her care. She is not afraid of the unknown. Even better, she subdues the unknown and make it familiar. She has inspired me to be proactive in enjoying the city I'm in. And I hope she'd inspire you too, as you read along.

A lionhearted wife, a dedicated mother, and a charming blogger, Here is Chica.

***

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On being a Momma

I am the oldest of 6. My youngest sibling is 13 years younger than me. So I am used to the responsibility of being my mom's right hand when it comes to taking care of younger kids. Even so, becoming a stay-at-home mom has never occurred to me before. In fact, up until I was in year 6 of elementary school, I didn't know what a stay-at-home mom was! Because the mother I knew growing up was the kind of mom who was very much a career woman.

Many years later, at the start of my relationship with my husband, Ara (then-boyfriend) expressed his desire to marry me under one circumstance : I should be a full-time mom. I clearly rebelled against this! I was a student at one of Indonesia's  top universities, dreaming of working for an oil company with a paycheck of thousands of dollars after graduation! I couldn't end up staying at home!! Besides, I have always been active, I could never sit around at home all day! (turns out, being a SaHM never allows you to just sit around, right? hehehe). Anyway, we got engaged and then got into a 2-year long-distance relationship when my then-fiancee decided to pursue his master's degree in Germany.

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As time passed us by, I started to realize that being a full-time mom does not mean forsaking my degrees (she got a master's degree from University of Indonesia, and her bachelor's was from ITB - moz).  There is a greater cause to fight for here! I am obliged to excellently play my role as a wife and as a mother, especially during these golden years of their growth as children, and our development as a family. This does not mean forgetting my long-term dreams and goals either, for Ara fully supports them. He has been my bestfriend since we were in college, by the way.

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We finally got married! Our firstborn Malik Azka Sagara Hakim (4 y.o) came when we were about to move to the U.S. Ara went first, then Azka and I flew together a few months after (yes, that long flight, just the two of us!). Afterwards, Khalif Arana Razzaq Hakim (2 y.o) came into this world, being the first American in the family.

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Raising two boys can keep you really busy. Alhamdulillah my dear husband accommodates my need of some "me time" by allowing me to have at least 1 hour away from home chores and the kids. You know, to work out, ride a bike, take photos, and to write. It helps keeping me balanced.

On Moving to the U.S.

I was so excited to move to the U.S. ! I can clearly recall that one time back in 2005 when I told my friends that I wanted to live in America with Ara and our own little family when they asked me "Where are you going to be in the next 5 years?" Alhamdulillah, by the power of dream, the universe conspired to make it happen!

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To be honest, the early days of living here were not easy at all. I was thrilled to go on an adventure in America, but then I had to adapt with my life as a new mom, which could be really stressful. Besides, the absence of relatives and family really made it harder. I was overwhelmed. Back then, we lived in an empty apartment, we couldn't afford a furniture so we needed to borrow our landlord's. I couldn't even cook while eating out would be expensive. We didn't have a car so we had to ride buses everywhere. Ara even had to walk to his campus during hailing snow in winter back then! And in summer, our non-air-conditioned apartment would get very hot. Can you imagine?

But through all of these tough times, Ara would always say to me "enjoy the process"...

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So we did, and we are stronger for it today.

 

On Enjoying New Bedford

It's a good thing that I have once worked as a researcher and that I am always eager to check on things. So for example, when the management of an apartment we wanted to move into told us that we were not illegible to do so because of our citizenship, I went online and looked for legal statutes to prove them wrong. As a result, the management agreed that they were being unfair and that we could move in to that apartment! It is much cheaper and it comes with good amenities and benefits! Thank God, I did the research right?

I then looked up ways to get involved in my community and to make the most of my time in this city. I started going to public libraries and museums while volunteering here and there, like in the picture below for example, when I volunteered for the National Park.

