If you have ever gone on a hunt for the most comfortable and eco-conscious undies for you and your babe, you have likely come across ARQ and their line of organic, made in America undergarments designed by ARQ founder, Abigail Quist. I had the pleasure to meet Abigail at the ShopUp in LA when both of our brands were brand new. I remember us geeking out over organic fabric suppliers and have been a huge admirer of Abigail ever since. When I asked her to be part of our series she said YES and confessed to being a "total Waldorfey, mantra using, tradition-heavy family" which I love and can't wait to share with all of you today. I hope you can carve out a little space to warm up some tea and be inspired by Abigail's simple, but significant rituals and routines.
Name / # of Kids (names & ages) / Job(s)
Abigail Quist, designer at ARQ.
Cleo age 9, Zelda age 7, Polonius ("Ponyboy") age 5
What is your favorite moment of your morning routine?
I have to admit that I'm not a morning person even after years of practice with babies! A morning drink–tea, coffee, an adaptogen-filled something-or-other (usually with cocoa) made in the blender–is the morning ritual that helps me take a few breaths and feel like I can move on to the business of my kids' morning routine. If it can happen in the quiet before my kids wake up I feel pretty invincible. If in addition to that my husband, Jefferson, is still home and we sit and drink together on a quiet morning, then I'm a goddam superhero the rest of the day. (Until I'm not...)
Please share 2-3 rituals in detail that have helped you personally throughout motherhood. How often or when do you practice each?
I've never thought of myself as someone who is especially successful at practicing meditation, but stopping to close my eyes and take very deep breaths has to happen several times on most days or I would lose it. Seriously, like 10-50 sloooow deep breaths. Every parent figures this out pretty quickly, but regrouping is key with 3 little ones who are close in age. Otherwise, the bad, stressful feelings just compound throughout the day. My personal rituals evolve as the kids and I get older. I feel I was well-suited for the sort of instinctual tasks that build themselves around breastfeeding, soothing, reading aloud, singing, and required quiet during the baby phase of parenting. The immediate physical stuff. Not showering or leaving the house is fine for me as long as I can squeeze in some personal projects (art, sewing, reading, cooking, gardening) and make myself delicious food at least once a day. Now that the kids are older, I am working a lot more, and we need to keep more of a schedule, those moments have to be built in a bit more deliberately and are constantly evolving with our schedules, interests, and abilities. We have a lot of moments where we stop to add good smells into the mix. Incense, candles, or a diffuser help set the tone for whatever we are working on. I am noticing that I am mostly sharing stuff that applies to the whole family, but I feel like that's the phase I'm in right now and I'm happy to be in it. The rituals a lot of people find grounding and pleasurable, like various grooming things, honestly feel like a chore to me. I am happier when I smell and look good, though, so I do try. :) I am a project/maker type of person, so my routines revolve around that and are pretty simple. I like to have some tea or something when I head out to my studio or settle in bed to read. I prefer silence to music or podcasts for most types of work but love music for housework, the news for doing dishes or cooking, and podcasts for working out or for when I can't sleep.
Please share 1-2 rituals in detail that you practice with your kids.
So many of them revolve around food! The kids started helping in the kitchen as toddlers so they are really good with food-prep or even taking over from time-to-time (sometimes that means PBJ's for dinner but that might happen whether or not they are the ones cooking... ha!). Food-prep, setting the table, and cleaning up are such a neccessary and huge chunk of the day no matter how involved your cooking style is. I feel that making the mundane little rituals of life a pleasure to engage in is what makes life good. I am not an expert at it, but that's my goal for myself and my hope for my kids. For cold, homeschool mornings we would light a candle to begin our studies and do circle time. Sometimes we'll also light a candle for a special meal. In the winter, tea before bed is a nice way to wind down and a signal that it's time to get sleepy. We do Waldorf-style food blessings, have our own weird ways of doing things, family mantras that we say before going out into the world that make us laugh and connect us, and we read together a lot. When everything is going terribly, I know they will drop everything to snuggle in for a story. That may be the most consistent, solemn, beloved, and familiar act we perform as a family, so I think it definitely qualifies as a ritual for us!
