Mom Story: Anna from Goose Grease
I’m Anna Leigh Donado and I live in Brooklyn with my husband and our little 2 year old, Simone Louise. Besides being a wife and a mom, I’m the artistic director of Goose Grease and an artist myself. Goose Grease specializes in custom hand-painted wooden dolls such as wedding cake toppers, families, pets, etc. We have two Etsy shops, Goose Grease and Goose Grease Undone, for D-I-Y wooden craft supplies. My husband, Juan, is finishing his PhD in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. He’s writing his dissertation on French philosopher René Descartes. He is Colombian, from Bogotá, so our life is half Spanish, half English. I learned Spanish from him and a little bit in high school. We are raising Simone to be bilingual and bilingual education is something I never expected I would do. It has been absolutely exciting!
What kind of house do you live in – are you and your family happy here or is there anything you find lacking or would like to change?
We live in a first floor apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We have a space set up for working –one smaller space I use to paint in the evenings, and another one where we can do the daily shipping from home. We also have a studio in an old warehouse about a 20 minute walk from our house, where Juan does his daily writing and we keep our excess supplies. I also use this space for painting on large canvases when my artistic side is needing a balance from the detailed work of doll painting! We give Simone a lot of freedom when it comes to art-making, so I am most happy that we have many spaces available for her to express her imagination whenever inspiration hits her. We just learned that we are moving soon to the apartment across the hall, which enables us to have our working and living spaces all under the same roof. We are happy for this change!
What do you like best about living there?
I love that we don’t need a car and can walk or take public transportation wherever we have to go. We always end up on an adventure someway or another. For instance, just walking around the neighborhood we met an old local woman who ended up constantly bringing gifts for Simone. That type of experience is really unique to the grassroots community that still lives in Brooklyn.
My main inspiration comes from necessity. Space is limited in NY, so we are always finding creative ways to set up and re-set up our home.
What is your child’s favorite items in your house?
Her musical instrument basket and her CD player. She loves the Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” and can periodically be found with her mini guitar around her neck, strumming her own rendition of the Beatles’ classic. She also likes scissors, packaging tape, glue, etc.
What places in your neighborhood do you like to shop at?
I love our neighborhood because of its many cultures. One of our favorite places to go, of course, is the local art store –Artist and Craftsman. We go there two or three times a week and Simone really likes picking out a marker.
If you are living in a foreign country, how do you feel about it? How do you meet new people, make new friends? What is it that you miss most about "home"?
I’m from Virginia and Juan is from Colombia, so I guess you could call NY a foreign country to us. Because everything is in close proximity, and other mothers are also out strolling their kids, its pretty easy to meet people here. We also live in a Latino neighborhood, which gives Simone and I many great opportunities for practicing our Spanish.
What is it like to raise a child in your town?
I feel blessed to be able to raise a child in NYC. We still don’t go to museums as much as I would like (Simone is 2, so we’re not quite at the behavioral level required for quiet museum browsing, but we’re getting there ;). Nevertheless, there are so many free events for kids here it’s unreal. For instance, Simone had free swimming lessons at a local pool this summer. I moved to Brooklyn when I was 21 and Simone gets to be here since she was born! That’s pretty lucky.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your child?
It would begin after a full night’s sleep. We would have to pick up from there…
What is a normal day like with your child? What do you do on the weekends?
Juan wakes everyone up in the morning. We have coffee and breakfast, and then he drops Simone off to her preschool, which is a block away from us. We work during the hours she’s away, and then at noon I go to pick her up. He heads off to our studio or the library to work on his dissertation or other projects. Simone and I take a walk and then she comes back to the house for a nap while I work on emailing and shipping. When she wakes up I usually paint dolls and have her paint alongside with me. We generally end the afternoon with a walk to the post office, where she loves to sort out the packages and hand them to the attendant. Juan comes home around 5 or 6 and then we all eat dinner together and finish the night listening to music and/or watching the news. Simone goes to sleep, and Juan and I finish our night painting, sanding, and writing.
Tell us a funny story, quote or remark your child recently made.
Simone is just starting to really articulate sentences. That’s always amazing to see –how the mind actually begins to construct through language. Recently, someone asked Simone what street she lives on. I wasn’t sure how she would respond, as this is a question we’ve only just begun working on. I was quite surprised when she confidently answered: “I live on Sesame Street.”
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-children’ advice?
I would say: guided freedom is the key. Especially with arts and crafts. One of our biggest selling products at Goose Grease is our Doll Family DIY kit – which comes with paints, brushes, top coat and everything you need to get started (and finished). A lot of parent's are worried that their kids can’t do certain craft projects. They think a five year old would have trouble painting a doll, but that’s more the parent’s mental chains than the child’s incapacity! Put some plastic down, give them an apron, and let the kid go to town! The paint will come off, eventually! Even when Simone was a year old we brought her to the studio and had her painting with acrylic paint because as long as she doesn’t eat it, it’s good. I love letting Simone explore new, creative things. With great freedom, of course, comes great responsibility, so we’re trying to get her to understand that.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your child?
Pretty much everything. From Play dough to painting to cutting to gluing. Simone’s current favorite thing are pompoms – which has given us hours of play. We just got a bag with three different sizes, so I have been drawing circles on paper, small, medium and large, and have her glue the matching pompoms onto the painted circles. This teaches her color and size matching.
What do you do with all the projects your child makes at home or in school?
We pack them in a brown envelope and send them off to the grandparents! (We have kept a few good ones though ;)
Does your child have friends over often? If yes, what activities do they do?
Yes, Simone has two favorite friends, Bob and Simon, that come over quite often. Alongside with a painter we’ve hired in Colombia, Simon’s mom, Sandra, has helped us with painting for Goose Grease, so she’ll bring Simon over and we’ll paint while the kids play.
How do you buy your books? Bookstores? Online?
There is a great program at our local library, where during the weekly story time session, every third week the child gets a free book. We have stocked our shelves with these books! Also, my mom has a childcare center in Virginia, so every visit to her place finds us returning with an arm load of books.
What are some nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what would you recommend when people are visiting?
I just discovered a puppet group that meets once a week in our neighborhood. It has been wonderful. There’s a great website called Mommy Poppins that has a running calendar of activities for kids in NYC. I get a lot of ideas from there.
Do you cook together with your child? Does Dad cook?
We all cook together. Juan is really good at marinating the meat and Simone loves to throw in the spices. I once thought of writing a cookbook with one recipe for every day of a year… I think it will be a life-long project.
Do you keep some sort of travel journal with your child?
Yes, I am an avid journaler myself, and I think having a notebook with you at all times is very important. I created one for Simone to use the first time we went to Colombia when she was a year old, hopefully it will be the first of many!
What are your tips for traveling in a plane or on a long road trip with your child?
When I know we’re going on a trip, I start setting aside lightweight activities about a week beforehand. Sticker books from DoverArt, finger puppets, I think I even brought some tin foil one time and we sculpted swans and chain bracelets out of it. One time during our flight to Colombia, I had Simone color on some card stock and when we arrived we used them as postcards and sent them to her grandparents in the States.
What a lovely Mom Story, thank you Anna for sharing it with us!
*If you are interested in being considered for a Mom Story, please contact Tiffany – tiffany.bloesem(at)gmail.com