[ Note: House Tour are always, always posted on Tuesday. Except this time. It’s an odd week at my house, which makes for an odd posting schedule. : ) ]
Imagine relocating from Brooklyn to Austin. The different paces of life and even language would shock even the best of us, right? But a drastic move was exactly what Jessica and her kids needed after a devastating loss. When she told me her story, I lost my words for more than a few moments, but when I found them again all I could think was “Jessica, you are brave, brave, brave.” And that didn’t even begin to cover it.
I know you’ll be inspired by Jessica’s hunt for happiness, and join me in hoping for an easier life for her in the sunshine days to come. Please, enjoy this tour. Welcome, Jessica!
Q: Please tell us all about your East Coast family living in the heart of Texas!
A: It’s been an adjustment for sure! The first couple weeks I was here, when I talked to people they would ask me to slow down! The driving thing has been rough, too, but we’ve adjusted nicely.
Most of the reason we picked Austin was that it’s pretty hip! They have a great recycling program, farmers markets, our lovely food coop Wheatsville, and we can even find a decent baguette!
I’m an active tennis loving, book reading, know-it-all with a propensity towards over-friendliness. After nine years in various marketing positions, I started my own business! I’m a ENTJ and – according to The Tipping Point – a connector. I really love putting people in touch with great products and services, so running an expectant parent expo and parents group have been perfect avenues for my personality.
Emilia Emanuele, my nearly five year old princess, only wears pink and purple, loves My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop, but has no issue with stripping down to play in a mud puddle at the drop of a hat. She’s insanely smart. Not much is lost on her, a trait she gets from her dad. She walked just before she turned nine months, and I’ll forever associate her with that fierce determination she had on her face as she got up and walked to me.
Lucien Michel wasn’t supposed to have a very French name at all but somehow does! Lulu, as we call him, is our little oddity. Despite being half-French, he doesn’t kiss anyone. He only licks people! But he’s so kind and sweet to his core. He loves anything with wheels.
Samson is our eight-month old shoe chewing, people-loving terrier mutt!
Q: You’ve recently relocated to Texas after a decade living in New York. What’s the greatest difference between your previous home and this one? What do you miss the most?
A: Brooklyn is so wonderful, but Austin is, too. I would say I miss friends, snow, and my local haunts and restaurants in NYC the most. I miss dropping off laundry and food delivery! But in terms of our literal home, I miss nothing. I don’t miss stairs with children and groceries and strollers. I don’t miss having to go to three different grocery stores to get what I need!
I live in Rosedale, an incredibly charming neighborhood in Central Austin. It’s near one of my favorite places on earth: Central Market. The neighborhood is wonderful mix of retirees and families, and we have two lending libraries on our street.
Q: Your move was precipitated by a tragic family event. Can you tell us a little about that?
A: Last April, my husband passed away. He was a gem of a man: kind, generous, big love, and big heart, but he also suffered from a personality disorder. He could swing from amazing to downright demonic and cruel. Living with someone who had borderline personality disorder was very hard. It’s incredibly hard to love someone so much and have that cause so much pain.
He adored and worshiped his children, but there was the a lot stress in his life and job and he created impossible ideals. He stopped being happy, he stopped talking to a therapist, and turned into a workaholic. I know at the end of the day, what Nicolas chose to do was for us. I know that may sound odd but in my heart I know he truly believed he was giving us a better life – a life that didn’t include him and his illness. I think he just couldn’t fight himself anymore and he was too scared to try.
Q: Was a major move part of the healing process?
A: Absolutely. I didn’t want to leave Brooklyn. We were part of this amazing birth cohort and community of parents in my neighborhood. I had been writing and starting two local businesses, and yet I kept waking up with this deep feeling that it was time for me to go. I fought it for awhile, but Austin kept coming up in my mind. Having gone to college here, I knew what a great city it was for families. I knew it had an international community, which is paramount, so I started real estate shopping. I figured if we were meant to live in Austin, we would find a great place to live.
And it was meant to be. I really needed Austin. I need the chill vibe, I needed to be able to commune with nature on a daily basis, get lost, be alone, and have some space to reflect on my decade in NYC. Boy, did I need and miss that huge open sky, too. The amazing year-round weather doesn’t hurt either. The kids go to an amazing school where they learn French and Spanish.
It was so hard to leave Brooklyn, but I feel now it was the best decision I could have made for all of us. I needed some space from everything I’d been through so I could understand it, heal, and parent my kids from a stronger place.
Q: What were your goals with this home, decor-wise and making it a lovely refuge for your loves?
A: I did want it to be a refuge: a calm and peaceful place for myself and for the kids. I’m always partial to modern, but it had to be playful and very kid-friendly. Plus it needed to be something that reflected the kids’ French heritage and their father and his favorite items, while paying respect to my favorite things like Mexican folklore…and especially respectful of where we are! Austin is really about funky personalized style, whatever might be in your heart. It has this rebel against the cookie cutter vibe going that I tried to capture with vintage pieces and unusual combinations. I had a lot why the heck not moments.
