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when you're feeling blue...

Good Things List

These times have been an emotional roller coaster for all of us for sure. Some days I feel really great and have a handle on our current state of life, and sometimes I'm totally bummed out. The thing I try and do on those bummer days is to think about all the great things that have happened since quarantine and write them down in a place I can see, look at, and add to. It's fun to get the kids involved, too, when they inevitably miss school and friends and "regular" life. All of us can always be refreshed by looking at and adding to your Good Things list!


Craftopia - HBO Max

When it comes to TV time, my kids have started to break outside of the kids' cartoons and watch shows with real people. They now love creative competition shows which have been so fun to watch as a family. So I'm excited to tell you about this amazing new show that launched a couple weeks ago on HBO Max called Craftopia. Hosted by Lauren Riihimaki of LaurDIY with judges James Worsham and Toya Moore-Broyles, it's a crafting competition show for kids ages 9-15.

Craftopia - HBO Max

Craftopia - HBO Max

Not only is it completely family-friendly and SO MUCH FUN (my kids are obsessed!), but I'm a guest judge on the 5th episode ("It's Lit!")! The challenges are so fun, the set design is RIDICULOUSLY GOOD, and I'm so thrilled to have played a small part in it. We filmed this back in November—and to see it now in our current times—I'm so proud of the diversity of the cast and the contestants. It's an amazing sign of our times and the evolution of TV. I am so happy that all kinds of kids can see themselves represented in this show and feel inspired to explore their creativity. Thanks so much to the team at Craftopia for having me...I truly had the best time filming this!

(Top photo by Oh Joy, others are screen shots from the show)

how to talk to kids about racism...

A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory

The other night, we found ourselves explaining to our kids what happened to George Floyd and so many other Black Americans recently. It’s a story we didn’t expect to tell because it’s a story that shouldn’t have happened. But it did happened and incidents like these have been happening for centuries.

Maybe you know we are all equal, and you know that these actions are horribly wrong. But have you consciously sought out to be anti-racist? Have you attempted to make sure that you don't allow for it in your communities, in your speech, in your family, or in your future? Maybe now, you are in a place that you are angry and you're really trying to understand. Maybe you have never known how bad things are because you grew up in a neighborhood where everyone looked like you and therefore never experienced it. Maybe you did grow up in a diverse area but because your skin is light, you never experienced racism.

If you haven't started yet, today is the day to implement anti-racism in your home. Although you may have wished you knew more earlier or you did more sooner, it's never too late to start. I don't have all the answers to fix this, and I am not a certified teacher. But what I do know and what I can share with you is how we have been active about introducing anti-racism into our household at an early age and how we actively teach our kids about racism.

Here are eight ways to start...

1. Introduce the topic of racism early. Often with topics that are controversial, uncomfortable, or serious, parents assume that they need to wait until their kids are older to talk about it. I have found that around 5 years old, a real conversation about topics like race can be understood on some level. Every child is different, so if you feel you can have a conversation with a younger child, then do it.

2. Don’t shy away from these conversations. Your kids can understand more than you think. If you've ever been sitting casually at home when one of your kids ask about sex, why two men can get married, how a man can change to become a woman, or why our skin color is different than someone else's, don't put off having those conversations. You and your partner may look at each other awkwardly wondering who will take the lead on answering the questions, but now—in that moment—is the time to do it. Don't brush it off, don't wait until another time. And definitely don't tell them you'll talk about it when they are older. Everyday that is pushed off is a missed day for your child to become a better human with your help. You’re adding to their lack of awareness by not telling them when they ask.

3. It's ok if you are not an expert. It feels easy to deflect conversations about racism when you’re uncomfortable and you aren’t prepared and don’t know what to say. Often parents think they need to have read a plethora of books on a topic to say everything exactly right. Sure, you should read books, read articles, and do as much as you can to educate yourself. But you don't need to be an expert. Speak to your child in a way they can understand and learn best. Does your child do well with visuals or pictures? Get kids books to help them and you. Do they learn well from examples? Tell them stories. Also, you are an expert at your own life. Have you personally experienced racism? If so, tell them what happened. You can also use stories from history to help give examples.

