Elise – @totesandthecity


This week’s instalment of Universal Parenthood is with Elise from Totesandthecity. My goodness, what a beautiful instafeed she has! I lost a good two hours (when I should have been sleeping!) trawling through shot after shot of her holidays in Italy and on her family boat. Then I got sucked in to her blog and spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to recreate her children’s custom made playhouse in my postage stamp backyard!

I can’t lie, Elise and her family live in a world that I can only dream of, but that’s exactly why I created the Universal Parenthood series. Despite our differences, Elise has the same hopes and dreams for her children that I do, the same ‘let them get on with it’ attitude. Ultimately, lifestyle, money, holidays, none of that matters because as parents we all have the same values. That’s why I love Totesandthecity, the blog and the Instagram account – it’s aspirational and it’s escapism while still having threads of the truth I’m living to draw me in and tie all us parents together.

1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?

My husband and I live in Seattle, Washington with our two children that we call Totes (age 4) and Apple (18 months). Our family business is in restaurants and we have four in Seattle so we stay busy with them. I am a stay at home mom right now and love it. On the side I do photography (food photography for our restaurants and lifestyle photography of my children and our daily adventures for my own blog, Totes and the City) and a bit of accounting work for the restaurants as well. My husband’s family still lives in Italy where he was born and raised and mine in Utah where I was born and raised. So we travel quite a bit because we love visiting them. We also love exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest on our boat in the summers.

Elise and her family

2) If you could give one piece of advice for an expectant mother, what would it be?

It DOES get easier. Now, everyone’s definition of ‘easy’ is different. But for me, the hardest was the first year of both of my kid’s lives. The combination of lack of sleep, lack of independence and therefore so much demand every second from their little needs had me in a permanent fog. Once the first year passed, that fog lifted and I felt like I was able to devote a little time back to myself again and started feeling back to normal. I’ve had mom friends tell me, “It doesn’t get any easier” and I got really discouraged by that kind of remark when I was in the thick of it all and really needed some hope to hold on to. So for me, it absolutely got easier and now I have two little humans that I’ve become best friends with and can enjoy our daily adventures with rather than feeling like I never want to leave the house!

3) All of us parent differently and have different values. What is your most important parenting value?

Love and affection. I am the ‘tough love’ one in the house and my husband is the softie. I think being the one that is with the kids all day long, you kind of get forced into that role. But no matter how stern I need to be at times, especially with my four year old right now, we always come back to love and affection so that he knows our love for him is unconditional. I can use other rewards, privileges, consequences, etc, take them away as I see needed, but love is always constant around my house. And it comes from both my husband and I equally. We joke at the end of the day who has kissed each one of our kids more. I just adore that my husband is extremely affectionate to all of us and my little boy is following in his footsteps.

4) what motto do you try and live by?

Honestly, I don’t even know any. I don’t follow or repost quotes but a quick and simple thing that comes to mind that I’ve personally said over and over is: “They’ll Learn”. I’m not a helicopter mom. I like to sit back from a comfortable distance and let them play independently and pick themselves up off the ground if they fall. My four year old has had a real aversion to learning new things so it has really tested my patience but we just keep making him try and I keep telling myself, one day he’ll learn. When he says, “I can’t do it”, I have to just reply, “Not yet, but practice and you’ll learn”.

5) What are your hopes for your children?

That they will take full advantage of the opportunities we have worked so hard to provide them. And mostly that they’ll find happiness like my husband and I have.

6) you grew up in a small town and now bring your children up in Seattle. Do you think big city living is preferable to small town life or do you hope to show your children the best of both worlds? Are their lives different to your childhood?

I hope to show them the best of both worlds. This question is the foundation around which I started my blog actually! My childhood was so different so I wanted to document these differences of small town life to raising children in the city as it’s been an adventure for me as well! But different has not always been in the best way. I can’t ever see a day that I let my kid ride a bike into downtown Seattle with his friends, yet I did that as a child in my home town. It’s been challenging to just tell my children, go play outside! because I wouldn’t do that without being out there with them, yet my parents were never supervising us while we were off playing outdoors. So despite the challenges of city life, there are indisputable benefits, like all the opportunities we have access to. Some of the best education in the nation, culture and unique things to do.

The playhouse Elise designed and helped to build

7) you mention that your husbands first language isn’t English – will your children be bilingual? If so, how do you fit both language into your everyday lives?

We try! There are definitely words and phrases that we teach them in Italian but since teaching falls 90% on me and my Italian is not that strong, they haven’t been taught well. There’s still time and I tell myself constantly I need to do a better job so that I can do better myself. What better way to practice conversation than on little kids that won’t laugh at you! Or maybe they will but we laugh together.

8) travel features heavily on your blog and Instagram. Why is it so important to you, both as an individual and as a family?

My husband works long hours in the restaurant industry, many days late into the evenings and doesn’t get home until the kids have gone to bed (and me too sometimes!). When we travel, we get to be with him 100% of the time! That’s so important to us and also it gives my husband and mental break from the heavy demands of his business.

Pages of a ‘Quiet Book’ Elise made for her daughter on their long flight

9) you grew up in the church of the Latter Day Saints. Do you still practice your faith and do you encourage your children to engage in religion?

I’m not active in the church although I still hold the beliefs and morals of the LDS religion. This is a difficult one that so many families I know face. I personally don’t feel the need to belong to an organized religion like I grew up with but teaching my children to be kind to others, do good things in life, be honest and the importance of family is something I try to pass on to them daily. When we visit my family in Utah, if it falls on a Sunday, we go to church with my mom when possible. At Christmas time, I have started talking to my oldest about the meaning of Christmas and the birth of Christ, rather than just Santa Claus and toys. I’m finding little ways to weave religion into our lives.

10) Parenting is tough and beautiful all at the same time. Can you tell us about a tough time and a shining moment that you’ve had as a parent?

I think the toughest times I’ve had having been when I second-guess my decisions as a parent for my child. When Totes was two and a half, we enrolled him in preschool. He was just a baby and even I thought he was very young to go, but I was 7 months pregnant with Apple at the time and so exhausted I couldn’t engage him like I used to. I also wanted to get him used to going before she was born so he got over the hard transition and didn’t associate having to go there with her arrival. It was a very rough month and I thought about pulling him out every time I dropped him off with the tears streaming down his face. But then he got over it and pretty soon tears were streaming down his face when it was time to go back home! He absolutely thrives there now and I love picking him up and hearing about his day. I’m glad we stuck it out but we are in a similar situation again right now when him taking swim lessons. He hates it, cries before going and shakes like a leaf when we are waiting for our turn to get in the pool with the instructor. But he’s already learned how to float, swim independently could save himself if he ever fell in the water, which was our fear since we do so much boating in the summer. Their successes are absolutely a tribute to us as parents and my kids make me so proud every day.

I hope you had as much fun reading about Elise and her family as I did – head over to her Instagram and her blog!!

Instagram – Totesandthecity

Blog – Totesandthecity