A Collection of Random Thoughts


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I just realized I skipped January’s post, but here’s February’s installment of random thoughts just for you. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments!

1) It seems to be spider season at our house. I have a long-standing deep fear of many types of spiders. In France, some of the spiders were massive, especially in the fall, and I did not deal well with the situation at all. And growing up in St. George, wolf spiders were both gross and terrifying to me (they still are!). But these Oakland spiders don’t really scare me. They’re often tiny, and they’re daddy-long-leg types, so there’s not much mass to them.

The thing that bugs me is the constant battling of cobwebs. I vacuum them all up, and the next day they are back in full force. I’ve heard that wiping down surfaces with lemon juice can keep them away. Apparently, their taste buds are in their feet and they don’t like the taste of lemon. Any one out there tried this? Other tips?

2) Not sure what to do about this, but we’re having a really hard time finding a contractor for our master bedroom remodel. I was not expecting this and and am feeling stuck. I’m wondering what the story is. Last time we hired a contractor, we had 3 bids within a week. This time, it’s hard to get anyone to return a phone call. Maybe there’s some sort of building boom going on that I’m not aware of?

I could have sworn we’d be done by now and we haven’t even started the demolition. Very frustrating! I usually try to hire people on recommendation, but at this point, I feel like I”m going to need to start cold-calling every contractor in the area and see who has time. I’m happy to take any advice! I’m really, really excited to get going on this. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning.

3) Our whole house is buzzing with excitement over the launch of Teachur. I’m super proud of Ben Blair and my brother Josh. The kids are proud too — they check in and give me updates on the Kickstarter page throughout the day. Cousins call and cheer Ben on. My siblings share the post and pledge support. The response has been really wonderful and I love any time Ben Blair gets to shine.

I also LOVE the responses you gave on the post I wrote about it. I can’t thank you enough. The feedback and questions are incredibly helpful to Ben and Josh. Feel free to keep them coming. If you’re interested in following the progress of Teachur, a pledge of even $1 is awesome! It helps them gauge interest and makes it easy to update people with Teachur news.

4) Both of my boys are growing their hair out. They’ve worn their hair short for so many years, that I think we’d forgotten how curly it is! They haven’t needed it before, but I bought some mousse and gel for them to try out as they figure out which sort of curl they like best.

Betty and Olive don’t have much curl, but Maude and June definitely have some. In fact, June used to have a ton! A whole head full of ringlets. But her curls have relaxed in a big way over the last 2 years. I have no idea why. Age? Humidity levels? It’s always fascinating to see my kids grow and change. I love seeing who they are becoming.

5) A few months after we moved here, we hired a woman named Natalie as our housekeeper. She was excellent! An artist who wanted flexible work so she could paint in her spare time. She would come about 10 hours per week to clean house and run errands. But she took a full-time office job last fall (awesome for her!) and we haven’t replaced her yet. I think it’s time to hire someone again, but I keep putting it off. It feels like asking someone to join the family and I want to make sure I’m hiring the right person.

What’s your take on hiring help in the home? Have you ever hired someone? A house keeper? A nanny? A personal assistant? I know some people love hiring help, and others find it stressful to have non-family members in their home on a regular basis. As for me, I truly love the help, but at the same time, having a break for a few months has also been good. Yes, it has meant more of my time spent cleaning, but if I’m honest, I’m also more relaxed when I don’t have workers in my house. How about you?

6) Sometimes I get the urge to do a video — probably a Periscope — where I can talk about random stuff like this. I haven’t tried something like that before. Pretty much every video I’ve created has had a specific purpose or even a script. So I don’t know if the randomness would work. I’m sure there must be You-tubers that do something similar — random chatty videos that are unedited. But I haven’t come across any, so maybe they’re not aimed at my demographic. Who knows.

Really what I want is a conversation. I want to talk about random stuff with another person. I want the back and forth. If you have any thoughts on this idea, let me know.

7) I’m feeling really lucky today. It’s one of those days where I’m having a moment of clarity, and can clearly see that I’m surrounded by good people and good things. If I started making a gratitude list right this minute, I’m quite sure I would get to bedtime and not be finished yet. Little things like the unexpected fresh flowers a thoughtful friend sent. And big things like the fact that I really like my kids, not just because they’re mine, but because they are as human beings. Have you ever had one of those days? It feels good.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

 P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

41 thoughts on “A Collection of Random Thoughts”

  1. “If I’m honest, I’m also more relaxed when I don’t have workers in my house.” Very interesting observation. I have no personal experience of it, but I’m guessing I’d feel the same. Which could just be part of the democratic ethos of America, but I have a friend from an African country where servants are a given, and indeed those who can afford servants are seen as not doing their part for the economy and the poor if they don’t have them. Anyway, she says now that she lives in America, she’s started noticing that whenever she talks to her father or other relatives back home, much of the conversation is about how hard it is to find good help, or expressing frustration with the help they have. She now thinks it’s one of the main sources of stress in life back home.