4. Walk in other people's shoes. Ask children how they would feel if someone was racist towards them. Children are naturally empathetic people. Giving them analogies, examples, or asking them to put themselves in someone else's shoes is the easiest and quickest way to start explaining this topic to a child that may have no idea that racism exists. Kids start learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks as early as pre-school and kindergarten. These are stories from history you can have at home, too. While you're at it, remind them that some of these injustices STILL happen today.

5. Don't assume that kids are colorblind when it comes to race. It's not enough to say there is no color or "we don't talk about skin color because we don't want our kids to see the difference". It's true that small children often don't see their friends by their skin color. I remember having a conversation with Ruby when she was 4 or 5 and referenced her being Asian. She said, "I'm Asian?" She didn't know she was any different than her friends until she was told in pre-school by a girl with blond hair that "light hair is better".

6. Surround your kids with diversity. Actively seek communities, schools, play groups, and friends where your kids are surrounded by families and kids that are different than your own. If you already live in a non-diverse neighborhood and cannot easily change this, you can also expose them through food, cultural institutions, museums, books, toys, and more. They need to see more to learn more. This is helpful also for kids under 5 who may not be old enough to have meaningful conversations just yet. Actively seek art for your walls, books for kids to read, and toys that show kids and people of color... not just your kid's color.

7. Kids watch who you are to understand who they should become. This is the time to check in with your own bias, actions, privilege, judgements, and way of being that your kids might pick up on. Having these conversations with them will help you reconnect with yourself. But remember, if you want your kids to become anti-racist, you have to truly be anti-racist yourself. There are so many resources right now that people are sharing on social media, so start with your own education to be better equipped for your children as well.

8. The bottom line is—you have to have uncomfortable conversations. We all have to be better to help support Black Americans and to help create REAL CHANGE. We have to do everything we can which includes educating the future of America so that one day they can live in a country and world where people treat others appropriately, kindly, peacefully, and worthy of all the same things.

If you personally have any other tips or resources you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below. I don't have all the answers, and we can all learn from one another.

PS. Some other book lists and resources shared by readers:
Books for Diversity
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Kojo for Kids
Librarian Annette
Embrace Race

(Photo above A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory)

our last day in the oh joy 2.0 studio...

Oh Joy 2.0 Studio

Today we say farewell to our amazing studio where we've spent the last 3.5 years of Oh Joy's almost 15 year history. This was what I called our Oh Joy 2.0 studio (here and here and here and here) as it was a big upgrade from our first one (which was an upgrade from my original home studio). This is the space where I grew my team to it's peak size, developed so many products and brand collaborations, opened (and closed) our online shop, launched our academy, and so much more.

We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, and engagements. We made amazing projects, designed tons of products, and set beautiful scenes. We laughed and loved and cried and worked hard here. So many talented members of the Oh Joy team (past and present) have created here—Casey, Julia, Angie, Jess, Courtney, Traci, Nicole, Wilmarose, Kim, Lily, and Jenner. It's sort of like when you move from one home to another...even though there are new things to look forward to, it's always bittersweet to say goodbye! Another tenant will be moving in soon...and I am so happy to have passed it onto a good friend with an amazing brand who will love it as much as we did.

We're so excited to share with you our new plans and space for Oh Joy 3.0 (which the global pandemic has put on hold for a little while). Thank you as always for being part of this community, and we look forward continuing to share the new chapters ahead...

in my last few days of 40...

Oh Joy!

As I count down the last few days of my 40th year, it will be a very different birthday this year for sure. I can't believe I am saying this, but in the last few weeks...I've been happy again.

I spent the first month (or two) of quarantine being sad and angry over the life that was supposed to be happening right now for all of us...the things we were supposed to be doing, the places we were supposed to be going to, and the people we were supposed to be seeing, celebrating, hugging...

And then I realized, had that life that was "supposed to be" actually happened, I would have never spent so much unfiltered time with my family. Never would I have seen my kids' personalities blossom in the ways I have seen in the last 3 months with them home from school. Never would I have reconnected with the joy I once had in the kitchen where I now see cooking as enjoyable instead of something annoying. Never would I have felt SO grateful to have a home to sleep in and our health which I always took for granted.

