Maia started a business with her mom, and once I heard that I couldn’t stop smiling and wondering if maybe one of my kiddos would someday start a company with me. Maia is a Midwestern transplant to my neck of the woods, a minimalist with secret hoarding tendencies — which she is fighting! — and a mom intent on sharing her own unique parenting gifts and methods with her daughter.
I love her perspective and path. I hope you will, too. Welcome, Maia!
Hi, I’m Maia! Our little family is made up of my husband, Travis, and our daughter, Ingrid, who’s two.
Both my husband and I grew up in Wisconsin but we now call Sacramento, California home. I was raised in an idyllic, small, rural farming town that not only has a thriving alternative arts community but also has the most per capita organic farms in the state — and I believe the country at one time, but that might be one of the those local bragging rights that have no basis in fact! Either way, it was great place to grow up.
I went to school for graphic design and worked for years as a designer and art director for brands like Shopbop.com, Williams-Sonoma, Cuyana, and Rue Magazine. Last year, I branched out and launched a sustainable and design-minded online children’s boutique with my mom, called Bitte.
Since I work from home and my husband is a stay-at-home dad, we spend a lot of time together as a family. Probably what would seem a crazy amount for most people! Ever since I met Travis, though, we’ve rarely spent more than three or four hours apart at a time. We just really like each other’s company.
When we met it was such an intense, instant connection. I pretty much knew we were going to be together forever after ten days of dating him, and we moved in together after four months. That was eight years ago. It took us a little longer to get married because we were young and broke and that was less of a priority for us.
Two years ago we welcomed our daughter, and now we’re a kooky little trio. Ingrid is a total riot; she’s funny and smart and so curious. Her favorite things to do are dancing, jumping in puddles, playing in the yard, and singing.
We live in a neighborhood called South Land Park. It’s a quiet residential neighborhood not too far from downtown and midtown, where there are a lot more restaurants and shopping. Right in our neighborhood, there is a great Japanese bakery that my daughter loves to visit. We also like to bike to the park or to the river to play.
Our neighborhood is fairly diverse economically. You can find a few homes from the low to mid $300s but there are also homes that are $700 to $800k. Then there are lots of families in our neighborhood who have been here for decades. It seems to be a pretty sought after area because there are a bunch of great schools nearby, but it’s not as popular as some of the older and more established neighborhoods, which keeps it accessible.
Our house is a 1962 California ranch style house. We bought it from the original owners so not much had been done to it over the years, which I loved. We eventually want to do a bigger renovation to the bathrooms and kitchens since those haven’t been touched in over 50 years, but they are in surprisingly great shape and totally livable.
The funny thing is we weren’t really looking that seriously to buy when we started down the path to purchase this place. We had been in Sacramento about six months, and we started going to open houses mostly for fun and also to get to know neighborhoods and the different areas in Sacramento. We went to an open house for a home just a few blocks from our current house, and completely fell in love with it. That place sold right away but it got us thinking more seriously about the whole process. We found a realtor through a friend the next week, and I think wrote an offer on this house just two weeks later! All the stars just aligned and I’m happy they did because we couldn’t be happier in this home.
The downside was having to move with a baby/toddler twice in one year! I don’t plan on moving again for a LONG time!
We moved first from Wisconsin to Oakland about five years ago, so that was probably a bigger transition than the one from Oakland to Sacramento. I still miss certain things about Wisconsin, mostly the people; friends, but also just the way people are there. There is an attitude and approach to life in the Midwest that I don’t even know how to describe. People always say Midwesterners are nice, which is true, but it’s more than that. Most people are just very genuine and humble.
But on the flip side, I really like that in California everyone is very open and warm and there is a different kind of can-do attitude. Not to mention you are exposed to so many more experiences and cultures. I’ve been really inspired by the energy and enthusiasm I have found living here.
Also, it might seem like a little thing but I love the produce in California! I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the fact that I now have multiple fruit trees in my yard bearing apples, mandarins, peaches, lemons…you name it!
The transition from Oakland to Sacramento has been more subtle since I’m still so close and able to visit often. Sacramento is sleepier and great for raising my daughter. But I definitely miss Oakland. I probably would have stayed if it wasn’t for cost-of-living constraints.