    1. Hi Anna, Just to clarify, as someone living in Africa (South Africa) – one would never refer to domestic help as “servants” – particularly in South Africa, where a large part of the work force is made up by cleaners, nannies, or gardeners, all of whom are protected by a basic minimum wage law.

  2. Spiders don’t like peppermint essential oil. You can diffuse it or dilute in water and spray around entry points of the house. It smells amazing, it’s non harmful to humans, and it works! Win win. I prefer doTERRA brand.

    I’m excited about Teachur.com ! What a cool thing to create and launch- truly life changing opportunity for so many people!

  3. Hi,

    I love your random thoughts posts! I love the way it allows me, as a reader, to step into your mind. Your openness, thoughtfulness and well articulated intelligence are why I’ve stayed a faithful reader for so long! But I have to say, I’m not sure I’d love these posts so much if they weren’t written. . But anyhow. . I wanted to respond to the contarctor problem. I was SO there with this a year ago, beginning a full house remodel in a new town–and serving as my own general and from a distance too! I ended up hiring over 20 guys within 6 months and had great expereinces with ALL of them, and I found almost every one (the one exception was our painter, who was our new neighbor’s dad) on craigslist! One thing I learned is that in our town at least, less established businesses were advertising while established businesses often did not even return phone calls. But the new businesses are often more anxious to please. Our two main contractors had both chosen to re-locate to our town (a popular vacation spot) recently for quality of life reasons, and were still building their local businesses, but had decades of experience. This was the same for my tiler, my cabinet maker, additional drywall help, the floor guy–none had full time established businesses, but all were stellar. Another suggestion I have might be to ask contractors you’ve talked to if there is something about your project that they were not interested in, and see if you personally could sub that out to someone else. For example, one of my builders was not at all excited about dropping our 130 year old ceilings–because it’s a hard, dirty job. But once he explained to me that that was the one thing he did not want to do, I was able to find someone who excelled at that part, and then he could move in and do the rest. Good luck! And I can’t wait to see photos of your project!

  4. I feel like with 8 people in the house and 2 working parents you almost have to hire some help. I would and we only have 3 people in the house! I never actually have because somehow it makes me feel guilty; even though cleaning and errands on the weekends takes away from precious time with little one. We both work FT out of the house.

  5. I volunteer as random conversation partner! I would love to chat with you about education, parenting, travel, religion, mental health, social justice. Your perspective is always refreshing and thought-provoking.

    1. I agree with Lauren, although I don’t live local to you, so your Random Thoughts posts are probably as close as I’m ever gonna get. Between Lauren and I, we’ve got you covered on every subject– I love talking about trees, anything kids- related, art and design, and theatre. Oh, wait: neither of us like music… :D

  6. I think contractors are super busy in the the Bay Area right now because with such high home prices it makes more sense for many folks to fix up their current house than buy a new one. That’s what we did. I highly recommend Bob Hutchinson of Hutchcraft. He’s such good, reliable, honest man to work with and his employees were awesome. He’s based in the East Bay and one of the things I really appreciated while he was working on our house for many months is that he’s a family man (with 4 grown stepchildren) and really understood our safety concerns/needs while raising kids in a construction zone. He finished the project on time and one budget.

  7. On finding contractors, maybe they are afraid their work and process will be reviewed on the influential Design Mom site! the blog and they don’t want to take that risk? That is my thought, maybe address this with them upfront…

    You asked in another post about aging serums- I LOVE Motor & Pestle, I can’t believe how well it works (I am 45 and 3/4s). And I love the back story of the working mom who crafted it with her biochemist? sister

    On long hair on boys and husbands -my boys have all used Silk Groome from Kheils for years

  8. These random thoughts posts are so fun–thanks for sharing!

    Love that your boys are re-discovering their curls. As long as I’ve known my husband he’s had gorgeous curly shoulder-length hair–it’s definitely a defining feature. I find it hilarious that he didn’t grow it out until grad school, and had absolutely no idea it was curly until then!