I would have just gone on with that life that was supposed to be. These feelings are vastly different than those I wrote you a couple months ago. And that's not to say they won't change again...this is an ocean wave we're all riding together after all. But in this moment...right now..I am choosing to enjoy this alternate normal and all the things it has taught me.

Have a great weekend, friends...! What are YOU enjoying right now?

(Photo by Max Wanger for his series "Through the Looking Glass")

celebrating mother's day from far away...

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

Mother's Day is just around the corner, and it definitely feels different this year. Lots of us haven't had a chance to see our extended families in a while with our current social distancing. While we are in our homes and our moms are in their homes, how can we connect with them in an extra fun way for Mother's Day? I was inspired by the things we used to do with our moms when we were younger and figure out a way to do them together virtually! In collaboration with The Bouqs, here's something fun I did with my Mom recently....

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

When I was little, my mom and I spent a lot of time creating together. She taught me how to do calligraphy (which eventually turned into my first business when I was 12 years old :P). I also used to help her fold napkins (and came up with fun ways to fold them) and helped arrange flowers in vases at my parents' Thai restaurant when I was a kid. So I thought it would be fun to send her matching bouquets (I love the pastel mix of roses), and we could prep and arrange them together virtually!

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

Whenever you receive flower deliveries, they are all set and ready to be displayed in the vessel that it comes with (like this mason jar we received), but it's important to trim the stems at a 45 degree angle to help them drink the new water you'll add to their vessel. When doing this, I also like to trim the ends so that the flowers fit the height of the vase I have. I trimmed these down so they would sit about 6" over the opening of the mason jar. I did this on mine while my mom arranged hers at her house!

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

It was fun to chat about flowers (which we both love!) and also think about when we used to do this together when I was younger.

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

celebrating mother's day from far away / oh joy!

And, after our call, we both had a beautiful arrangement to have in our homes! What are some things you used to do with your Mom a lot that would be fun to do virtually with her this Mother's Day?

P.S. To help celebrate Mother's Day for your mom, The Bouqs is offering Oh Joy! readers 20% off through 5/11/20 with code: OHJOY20. And, see my Instagram stories today for another tip on how to get roses looking even more beautiful after receiving them!

Practical Ways To Support Small Businesses

Oh Joy! Florals

As you all know, this is a crazy time in the world and so many people are being affected, by sickness, by worry, by economic downturn, by isolation.  Oh Joy! is a small self-funded business, and we are in the same boat with all of you - struggling to make sense of everything and feeling the very real economic realities of a country and world that is staying home and can't work. I am friends with so many other small businesses who are making difficult decisions and struggling to survive until we get to the other side of this pandemic and things can return to the way they were before.  If you are a small business and struggling, I want you to know that I see you, I feel you, and I want to support you.  So here are a few ways we can try and help our small business community. And if you can't afford to buy things right now, we understand! You can still support small business without spending a dime.  Here's how...

1) The first one is easy!  Buy something! Small business spans from the cute stationery boutique on the corner, indie kids clothing line, artist, author, your favorite local ramen spot, and everything in-between. So try today, or once a week, to order something online, get a food delivery, buy an author's book to read, or send a gift. Every little bit helps them right now!

2) Get a gift certificate! If you're not comfortable getting something delivered right now, you can buy a gift certificate from your favorite store. The small business gets the money now to keep things afloat, and in a few months, you get to go shopping (or have the perfect gift for someone else!)

3) Support someone's Patreon.  If you are like me, you follow tons of artists, small shops, illustrators, and even cartoonists on social media.  There is a service call Patreon that lets you give a certain dollar amount monthly and you basically become part of their reward club. For some, there are different levels of monthly content or gifts you get, for others, free shipping or first access to their content. It's an easy way to help (sometimes for only a dollar a month!)

4) No money? No problem!  One thing we small businesses need is to be introduced to new friends and customers we haven't met before...YOUR friends and circle of influence!  Share your favorite brands in IG stories; post the product you would buy and say it's on your wish list; retweet a favorite shop; pin the best brand for necklaces, etc. Sharing about your favorite brands might introduce one of your friends or followers to a company they haven't met but would love. And more eyes to their work is a great way to help support them, too!