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I signed up to various different communities and I just try to connect and make the most of everything that I have on my plate now. Volunteering is a great way for me to channel my energy and skills on a positive outlet, and in the future I really want to establish a volunteer-based organization to make changes, because I believe everyone has got something to give.

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On Going Back to Indo
I miss Indonesia, I miss my parents and I definitely miss Indonesian food. But in the last 4 years since we moved here, my family and I have not gone back home yet, the tickets are so pricy!
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My husband will be done with his PhD soon, but we might want to stay here just a little bit longer. So we'll see. I will just go on and enjoy the ride.

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The One Who Has Found Herself

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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When I decided to write more about my motherhood journey and others' on this blog, I didn't really have the confidence. Why? Because I had only been a mom for 2 months at the time, I am young and still clueless about all this -- so who am I to talk about motherhood online? Plus! there are thousands of other mothers around the world who already got their blogs out there, why should I make one and be just a face in a crowd? But then Mr. Man convinced me that everyone has his/her own message. He actually just mentioned it a few days ago. What you write about, what you experience can never be identical to those of others, because we are all different! Made of different sets of habits, past experiences, cultures, beliefs, etc. So why not learn from other mothers instead and get inspired? Besides, if you say"why start something, it's nothing new anyway" every time you have an idea, you will end up inventing nothing, right?

So I started to learn from others and stumbled upon this extraordinary mom-blog called mama-maya, a beautiful and an intimate blog about the journey of a mother of three lovely kids, Marcia Josephine the M1 (6), Micah Joshua the M2 (4), Maxton James the M3 (1). A diary-keeper herself, Maya has always found writing to be therapeutic. And to read the words she's written is like "going on a time machine," she described.

More than just to share her journey, Maya intends her blog to be a record-keeper for her children to later know her story, the joys they bring her, and to understand why she does the things she does...

"I want them to know me. Because I know that my brain would never be able to contain all these stories. I write, so I can remember, so that I can tell my children about my journey. These early years, these so-called golden years, they will not remember. When time has passed and we’re old, our memories would have failed us and we have nothing to tell them, our children would have only seen the end result of our parenting. They wouldn’t have known of the journey. I write, so they may know"

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What a thoughtful motivation.

I've never really thought about blogging and writing that way. And I've never been so speechless about answers given by my interviewee, because they are just beautiful enough that I do not really need to do that much editing on them.

An inspiring mother, a word enchantress who is into Sara Bareilles' Brave & Katy Perry's Roar  at the moment, here is Mama Maya :)

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First of all, what's it like to have 3 kids? Did you actually plan to have 3?

Having three kids is, well... let’s just say that there is never a dull day in this house. My husband and I always wanted more than one child, but we’ve left the planning entirely to God. We just did our part :) Our M3 caught us a little by surprise. We were quite comfortable being a family of four and while the subject of a fifth member did come up once, we agreed to take it off the table and revisit again only after the World Cup in 2014. But God intervened, and now that fifth member of our family sometimes sit up with my husband at night, getting excited over the play. He supports the Netherlands. Or so I’d like to think.

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You're called "mama maya", have you always wanted to be a mom?

Honestly, I used to dream about being a woman of power, sitting in the corner office of an international corporation. But never in my wildest dream have I ever imagined being a mother to these three little beings. But I’m here today, I am a full time mom and I want to own it. I have tried the whole working-mom thing, the part-time working mom thing, you know, always attributing myself to some kind of job or a title on a business card. And it wasn’t until I really submit myself to this role that I really found satisfaction. More than that, I actually found myself.

And if I look back, I don’t think that any dreams would be substantial enough to even describe the thrill that is motherhood.

I decided to leave the corporate world (she was the General Manager of Marketing of Kenny Rogers Roasters Indonesia! - moz) and become a full time mom at the end of 2011. It wasn’t an easy shift for me. I knew in my heart that this was where I was supposed to be, but it took a lot to brush off the insecurities I had as a result to the decision. But things went uphill the moment I owned up to motherhood. Being a mom was what I do, and it’s tiring sometimes as all jobs are, but I get to see my children grow with my fingerprints on them and that’s the joy, right there. I love it. That’s what being a “woman of power” is to me now.