    Re: people working in my home, I totally understand your feeling. I have someone come in to clean once every two weeks. I mostly sequester myself in my home office, but I really like her and am comfortable around her when she’s here. I also tried a different cleaning service for a short time that sent multiple people, and it was much more impersonal. I wasn’t comfortable at all when they were around–it was night and day when comparing it to the person we work with now. When you’re home all the time it makes such a difference to find the right fit.

  9. I’ve hired several people to clean over the years and it’s been a wonderful experience. I do a ton of research, however, rather than calling a company or something like that–I’ve always used someone who came with glowing recommendations from friends, and over time the cleaning lady became someone that I was very comfortable with and who my children adored. I admit, I struggled a bit over the decision (do we really need this, I’m home all day, can we afford it), which is why it’s never been a permanent thing, but there have been times and seasons where it was absolutely essential to my well-being–like after a new baby when I had severe PPD and it was such a gift to use my very limited amount of energy to spend time with my children rather than scrubbing.

  10. Its totally a bay area thing for contractors. I’ve called at least 8 different contractors for a large interior painting job. I’ve had two call me back and only one estimate. Its one of the most frustrating things about getting work done around here. We’ve been in our house for 4 years and its what keeps me from starting projects every.single.time. I’m in the southbay so no help with specific contractors, but when we did our bathroom remodel we actually used a handyman company. I wouldn’t of thought that they would be willing or able to take a gut job like that but once I talked to them and saw their work it was obvious they could handle it and the job turned out fantastic.

  11. Our very loved nanny may be leaving us at the end of the summer (moving to another city) and I am already fretting over childcare. She has been so lovely and great with my kids – and their parents! – that I think I will pursue daycare options instead. We are very low key and private people but when I hire people to work in our home I always build a very personal relationship with them. It’s the only way I know how to manage the awkwardness/stress of having other people in our homes. So when/if she leaves I don’t think I will be able to put the emotional and actual work into finding another replacement, getting to know them and have them become kind of an extended family member. This nanny was actually my niece and nephews nanny before she came to our family so we have quite strong ties to her. Feels impossible to replace her.
    So yes, I completely understand your hesitations on finding a new housekeeper. Also, can you talk more about chores and your kids? I have this dream that my kids will be cleaning our house and cooking a lot of the meals once they are tweens and teens. I have five siblings myself and could cook a meal for all of us by the time I was 13. We also had to do our own laundry starting at age ten. I feel like that is not the norm now and that most teens are too busy with homework and other activities to pitch in with the household work.

  12. Hi Gabrielle, We (I’m also living in Oakland) are in a boom! I can’t get a contractor either. Do you subscribe to Berkeley Parents’ Network? They are a great resource for referrals, or do you try NextDoor.com? Since NextDoor is based in your ‘hood, you may end up getting a referral from a neighbor and that usually helps us a bit. In our neighborhood (Cleveland Heights), we also have a yahoogroup for the neighborhood watch which has been a helpful resource for contractors people have hired as well. Most contractors won’t call me back once they see the job, maybe because they see how small of a job it is? i haven’t even been able to get a successful bid. Good luck! I’m curious to read the other comments myself!

  13. This Does sound like a perfect over lunch convo! You have all your kids at home still (I think) and that Really is a special time. I have ‘clarity’ on that!! It’s fun for us to hear about the. Even in the hair-do department:)
    I hired a housecleaner for the first time in my life! .. last year. I am Really picky on who we have hanging around for hours like that, for sure. And we got lucky! Boy, if there is one thing I’ve learned, in everything we do (from work, to hiring, to marriage, to baking) and after everything we can do — there is a percentage of it that is just a crap shoot!

  14. We had a nanny for our daughter for eight years. When I recruited her I was looking for someone who would become our family and that is exactly what we got. It has been three years now since she ceased looking after my daughter,but she will forever remain Nanny. We love her and see her often.

    Because my daughter is older and has just started middle school we have a university student to help with school pick ups and sport commitments, and I choose them with strong female role models in mind!

  15. Hi, Gabrielle! Your chatty video conversation idea reminds me of Amanda De Cadenet’s “The Conversation” – women on the couch chatting about real stuff. Have you ever thought about doing Google Hangouts on Air or something similar so they could be livestreamed then archived on YouTube? I bet some amazing things might spring from realtime conversations within the community you’ve built here.

  16. I didn’t read the comments prior to mine, so excuse me if these ideas were already suggested:

    Re the contractor: What about Angie’s List as a source for vetted professionals? We’ve had great luck using it for various projects around our home.

    Re the hair: I have curly hair – the kind that looks straight when it’s wet but is most definitely not when it’s dry, even air dried. For the last year+, I’ve been using garnier fructis cream gel for curls (I’m sure it has a proper name, but this should get you there). It comes in a tube that you squeeze.