That’s the hardest part about living in California and previously the Bay Area: it’s just so expensive. We discussed moving back to the Midwest when we had our daughter, but ultimately decided that California is where we want to be. Sacramento allowed us to do that and live a little more affordably. Now I’m really glad we gave Sacramento a chance! There’s a lot of great stuff going on here. It’s got a burgeoning food and art scene, great schools, tons of outdoors stuff with the parks and rivers. And it’s a day trip to San Francisco, Tahoe, and the coast. I’ve grown to really love it.
Design wise, I like things simple, bright and airy. I think my style’s a little bit of a mixture of mid-century modern, Scandinavian modern, and just a splash of boho. I really like keeping my home as de-cluttered as possible, but I’m kind of a hoarder so it’s a constant battle.
I find that I can be much calmer and more creative when my house is clean, though. When people come to visit, I want them to feel comfortable. I love to cook for guests so I love that this house has a wonderful dining area. Our next project is to create an outdoor dining area since in California you can really take advantage of outdoor living most of the year.
Since having our daughter I try to make a home that is hers as well. I try not to have areas that are off limits or items that I wouldn’t want her playing with — except maybe all the cacti and a few items in my office.
I also have lots of art around, especially in Ingrid’s room. I really want art to be something she loves and appreciates, and you can never start too early. I still remember the artwork that was in my bedroom as a toddler, so obviously it left an indelible mark on me.
Bitte is an online children’s boutique selling sustainable classics for modern kids. We carry clothes and toys that have a focus on responsible and sustainable creation and manufacturing with an eye for modern design. I started it with my mom after my daughter was born.
We had always talked about starting something together. She had started her own all-natural toy business, Magic Cabin, when I was a toddler, which she built up over the years and eventually sold. So we really had a good marriage of skills and backgrounds. But it wasn’t until after my daughter was born that the idea really started coming together. I found as a new parent I wanted to shop more responsibly, especially when purchasing items for her. And while there were tons of great makers and artisans creating adorably designed eco-friendly goods, there wasn’t one place I could go to find these items in a beautifully curated selection. And as any new parent knows, time is a precious commodity so I wasn’t able to browse the Internet endlessly to find those gems I knew were out there. That’s when I decided I really wanted to create that trusted one-stop-shop for design and eco-conscious parents.
Right now my days are pretty crazy running the business. It’s just my mom and me doing everything! My husband also helps with shipping out orders. So it’s really a family effort. We’re currently working on designing some new products for our in-house Bitte brand, and picking all the merchandise for the holiday season which is always fun. For the summer we have some great new travel-related board books and really cute summer apparel that I can’t get enough of.
The best part is seeing customers post their little one’s enjoying their Bitte items on Facebook and Instagram!
The most important thing that has allowed me to start this business with my mom is that my husband stays home and takes care of my daughter. I grew up watching my parents do it the same way, though, so we have good role models. My dad was a stay-at-home dad and took care of my sisters and me while my mom built her own business.
I remember being so proud of her and thinking it was so special that she was doing something so different than a lot of my friends’ moms. I loved that both of them bucked tradition and struck out to do what was best for them and us as a family.
I learned from my mom specifically that I, too, could be an awesome business owner and mom. It might mean I’m not on every field trip or pack every lunch in the morning but that’s fine. I’m passing down different skills. I hope my daughter will one day feel the same about watching us build this business.
I really hope my daughter remembers our dance parties! And when she was a little baby I loved laying in bed with her and singing to her and telling her stories about how her dad and I met and who her aunts and uncles are. I’m sure I’ll keep doing that, but I remember thinking at the time she won’t even remember this but it still felt important. Now when we lie in bed together she’s the one telling stories, which I mostly can’t understand but I still love them.
I hope she doesn’t remember all the time I spend on my phone and computer. It’s the double edge sword of working from home. It allows me to spend so much time with her but I also have to get work done and it’s hard to explain to a two year old why I can’t play outside with her right this minute.
I love everything about living with my daughter. I sometimes describe it as gaining an awesome, tiny new roommate who’s adorable and hilarious. We have dance parties almost every night and sing endlessly in the car. She’s at this age now where she’s talking more and her personality is really emerging and it’s just the best! The other night she was supposed to go to bed but instead treated us to several rounds of No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. It’s one of those things where you’re kind of like, Okay…go to bed already! But on the other hand it was so sweet and funny, my husband and I had a hard time not just busting out laughing.
It’s hard to lay down the law when she’s being adorable and I just want to laugh. That’s one thing that has surprised me about parenting. I was a nanny for years and I was always a pretty strict nanny, but as a parent I have such a hard time disciplining, I’m a total softie. Luckily my husband has taken on that role.