“Mama Maya” is something my friends used to sing out to me from the monkey bars back in Grade 4. The song went: “Mama, Mama Maya, we wish you joy... we wish you joy!” I guess that kind of stuck with me... and that could have very well been a prophecy, I don’t know. Haha.

3 things that motherhood has taught you so far :

  • Firstly, is to completely depend on God. There is no way I could ever do this on my own. My children are His children too, and He has every best interest in their lives. I believe that He is taking care of them just as much as He is taking care of me. Then I can focus on being a warrior instead of a worrier :)
  • Secondly. I used to joke to my husband, that “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” is the bedrock of our marriage. But who knew that there could be so much truth to find behind what seems like a really selfish statement? A mother’s heart is home for her children. We must guard our hearts to ensure that they have a nice place to live in and to come home to. (Ouch! A slap on the face right here! I guess happiness is a choice, not a result -moz)

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  • Thirdly, I need to be the person I want my children to be. Because no matter how much convenient it would be for me, “do what I say, not what I do” is textbook and isn’t that applicable in life. (Well, not in mine anyway.) Being a mom has forced me more times that I would have liked to expand and rapidly grow into a better person.

Why did you choose to 'put yourself out there' and blog about your family for public to read?

While I wrote of my experiences, I realized that there were others who were going through the same things as I was, at that exact same time. There were others who were waltzing through the same season as I was. I found that I had a thing or two to share.

If I’m not posting a diary entry for my children about their updates, I particularly love to focus my messages on inviting readers to relax and take care of themselves. So many moms get sucked into mothering and so wrapped up with the day-to-day that they forget that they are also people who need to be taken care of just the same, that they were wives before they were mothers, and that to admit not knowing everything is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Mothers fight hard battles everyday, and sometimes, all we need is just a friendly encouragement.

So I share and I blog mainly to encourage. But while I thought that I was telling stuff, I was actually learning, because these people also had volumes to share.

Any positive impact you've gained from blogging? 

The positive impact of my blogging, other than to find a community, is to get writing gigs. I now ghost-blog for a couple of sites, write copy for websites, translate books, and basically get to do what I love from the comfort of my own home, while still having the time to drive my children to and from school. What started off as a hobby has evolved into a financial support for my family on more than one occasion and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

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How do you make the time to blog with three kids running around?

Words seems to flow in silence. So, I usually write after my children are asleep. Or when my husband extends his kindness to me by letting me have some quiet writing time while he watches the kids. Having Grandma around is also a great blessing. At Grandma’s house, chocolate is the norm and Mama’s rules don’t apply. They love it there and Mama loves to score some time for herself. It’s a win-win.

 

Any other blogs you religiously check?

There are many I randomly check, but I really love visiting Melissa Jordan on www.braveinlove.com, Jen Lula on www.jenloveskev.com, Ashley on www.thehandmadehome.net,  random stories and updates on www.mommiesdaily.com or www.theurbanmama.com and Naomi on www.lovetaza.com because really, who doesn’t love a New Yorker Mama? :) But mostly I’ve learned to keep up through their IG feeds.

What's next for you and family? Any upcoming project / holiday plans?

Next for our family is probably the ongoing work in progress towards entrepreneurial/financial freedom. We’re still trying to find the rhythm between raising our children and growing our business while learning to dance to the music. Other than that, holidays... yes! That’s always in the books for us... we love to travel. The kids are praying for a winter holiday this year, so we’re working very hard to make that happen.

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A piece of advice for new moms like me :)  ?

Parenting is a continuous process. Never stop learning. Never stop educating yourself. Never be too “mature” to learn from your children, because they can teach you a lot of things.