  17. I would love to hear about how you hire someone privately to clean your house. I have personally wanted to do this, and my husband has finally agreed since our schedules are so crazy, and we’re tired of spending the weekends doing chores and errands. Anyway, my question is do you pay taxes as if they are your employee? What is this process? How can you hire someone as a contract employee and therefore not be responsible for taxes, and do you need to get documentation?? So many questions…

  18. We have a lot of spiders since moving to Michigan and my boys (of all things) are afraid…so I got them a “bugzooka” (Amazon) for Christmas…they aren’t back out yet due to the cold?…but the boys are excited to suck those spiders up and release them back outside. Doesn’t get rid of them entirely, but does at least get them outside of the house.

  19. My favorite periscopes are the ones where the person gets on and just talks about random things and just answers questions as they go along. You would rock that!

  20. When we moved to Africa, I knew the culture of our new city was such that I needed to hire a housekeeper: anyone with means was expected, as a contributing community member, to give work to those in need. I was so excited about having help with our house, with our six kids and with carving out time for my own work.

    We had two different housekeepers in the time we were there, both excellent, but I hated the experience. I’m a horrible boss (at least of strangers in my home) and I always felt uncomfortably stilted and constrained when the housekeeper was there (although I did write more than I had since before I had kids).

    Now we’re back in the US, and whenever I start to feel annoyed about housework, I just remember how much I prefer doing it myself to having to direct someone else about how I want it done.

  21. Hi Gabrielle!

    Thank you for posting your random thoughts. What really struck me deep today was your observation that you feel the urge to share your thoughts, no matter how random, with someone who cares. My family and I live in Tokyo and although I absolutely love it here, I find it hard to even begin to have conversations like that. Whenever I call my friends or skype with my family, the entire conversation is spent on just catching up. There is never the time nor the continuity for me to just approach a friend, get the niceties out of the way, and just unload my random thoughts and upload his/hers.

    So, thank you. This was such a nice part of my day.

    P.S. Found a cockroach in my house (first one!) and I tried to gingerly pick it up with a paper towel and put it outside, but it ran underneath the sliding door and it was too cold for me to keep it open, so….I shut the door and squashed it. I kind of feel horrible, but then again, cockroaches are gross.

  22. Just catching up here for the week and my first thought upon reading about Ben Blair’s new venture is… “Does the brilliance of the Blair family never end???” Truly. Teachur is brilliant. I love it and am going to back it. Let’s see… Spiders, I hate them too. Curly hair… I have the kind that is part curly,part not- so it demands to be dealt with. I have had mediocre luck with hiring someone to clean. I feel like the more comfortable I get with them, the less thorough job they do. It is frustrating. Periscopes or whatever… I’m imagining something like Rachtalks on YouTube. Just a bit of a short, random but insightful, bit of conversation to bring a blogger to life for the readers. Plus no typing for you. #winwin

  23. Also, the babysitter who watched my younger son for several years and then came back for a few months this past year just got a full-time job, and I was SAD to lose her (but happy for her because that’s what she wanted). I’m now using her grown daughter, which is nice because it’s a connection to our long-time nanny, but feels a little strange too, because I’m expecting her to be a lot like her mother, and that’s rather an unfair expectation. Training someone new and figuring out whether it will work is stressful.

    Since I have after-school childcare only about 7 hours a week, I started having that person also do some cleaning so they could get more hours. When I’ve had house cleaners before, they’ve come once every 3 or 4 weeks, and I expect the house to look amazing (and it usually looks good, but not usually amazing). Having some upkeep done every week has really reduced my housework load and keeps the house looking much nicer for about the same price, without the hopes for perfection that no one can accomplish (and falls apart in within 5 minutes of the kids coming home and feeding the guinea pigs hay anyway)!

  24. Tea tree oil for spiders! Where we are in Australia, we get really nasty poisonous ones, I found a couple of red backs in my children’s sand pit the other week and white tails seem to enjoy our window frames. Eek! Someone told me to dilute tea tree oil with water and spray it around the window frame. I got a pest control person in the meantime but am keen to try the tea tree oil.

    On curly hair, I have always had thick straight hair. But when I was expecting my third child, my hair became strangle curly. It has calmed down since my baby arrived, but it hasn’t gone back to how it used to be! All through my pregnancy I wondered if my strange new curly hair meant I was having a girl as it didn’t happen with the first two (boy) pregnancies. I was right, my girl arrived with an incredible head of hair and she has her two big brother’s completely wrapped around her little finger.