I know I’m going to miss everything about this age, because that’s how I feel about every stage leading up to now. It’s the little mundane things that I hope I remember. Her tight snuggles and kisses. Her sticky hands grabbing at my face. How she loves to play with my shoes, the fancier the better.
And made-up songs – my current favorite Daddy, Daddy, I love you!
If I could hand out some advice, I’d tell you a few things. Most are pieces of advice from others or stuff I tell myself all the time, but I either don’t listen or have no willpower.
Use your phone less. It’s become such an addiction. And it’s hard because most of the time I’m using it for work but I need to get better at separating work from personal life.
Being humble is great but it’s also good to recognize your own accomplishments and celebrate them! It might be my Midwestern roots but it’s sometimes hard for me to take a compliment or talk about myself positively without adding a self-deprecating spin on it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is super hard for me! When I do ask for help I always think, “Why didn’t I just do that sooner?”
Thank you, Maia! I’m not sure if it’s a Midwestern thing, but maybe we all have to get better at accepting a compliment gracefully. Today, I’ll start! I’ll fight to just reply “Thank you,” and not feel compelled to wave it away like it’s not true. (I’ll pretend it IS true! Ha.)
And yes to asking for help! It’s one of the best feelings in the world, like a gorilla has been lifted off your back. When’s the last time you asked for help? I always love your stories.
P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.
18 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Maia McDonald”
“I love everything about living with my daughter. I sometimes describe it as gaining an awesome, tiny roommate who is adorable and hilarious.” This made me smile and is exactly how I feel about my nine-year old!
Your home is beautiful and I absolutely love your children’s shop. Stunning!
Awww thanks! Don’t our little one’s just add so much to our lives?!
I’m a big fan! Love your house!
I had a small question about Ingrid’s room- to the left of her bed it looks like she has a portable pretend stove? Wondering if you can share the source! Thanks.
My mom got the stove years ago, so I’m not sure it’s still available anywhere but it is made by a brand out of Hungary called Interkonsum.
This is such a great post, especially because I am also from Wisconsin and now live in Sacramento, via way of Oakland and San Francisco! After living in the Bay Area, we moved to Madison for a year (where I grew up) but decided to settle in Sacramento, where my husband grew up and my sister lives. We really miss the Bay Area and always say that if money were no option we would definitely live in Oakland forever. But, Sacramento is getting better and better and really has so many great things going for it.
My husband and almost 3-year old daughter live in Curtis Park. I am sure you have lots of friends after living in Sacramento, but let me know if you ever need more friends with kids!
Sara, that’s so cool that our paths have followed a similar route! I’d love to meet a new friend with kids in Sacramento! message me on fb or instagram some time :)
Bravo for deciding to accept compliments gracefully! I learned this from a course in assertiveness training, funnily enough. The thing that sold me on it is that anything other than ‘thank you’, any self-deprecation at least, is an insult to the person who just said something nice. I don’t want to do that!
I think that’s a good way of thinking of it, try to see it from the other persons perspective. Assertiveness training sounds like something I should look into :)
Beautiful home, Maia! I love your focus on natural and sustainable items. Where did you get the basket on your kitchen table? I work for Azizi Life in Rwanda and it looks like one of our designs!
I got it from Local + Lejos I believe they are made in Rwanda as well http://www.localandlejos.com/
Maia, that is great- Local+Legos is a wonderful company who buys from Azizi Life!
Awesome! I love that basket!
I love your story and look forward to browsing your shop!
I feel the same way about Minneapolis – a Midwestern city where the people were so easy to know and not caught up in pretenses or status. We now live in Atlanta and are finding our way~:)
And I also love Minneapolis! I actually was born just 30 minutes outside the Twin Cities and still have lots of family there so it has a special place in my heart :)
Hi! Such a darling article and you have such great taste.
In love with the two pillows on the dark gray couch. (Pink kilim looking + white with black rectangles.) Do you have the sources by chance?
The pillow with black rectangles is by Caroline Z Hurley for Mavenhaus. I don’t think it’s available anymore but you can shop her other products on her website http://carolinezhurley.com/collections/new?page=1
The kilim pillow is from ebay, it’s my favorite place to score affordable textiles. Here’s a link to one of my favorite sellers http://www.ebay.com/usr/turkishkilim
Where is your dining table from?
Beautiful I like the white chair