Always make the time to remind yourself that you are doing a good job, to give yourself a pat on the back and to tell yourself that you are a good mom. Cut yourself some slack. So what if beds aren’t made once in a while? We’ve never heard of people dying of an unmade bed, am I right? (I am sighing in relieve, thank you for this, mama maya, I can't help but to call you 'mama' too -moz)

Forgive yourself, a lot! Nobody is perfect anyway :)

Also, when you’re busy taking care of everybody else, don’t forget to take care of you.

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The Upper West-sider

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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Now that I'm officially an immigrant mom in the U.S., I think it's wise to hear and share some of the stories of moms who have been here way before me and experienced the perks of raising a kid or two in a foreign country. This one right here has only been in the U.S. for less than a year,  but here's the thing --> She is fresh from Indo, facing the challenges of not having a domestic helper + not having a carrier at the moment (these 2 things must be causing a major 'culture-shock', right?) while adapting to her new role as a mom in the Empire State that is none other than New York!!
Here is the young, loving, and always-eager-to-learn, Yania Andarini.
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I have always been an active woman. With a degree from University of Indonesia in Dutch Literature, I have worked for a while as a media enggagement assistant manager at PT. Combiphar, before giving it up to accompany my husband in his studies in Columbia University, New York last year.
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At the start of our marriage, we didn't plan to have a kid yet to prolong our 'honeymoon' phase. However, we didn't try to postpone pregnancy either. We were just going to let it all happen naturally, according to God's will. Thankfully, He heard our prayers at exactly one year after our wedding.
When we found out about the baby, my husband and I were excited yet nervous at the same time. Why? because we were going to have an interview at the U.S. Embassy at the following week. Would they approve my visa if I've told them that I was pregnant?
Again, thankfully, it all went smoothly and we finally got to the Big Apple when I got to my second trimester, five months into the pregnancy to be exact.
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Soon after, in 9 January 2014, our little man Harsya Aryasatya Ibrahim was born.
Unlike other moms back home who might have got their family and relatives around during labor, I didn't have anyone but my husband. It was just the two of us at the hospital, waiting for Harsya to be born. It got more challenging when we were told that Harsya's bilirubin numbers went up and that he needed to stay at the NICU.
My first weeks of motherhood got even tougher when I noticed Harsya's inability to latch on while breastfeeding. The confusion kept on building up because I was just not used to having a baby yet. Even though I've read tons of articles on taking care of babies during my pregnancy, actually doing it is a different thing! Frankly speaking, I found it pretty hard to enjoy motherhood during those days.
But again, thankfully, my husband stood by me. He helped me a lot in taking care of baby Harsya, though he had to show up in class the next morning. More importantly, he was patient enough to handle my emotional cycle that went up and down a lot during that period.
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As Harsya continues to grow, I begin to find joy in my new life as a mother. I begin to take it slow and learn to keep it all simple. The absence of domestic helper is definitely a challenge, because I've got to do it all by myself! But I've learned to take it easy and to leave the chores when Harsya needs me. The washing and cleaning can wait, right?
I've realized that when the mom is not happy, the baby won't be happy. They can tell the difference! That's why I try my best to keep a positive energy around him although I don't always feel like it.
To say I do not miss my working days would be a lie. I miss them at times, but I try to embrace this season we're in now. I am grateful for the fact that I get to experience all of this now in New York! Raising a kid, having a little family, living abroad...I view this phase as my extra long leave from work :)
Later on when we have settled back to Indonesia, I would like to go back to work. Why? Cause I know it's possible to balance things out. My mother is a living proof. She is a doctor who could still manage to wake up at dawn to prepare exam preparation quizzes for me, before she left for work. A mom who was always there for me when I needed her, someway, somehow. A mom who is tough yet patient. And a mom who is also a bestfriend to me.
It is going to take a lot for me to get to that point, but for now, I aim to focus on raising Harsya, supporting my husband as he continues his studies here, and make the most of our time here in New York..New York..
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