this is how we do it.

despite the sighs of pity some may offer at the mention of it, i embrace it for the gift it is and have absolutely no problem answering the what-exactly-do-you do question with just that: i stay at home with my baby. i feel no need to further explain i used to teach. or i am also a photographer. or there are some days i think i work so hard i would surely take the i-did-more-than-you-today prize from any 9 to 5er. because for me, it is the most beautiful job in the world, and based on my own memories of spending afternoons sitting on the worn shag blue carpet in our family room, making my way through the lollipop woods and molasses swamp in a rip-roaring game of candyland with my mom or trailing behind her through a fabric store while she thumbed through butterick patterns knowing a trip to the ice cream store–just her and i–was sure to follow…well, i can’t say enough just how sweet those times were or how good it feels to be able to mimic as much of that goodness as i can.

and i don’t take it for granted. i really don’t. and i know so many mamas that would love to stay home but can’t and i wish i could share the gift a little more. but i also know that there are all sorts of mamas…good mamas…and some need time away, love their work environments and have these flawless set-ups where their babies are loved and nurtured during the day and they come home and balance it all the same. because they choose to work. and they’re just as good.

and i guess the point i’m trying to get to is that yes…this staying home thing is just purely beautiful…but it’s not always perfect. i would love nothing more but to bake and craft and read goodnight moon a trillion times to her while we spooned under cold sheets and planned our breakfast menu. but it’s hardly like that.
i do work. i work at home…a lot. and while i think it is the coolest thing in the history of mankind that i get to both work and be with her, it presents its difficulties. i can’t always read. i can’t always craft. and there are many a times when i’m on a call, editing photos, answering e-mails, scraping burned scrambled eggs off a hot pan while holding her all at once.

but you know what? we rock it out. we really do. she’s this super-cool toddler who finds things to do and with a little set-up can easily entertain herself with a pile of crayons, a cup of water, a drawer full of clothes to try on…while my presence is near. there are days where we bake, and days where we eat chicken nuggets. days where three loads of laundry miraculously make their way through the entire line of command (traditionally stopping, of course, at that wrinkled standstill between dryertown and foldedland), and days where the dirty pile grows ominously on the bathroom floor.

hold it. perhaps i should mention the shakedown. oh, the shakedown. a term invented by sister which, by definition, is the 45 minute blitz you frantically set out on right before your husband comes home which magically transforms your home into looking like you’ve been june-cleaver-in’ the place all day. can’t tell you how many times i’ve been gabbing with my sister at six o’clock only to wildly cut the call short with a “–crap, i have to go…shakedown time!” which is always met with empathy and a ‘you’ll-get-it-done’ on her part. and i always do. in fact, if i don’t say so myself, i’ve been known to turn a pit-gone-mad into martha stewart’s living room, spit-shine the kitchen, throw something into the crockpot, turn the dryer on, light some candles, crank some diana krall, dispose of my pajamas, and smear some lipstick on in thirty-seven minutes flat. and he’ll be all like ‘wow‘ when he comes home. and i’ll be all like, if-only-you-knew.

but, all that aside…
sometimes there are days like these.

days when magically…we do it all. like there were 72 hours in this one little day.
i mothered. the good-kind of mothered.
instead of looking like one of the boxcar children, all oatmeal-covered and half-naked, we were cutely dressed and tightly pony-tailed by 7:30…right when the morning light streamed its welcome into her room for some early reading.

quintessential little girlhood: skinned knees and chipped polish.

we crafted. and not just crayons and cheap coloring books. no… we’re talkin’ gluesticks and sequins.

we escaped to the park where the mid-morning breeze swished her pony-tails while she gasped and grinned on high-flying swings… (and yes, we had a wardrobe change, thank you)

(and bravely conquered the no-hands pose with pride!)

we picked up tuna subs and ate them on the ground, right there on dirt and grass with nothin’ but nature.

…and headed home where she napped and i painted her nursery rocker a rich fallish shade of bordeaux to make its debut in our living room where new baby girl will be rocked and nursed and snuggled come january.

afternoon had us winding through aisles at the grocery where she kindly helped me pick out bananas and tote bratwurst and peppers in her basket (so bringing her little cart next time. she wants to be a mama-shopper so bad, but the basket weighed as much as she did and all the old people gave me mean looks like i forced her to carry it).

she’s so big…would much rather walk beside the cart and help her mama than sit in it.

and then finally back home where we simmered a pot of hot wassail with mulling spices for an afternoon treat.