5) Comment and engage on your favorite pages.  All "likes" "follows" "comments" "pins" "views" etc. are welcome, needed, and so encouraged. Small business that serve the influencer and blogger space (raising hand that's us!) benefit from your engagement. You're already on social media a little more than usual right now (I know because I am, too!), so be generous with your comments and likes, and help get more engagement to your favorite accounts.  

6) Send an encouraging email or message.  I know we can't all afford to buy something from every small business we love - I know can't despite how much I want to. But we can send encouragement in the form of an email, DM, or comment. I can't tell you how much I love all your notes and comments everyday that help give me smiles during this crazy time. They mean the world to me and remind me we're all in this together.  Send notes to all your favorite brands, artists, designers, and friends. Real people are behind every account and are touched to hear from fans and friends of their support and love.

These are just a few ideas from us...but share any of yours, too! And if you're a small business or have a favorite one, leave a link in the comments that we can all go visit and see! Keep spreading joy and support, and we'll get through this together.

(Photo by Lily Glass. Styling by Wilmarose Orlanes, styling assistance and crafting by Jess Hong.)

be curious activity: teach something you used to be good at!

be curious activity: teach something you used to be good at!

While we're home with our kids for the next several weeks, I've been thinking about ways that we can turn this situation into some ray of sunshine and see the good that will eventually come of this seemingly terrible situation. I'll be sharing activities and ideas here inspired by our BE CURIOUS! book launching soon and ways to bring out creativity and curiosity during this time. First up...

Teach Something You Used to Be Good At!

I was thinking...how can we use this time to revive some of our past beloved hobbies? I went to art school, took dozens of drawing classes, and USED to be able to draw well. But my life drawing skills have gone away with the realities of my current job and schedule. When's the last time I actually sat down to draw away from a computer? So, as part of my daily school with my kids, we're starting the morning off with a Life Drawing class! I'll set out everyday objects or take a walk outside, and we'll all draw the same thing from whatever vantage point we're at. Here's an example of what we did today...

be curious activity: teach something you used to be good at!

I simply placed a few pieces of fruit on a plate and we all drew them based on our own vantage point. I talked about perspective and shadow and overall just getting them to slow dow and look at something and notice the details of it to draw it. Here's where we landed...

be curious activity: teach something you used to be good at!

be curious activity: teach something you used to be good at!

be curious activity: teach something you used to be good at!

It's so fun to see how we all drew them differently based on our ages, where we sat in relation to the subject, and it was such a fun activity to do with my kids. These will be fun to scan and make into a book, too, at the end of all this self-isolation! You could do this daily drawing exercise, too. Or, if there's something YOU used to be great at that you've neglected, take this as a chance to revive it! Whether that means teaching your kids (like I'm doing) or just giving yourself some of this downtime to practice your long-lost skill.

Let me know what you guys decide to do!

our new normal (for now)...

Oh Joy! Sparkle Series

Who would have guessed just two weeks ago that our world would be in the state that it is today? Things change day by day, hour by hour. So many things are unknown and still being solved. I shared some initial thoughts last week on Instagram. But here's how we're coping and spending our days over here...

Social distancing as much as possible. I saw this chart which was a great visual for me in terms of what we can do while also trying to get outside and get some fresh air.

Teaching my kids for part of the day. Both of my kids' schools are closed for 3-4 weeks, so Bob and I are working out some semblance of a schedule to help guide and teach them during the day and not let them think it's just a free-for-all Spring Break! There's a mix of structure and some flexibility which should hopefully work for all of us.

Working for part of the day. I mean, working...what's that? The world has certainly come to a halt so work has been very non-typical lately (which makes the part-time homeschooling not so impossible). But there's still work to be done in Oh Joy! land so we're navigating changes (previously planned event cancellations) and prepping for upcoming projects day-by-day.

Packing my house/office for part of the day. Who decided to move out of their office and their home in the same month that a National Emergency was declared? ME! That's who! While none of this was intended to coincide, here we are, and I'm just doing my best to stay optimistic and not spend my days crying in the corner. HA!

Supporting local small businesses. While we aren't going out much, I am making a habit to support a small business in some way every single day. Whether that's picking up coffee or bagels to go, getting delivery from a local restaurant, or buying a gift or other item online from a small business, we need to try and support them as much as we can.