    Side note, I am writing this as I wait for my brownies to cook. Hurry up!

  25. I design for a remodeling company in Atlanta, and there is a huge boom here. What happened was after the recession, there was no construction work, so a bunch of the carpenters went out of business and moved into other industries. Now, demand for construction is way high, but there aren’t enough tradesmen across the board to do the work. Our plumbers, cabinet makers and electricians are swamped with work. So, you are probably having a hard time finding a contractor because they are up to their eyeballs in work.

  26. Some years ago I read the autobiography “Life & Death in Shanghai”, about a woman imprisoned during the cultural revolution in China. A spider in her cell, and the web it weaves, ends up being a sustaining symbol for Nien Chiang and helps her through her ordeal. I have not once killed a spider or ruined a (active) spider web since reading that book. Ha! My own random thought for you. Love these posts.

    1. So random that you mention “Life and Death in Shanghai” because I literally just assigned it as extra credit reading for my high school senior history class. One of their guided reading questions was to analyze the symbolism of spiders. I love that book!

  27. If you’re looking to have a conversation on video check out blab.im. Like periscope but with more than one person and a comment/chat bar to boot!

  28. My husband and I are both out-of-the-home working professionals (banker, lawyer) and we have one child. We hired an au pair when our daughter was 6 months old because I wanted flexible childcare and easy transitions (I basically walk out of the door at 8am and back in the door at 5pm). I don’t like people living in my house, much less working in my house, but I have gotten used to it and the payoffs are huge. Our daughter is learning German and, well, we have an extra pair of hands around the house. We’ve always hired a housekeeper, even when we were dating, mostly because I wanted to outsource conflict. I still obsessively-compulsively clean the house in between her visits. Basically, I am the kind of person who wants to do everything and will find a way to do it. I do notice that my husband does not work as hard as I do on house things, but having people who come to my house (or live in it) who are there to help me, really helps keep the resentment at bay. It is a true luxury, and I believe my marriage and mental health is better because of it.

  29. I just found you and am so enjoying your insights. I’m an LDS grandma living in the east bay and have been using periscope for almost a month. I scope to support my clients. I think you would love it and those who follow you would enjoy seeing you in real life, it’s casual and makes for real connection. Having said all that it can also be disturbing because of trolls. I’m scoping only to my subscribers to keep the trolls from ruining a good thing. I’d love to see you on periscope.

  30. I enjoy your ‘random’ posts – I sometimes write in a similar way to my friends and siblings.
    I have a cleaner who comes for two hours every Wednesday. She does a great job keeping the dust at bay and properly cleaning my loo and kitchen. I like how clean my house is with Nicoleta coming each week and I don’t have the time / energy to actually do it myself. I feel odd about it as I am capable of doing my own cleaning…and feel sort of guilty to be at home (even tho I am working!) when she is here cleaning.

  31. Hi Gabby, I like having my children do their share of the chores, but sometimes I just want some professional help for a good deep clean. I had a housekeeper come over last week. It helped me get through a dreary winter slump. Just what I needed!

  32. Hi,
    I live in the same area of Oakland that you do and know the feeling/fears of finding the right contractor. So wanted to send you who we used because it was the best experience! The company is Gordon and Company out of Oakland. The owner Neal Gordon and workers were all very knowledgable, respectful of our space/needs, and just completely trust worthy. I was sad when the project was over because it was just really nice to work with genuinely nice people (sad that this is hard to come by these days). If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Best of luck!

  33. Wow…..felt almost as if I was reading my own blog at times…..Lots of information coming right off the top of your head. I loved it! I love spontaneity period. Do the video. It will be better than you think. I happened across your site in reference to planting in ice cream cones for kids. I’m doing a special program at my church in March with kids and will be using that idea with them. If you ever want a Grandma that writes and talks like you I’m your girl…lol. Keep up the great blog. Best, Gayle

  34. I know you asked about a video, but what I really would love for you to add is a podcast similar to your Living With Kids feature. As a working Mom in a fairly inflexible job, the part of life that I miss most is affirming time spent with other women/moms. The Living with Kids feature often makes me cry or smile, and almost always makes me feel better about myself and more unified with other moms. I could totally hear you rocking that in interview format. Then there would be this whole catalog of stories I could choose from of other moms going through similar (or not) experiences- with topics like “This is the best (sweetest)age”, or the transgender challenge of a few weeks ago that really expressed perfectly how much easier life gets when all of us let go of our hang ups and accept our kids in their entirety…. The list of topics that I could listen to while running is endless… and would be incredibly inspiring to hear people’s stories in their own voices.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top