(apple cider with unmeasured orange juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, allspice, and orange slice floaters…skim off the spices before serving)

and then…don’t ask me how…but i threw in a photo shoot tonight.
sweet siblings devin & lexi.

this little thing was very into eating nature.

so there. not to pat myself on the back, but…oh, who am i kidding. totally patting myself on the back. because, for all the times it doesn’t work out. for all the times i’ve gone to bed thinking i could have done more. for all the piles of laundry that don’t get washed or the goodnight moons that don’t get read…there are days like these. when everything goes just right.

and at the end of the day, there is this…

…the greatest reward for all the work in the world.

and we just love. and we just be. and that, my friends…is how we do it.



Leave a Comment
  1. When one’s business is the home, measure success in smiles, pay dividends in laughter, chart revenues with wonder. When others’ ventures fail and fumble, yours will flourish. And when you are old and the home is quiet, your butterfly chasers and your dress up dreamers will have a vault of memories that will make them rich. I love you for loving the right things.

  2. Bravo, i know exactly how you feel!!! being a stay at home mom is the best job in the world, but the hardest in my opinion. Lainey’s smile at the end is priceless. Your post really made me feel better as Bayley is teething and has a stuffy nose and isn’t sleeping, yet we made it through and i am so grateful that i can be here to comfort her. i love your “shakedown” idea and would like a class please lol. thanks for a great hard working mom post, rock on girls!!

  3. totally jealous…i didn’t get shiv done today.

    you are my hero. HERO! seriously…you rock. from one stay-at-home to another.

    pictures are DIVINE!


  4. oh yeah…amen on the shakedown. i love me a good shakedown. 4pm is when magic happens ’round here!

  5. The last b/w of LL is hauntingly perfect. Exquisite. Eyes that beckon you to the deep.

  6. Always love readin ’bout “how you and Lainey do it” super-cool gals you are.
    Shakedown club member’

  7. Kelle, we totally do the shakedown here too!! So funny. I’m all like, hurry up! Dad’s gonna be home in 10 minutes!

    And you are so right about being a SAHM. I work from home also. And on those days, when you get to do everything, and everyone is happy – well, those are some great days. I’m constantly saying that I just need a couple more hours in the day, just a little bit more time to do that laundry, and clean the house. So, when you get a little time, send me one of those 72 hr days. I could use a couple :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    You are such a great mom and a fantastic photographer. Your job is super hard but I’m still jealous.:) We love the photos of our babes that you posted. We can’t wait to see more! Thanks for fitting us in your busy day yesterday.

  9. I just love readin ’bout “how you and Lainey do it” super-cool gals you are.
    Shakedown club member’

  10. Oooh I LOVE this post…and am so thankful to finally have a name to attach to that frantic cleaning/straightening/I’ve been working hard all day look……I think all of us do it!

    Thank you for your words.

  11. Hi my name is Terri and I am a shakedowner, and have proudly been for 37 years! Here’s an extra hint…dab a little pine sol behind your ears when you hug your man… every time!

    Definition of stay at home mom: the world’s hardest and most rewarding job in the world. Benefits….giving the universe an accomplished, respectful and confident human to add to its wonder. The pay? Wish all jobs could pay you with love, kisses and a feeling of awe.


  12. So true… this post….love lainey’s shoes. Reminds me of my girls. I still have a pair like that saved for someone……love the red chair…been thinking about painting mine red or orange for fall but maybe I just need to find another chair. Where did you get that one? I love the pic of you at the computer with Lainey andrew still comes and snuggles me while I am on the computer…only in the morning! I’m sure not for much longer. Savor every minute which I know you do…YOU are a great “stay at home” MOM! Creating “moments” in everything you do!

  13. Awe my mom’s comment is so sweet! Cheers to the shakedown! It’s amazing what women can do when under a deadline.

    As a stay-at-homer come December, I have so been thinking about all of this and how it all works out. I have realized that just like every single thing one can do, staying with your kids all day has many different forms. We all make it what we want it to be. Ah, the beauty of life and all those options we have as feminists thanks to feminists that came before us.

    Love that lat pic of LL. xo

  14. Poppa...Heloise says:

    I love the pine sol behind the ears suggestion…another hint I have used effectively: when you have one of those pyrex dishes that become so badly stained, bake brownies in it and take it to your neighbors. She will enjoy the brownies and then, thinking the stains are new, spend hours scouring it clean before she returns it…honestly, it really works–they don’t want to be thought of as less than the best homemakers.