When do you work? I read somewhere that you homeschool your kids and run ARQ, tell me how?!
We have done a lot of homeschooling and it has been both a total madhouse and some of the most simple, peaceful times for our family. Last year Cleo started attending a Montessori school, then our youngest joined their preschool class a few months later. We love the community so much that Zelda will start alongside her siblings next month too when the school year picks up again. The tough thing when running a business at home with kids is not necessarily that you can't get any time (though some days you can't); it's that you don't have any control over when you are going to get super self-directed kids or not, or if there are going to be a lot of arguments, or if there will be a production disaster that you have to manage at the same time as a meltdown. It's so hard to be flexible in those moments. I still got a lot of work done, but it was definitely more stressful before a few of my kiddos were in school. ARQ also got a lot busier over the past 12 months! I have assembled a very small team and they have been an absolute game-changer. I still work a ton but that is partly because I enjoy it and partly because we are growing so fast. School allows for a better rhythm right now for us. I work till mid-afternoon and then am more present with kids until Jefferson puts them to bed. Then I usually check back in with work for a few hours before settling in.
Do you have any mantras? Do you say these out loud every day? Or do you just look at them? Share how you put them into practice for yourself and your kids.
Our family does! They are nothing special, just affirming our values and desired attitudes toward life, but they feel a little too personal to share anyway–especially as the kids get older. I am not sure I have any specific mantras just for me. Maybe "mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders are terrible." I'm kidding but I do say that kind of crap to my kids all the time. :)
Current favorite podcasts/books
I just readWinners Take All by Anand Giridharadas and will not shut up about it. So good. I like all the NPR Podcasts that everyone knows and likes (Invisibilia, All Songs Considered, This American Life, Planet Money...) and have been enjoying Ologies with Alie Ward. My kids love Wow in the World and I try to listen in so they don't get too much smarter than me.
After a few years of running your own business, I would imagine you've learned a whole lot more about yourself and your relationship to work. How have you been able to overcome some of the challenges of running your own business? Do you have any practices in place to help?
I honestly have just been powering through in not necessarily the smartest or most healthy way, but the brand has evolved into something I am having a ton of fun with and I'm not sure it would have if I hadn't been balls-to-the-wall for the past three years. I definitely work best without distractions, should outsource things that I am not good at, should set boundaries, and should get enough sleep. Pretty basic stuff that I'm slowly working towards. Jefferson is a lawyer with a pretty inflexible schedule, but he has somehow managed to help me carve out time and take things off my plate and is just generally the most amazing partner in life. I am also now working day-to-day with supremely capable, interesting, and invested people who help me to figure out where those weak points are and help make ARQ run smoothly and in the precise direction we want it to go.
I read somewhere that you used to be a dancer. Are dance and music still a part of your life today? If so, how?
I can barely touch my toes now but dance will always be my first and best love. Family dance parties and the occasional music show for a date night keep me pretty happy though. And I'm sure living in leotards for 20+ years has informed my ability to make undergarments that are comfortable!
Did you choose Oregon as your home? How does your environment influence how you are raising your kids? Basically, just asking you to convince us all to move to Oregon.
I grew up here! I moved away for college, met my husband, had a baby, and then we both decided that we wanted to be here to raise a family. We love it. The temperate climate, great farms and food culture, and a lot of family here... We live in a small town outside of Portland that is very walkable, is full of people who are really civically engaged, and has a beautiful downtown with good food and events, and the culture generally doesn't feel comparative or intensely consumerist. There are trade-offs with small-town living but we are pretty darn happy here.
Utility suit! Ponyboy wears his almost every single day and we often wash it at night so he can wear it again the next morning. SO cute. He's a little engineer, so it's perfect for him, and he's just as obsessed as we are–always a good sweet spot for kids clothes.
Where can we find you or learn more about you and ARQ?