Like you, I bought this house sight unseen! I loved it online, and after a friend gave me the go-ahead, I made an offer. When I finally got to the house, I realized it needed a bit of work to achieve its full glory. We tore down the walls between the living rooms, took out the wood paneling, added crown molding, and a front deck. I can’t help but feel the space is perfection now. Sunny and bright all day, and there are lots of little areas to play in and plenty of stuff to do outside.
Q: Tell us about your career – do you work from home?
A: I do! I really love it. After years of doing events and blogging on the side, I took the leap and created the Brooklyn BabyFEST, which is an expectant parent expo in Brooklyn. I really loved learning everything about pregnancy and thought it’d be a great idea to have all sorts of information in one place with all the amazing people I’d met through doing Motherburg, a local parenting blog.
I was also in the process of starting a catch-all resource website for Brooklyn parents called WillyPoint Kids before Nico passed. WillyPoint Kids puts out a fabulously large daycare and preschool guide, summer camp guide, and birthday party guide so parents have everything they need at their fingertips. I was fortunate enough to find a wonderful woman to take that project on and run it while I sit back and do the administrative aspect. I’m also working on two other little projects in Austin, so my plate is very full these days!
At present I’m working on a summer adventure. We’re going to escape for a few weeks and head to one of my favorite places on earth: Fair Harbor, Fire Island and then over to France see grandparents. I’m trying to sneak in a weekend in Barcelona, so fingers crossed.
One thing I recently started doing is renting my house out while we’re away, and I was lucky enough to learn about Kid & Coe last year. Kid & Coe do kid friendly rentals all over the world, and I get to be the first Texas house on the site! So far, it’s been a really wonderful experience!
Q: How do you spend your days and how do you make it work as a single mom?
A: I don’t have a typical day other than I drop kids off by 8:30 on weekdays. I’ve been trying to have more of a schedule, but the truth is I’m having a lot of issues with handling everything on my plate. First it was handling all the administrative aspects of Nico’s passing. Then it was selling our house in Brooklyn. Then it was house renovations in Austin.
And there’s still mourning and healing in there. Days where you don’t want to do anything or want to take a nap and hide out. So I’m still learning and slowly getting back on my new single mom feet! It’s not without its challenges or 2:00 am worrying spells.
Q: What’s been the biggest comfort for you in the past year? What decision has helped you get through this time more than anything else?
A: I would say friends and family have been the most helpful in the past year. I listened to a lot of sad music, binged on TV through Netflix, read a lot of SARK and Anna Quinlan. It was really nice to get out of my head.
One thing that I really appreciated was friends bringing over food in the weeks following Nico’s passing. It was such a gentle gesture of caring without being in my space. It took that burden of feeding myself and the children off my shoulders. Other times, friends would come over and we’d split a bottle of wine. There were hugs and people letting me know if I needed anything, they’d be there. Most of the time I had no idea what I needed and wasn’t sure I needed anything at all, but there was comfort in knowing they were there.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mother? What do you already miss?
A: I would say how they keep my eyes new and keep me on my toes! They say and do the weirdest, funniest, and most awesome things on a daily basis. I was surprised how much I like being a mother and how sobering it was. It felt like that moment the pee stick had double lines, my life was altered.
But man, I miss stroller naps! When my daughter was a baby, we were never home. We didn’t have to be! We had a Cadillac of a stroller and everything we could ever need inside!
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…
A: I wish I had known that it was okay to ask for help. I should have asked for more help.
I wish I had known it all starts with me. You see those momma ain’t happy memes – those are the truth. My worst parenting moments come when I’m not fulfilled or taking care of myself.
I wish I had relaxed more about everything. Seriously, people have been having babies for eternity. Deep breaths.
Mostly now I like to remind myself: Life is short and sweet and there’s so much magic. Look for and relish the magic.
And because I’ve been there, I have to make sure your family has life insurance.Please make sure your will is up-to-date. Sign up for free reminders and templates right here. It’s so important to take care of all that heavy stuff today. It’s peace of mind.
Jessica, I’ll say it again: You are brave, brave, brave. I’m so happy to have made your acquaintance. The way you’ve respected and continue to carry on your husband’s legacy is admirable. When you assign lovely attributes like intelligence and a strong will to your children, and tell them they’re like their dad in wonderful ways, it must heal them in so many ways. I will root for you always.
Friends, are you prepared for the unexpected? Have you done all the grown-up stuff, like make sure you’ve got up-to-date wills and documents? If you haven’t, does the very thought of it stress you out? And if you have, tell everyone how easy and reassuring it is! (Remember: If you’re ever visiting Austin, check out Jessica’s house to rent. We heard about Kid & Coe here first on Laura’s Living With Kids tour!)