  15. Ohhhh, I loved this post!
    It all balances out.
    I love the shakedown!!!
    Your house is such a home.

  16. I am quite sure Lainey will be sweet as you are . God bless you!!
    Great photos, cozy home and lovely Lainey.

  17. Oh I love this post! It is so funny how we define ourselves… I am also a stay at home mom, but I don’t call myself that, because it really doesn’t say who or what I am. I am a working mother from home… I work to mother my child, I work to conserve our natural resources (and get paid to do that one), I am a wife, daughter, friend, neighbor, gardener, crafter, and homeowner. We are so lucky to have so much, so many options and so many ways to define ourselves. And I too love the days when so much good mothering gets done, because certainly I am on the computer, on the phone and juggling my child on my lap too often… it is a challenge, but one that I am so glad to have now that she is 3 and so independent. And by the way, your dad is an amazing writer. I am always so inspired by his words… wow. You are so lucky to have him as your supporter in life, and his words hold so much wisdom. Thanks for really showing us the real you… I like you so much more now I know what your real days are like.

  18. -to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch….to know even one little life has breathed easier because you have lived. this is to have succeeded!- Emerson

    There is no doubt that you have succeeded in your attempt for balance in the universe. xoxo

  19. What a life! You have made staying at home so special. It makes me wish I could stay home with Baylee.

  20. Anonymous says:

    you are the maker of memories and the keeper of secrets, the caster of magic spells and the baker of sweets, the chef of homemade soups and the cleaner of the happy messes, the snuggler of hugs and tickler of “goodness glands”, the teller of stories and the writer of blog posts, the photographer of littles and the crafter of (um) crafts, wife to brett and mama to lainey and baby to be . . . and the inspirer to oh so many . . . thank you for sharing how you do it!

  21. anonymous…reveal yourself. i think i love you. ha.

  22. Kelle, I so hope that you don’t mind but I am such a fan of yours! I look forward every day when I get home from work to reading your blog and admiring the unbelievable pictures (Lainey is such a beautiful subject!). Some days your blog is all I need to bring myself up from a bluey kind of mood. I have laughed and I have cried with you. You inspire my creative side and touch my maternal heart. Even though my kiddies are 22 & 23, they are still my babies and still answer to the nicknames that are special only to their mommy, daddy and each other. My “Bubbie and Pookie” are becoming these wonderful, facinating “adults” yet always will be their “Mommy”….yes they still call me that, even my 6’3″ tall, dark and handsome son. And he does it at times in front of whomever, without apology or embarassment. I see so much of my “mothering” in things that you do and it makes me smile. (ie, we had the baby powder incident, too!). I have shared your link with others who I think will appreciate you. I am also starting a blog….still working on the details on re-loving the old, vintage and antique for home decor. I hope when I get it up and running you will visit it and give me your honest critique. In the meantime, take care of your beautiful family and your bebe yet to arrive. Love and all the very best, Sandy Smith

  23. I love this post. Makes me smile as I’m looking around my awful mess of a living room and contemplating the laundry that really needs doing. Today is not one of them, but I do have those days too! Thanks!

  24. I don’t know how you do it, even after reading this post! But I’m glad to know it’s not always perfect for other SAHM and WAHM mom’s. I’m still trying to find a balance and after 7 months, I’m no where near close to finding it. Maybe one day…. but thanks for the inspiration!

  25. Just browsing through some old words…”Shakedown time” I never knew that last 30 minutes actually had a name!

    Your Dad’s words…he is a gift.

  26. Beautifully said- I love stumbling upon old posts of yours that set my heart on fire for the little loves in my life! Thanks!

  27. I love this post. I come back to read it occasionally when I’m needing some motivation. About to start my shakedown right now :)

  28. this makes me immeasurably happy. i love days when everything goes perfectly, and i SO LOVE the coined “shakedown” phrase! you are my hero kelle :) thank you for your blog. you encourage me daily.

  29. Love this blog….. it always makes me feel better and inspired after I read it.. Thank you for sharing your story

  30. Your dad’s words now inhabit the centerpiece on my fridge. Beautiful and touching, just like yours.

    Thank you for inspiring me daily.

    ~ Devon
    Reading with Joey

  31. Kelle – I know this is an old post, but I stumbled across it today and it CRACKED me up. The whole part about the shakedown. I though I was the only one – so glad I’m not!

  32. Hi Kelle,
    I’m making my way through some of your older posts and this one made my day!
    I’m a SAHM. In fact we moved interstate so that we could afford for me to stay at home with them. It meant that much to me!
    I’m so grateful for your words. Poppa’s comment touched my heart too- I see where you get the gift of turning a phrase.
    And thank you for putting a name to my frantic dash to tidy up the house before hubs gets home. Love it!

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