Trying to stay calm and positive. The news can be a doozy to watch. It's hard to know what's completely accurate and what's not. But for our kids, we're doing our best to show them that—no matter what—we'll be okay at the end of all of this.

Keep doing and sharing joyful things! Over the last 14+ years, this site (and all the things we do here at Oh Joy!) have been here to provide you JOY in some way. That won't stop now...as you could probably use that joy now more than ever. If there's anything I can do that would help you during this crazy time, please pop a comment here and let me know! I have some ideas up my sleeve but welcome all your requests.

Stay calm and optimistic, my loves...

(Photo from my #OhJoySparkleSeries on Instagram)

to all the homes i've loved before...

Oh Joy! Living Room - Photo by Monica Wang

As we get ready to move into our new home in a few weeks (yay!), I'm getting nostalgic about the home we've spent the last 10 years in. We started our life in Los Angeles here, started a family here, and really grew to love Los Angeles here. So, while I'm looking back..here's a look back at all the place I've lived in my adult life starting with my very first solo apartment in Brooklyn Heights after college...

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

Oh Joy Brooklyn Apt

From 2001-2005, I live in this 400 sq. ft. studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights, New York. This was my first solo apartment as an adult after living with roommates for four years prior. I was in my early 20's and working at my first couple design jobs out of college while living here. Brooklyn wasn't yet the cool spot that it is now but it was totally on it's way, and I loved it SO much. This apartment was on the 3rd floor of some giant house that looked like a haunted mansion from the outside, but it had such character and the best creeky, carpeted steps in the hallway that I will never forget.

I found someone on Craig's List to make me these stacking, modular boxes that I used as a bookshelf and divider area for my bed. (By the way, I was an early user of Craig's List and my friends thought I was crazy to find a stranger through a website!). This tiny studio apartment was $1270-1390 per month back in 2001-2005 (which still sounds SO expensive to me for such a tiny space), and I remember being SO broke because it took more than half my pay check each month. But I was young, had no responsibilities, and it was just the place I needed to be at that time in my life.

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

Oh Joy! Philly Apt

From 2005-2009, we lived in this one bedroom apartment in Philly. I had moved back to Philly (where I'm from) and left New York to live closer to my then-boyfriend, Bob, who had just started a long-term residency in Philly. We had been dating long-distance for 9 years and were ready to live in the same city. This is the apartment we lived in when we got engaged, got married, and had some of our biggest early married couple fights. This is the apartment where I started Oh Joy! back in September 2005. It was about 900 sq. ft. and the perfect size for a newlywed couple and our three cats. This was the apartment where my personal style started to bloom, and I really began to express it more through my slightly expanded use of color! In true Joy form, I found someone on Craig's List to sew these custom curtains for all these windows we had. Ha!

Oh Joy! San Diego

From 2009-2010, we lived temporarily for a year in Coronado (a tiny island off San Diego) while Bob was doing his last year of training in San Diego for the year. I had Oh Joy! but it was just me, so I worked out of a bedroom in a 3-bedroom duplex we rented for the year. I have no photos of it cause it was completely temporary and we used the owners furniture (so it never really felt like home). So here's a photo of me outside of it with the Mini Cooper I had at that time!

Oh Joy! Living Room, Photo by Monica Wang

Oh Joy! Kids' Bedroom / Photo by Sasha Guilish for Land of Nod

Oh Joy! Photo by Katherine Rose

From 2010-present (almost 10 years!), we have lived in this duplex (top floor of a house) in Los Angeles. When we rented this apartment back in 2010, we didn't look at schools or intend to raise our family here. We thought it would be temporary to get our feet wet as new residents of LA. 10 years later, we've started our family here and raised two amazing kids, met and grew some of our forever friendships here, had many Friendsgivings here, and really made Los Angeles our home here. Emily Henderson was a huge part of helping us to design our living room, dining room, and Coco's nursery (before she shared a room with Ruby). This is the home where my personal style really came to life, and it's fun to see how much my adult homes have evolved over the last 20 years!

I can't wait to show you what's next in our very first home that we'll actually own. If you want to catch up on everything I've shared over the past couple years on our progress, you can see it all right here!

(Professional photos above by: Monica Wang, Sasha Gulish, Katherine Rose)