“Wednesday Evenings” aims to show there is beauty in every family’s evening, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a continued partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Langworthy across the US to document the nighttime routines of 12 families in four different cities.
Last week we got a glimpse into family life in San Francisco and today we are traveling north to the Napa Valley to visit Stephanie and her husband Simon, who both work in the wine industry.
Simon is the Assistant Winemaker for Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards in Sonoma, and Stephanie is the Associate Winemaker for The Hess Collection Winery specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon. I tell you these details because I love a good glass of wine. And side note: Mike and I got married in Sonoma.
Before the shoot, Stephanie described her evenings as “hectic, crazy and silly”. She entered because she thought it would be cool to have her unique little family featured, but worried she might be judged for the state of her home or how she looks in the photos.
“I strive to have it all together, but fall short daily. I’ve learned that if my house is a little messy, that means my family is living in it… but it’s hard to share that with people.”
Stephanie says her evening starts at 3:30 when she gets out of work and picks their three-year-old daughter Olivia up from daycare.
“The wine industry, as a general rule of thumb, likes to work early. If you have to work outside, it’s much more comfortable if it’s not too hot. Our cellar team starts at 6am and works until 2:30pm, but when I became a mom, I shifted my hours to 7am until 3:30pm, because it works better for daycare.”
Usually, Stephanie and Olivia head home and start making dinner, but on this Wednesday evening, they had house guests staying over from New Zealand, where Simon was born and raised.
Stephanie let me know that due to their guests, this was not going to be a typical evening, although she admitted they have visitors a few times a month. So probably more typical than most.
Simon came home at 5:30pm and joined everyone to chat and drink beers, while Olivia played on her iPad.
Keiran and Sam (their guests) stepped out to pick up a pizza allowing Stephanie, Simon and Olivia some family time in the kitchen packing lunches for the next day.
When the pizza arrived, everyone sat down for dinner. Stephanie says it’s important to her that they eat as a family as much as possible. Family also includes Olivia’s grandparents who are present almost every night over FaceTime.
Since both sets of grandparents are long distance (“there is no family back-up when things don’t go according to plan”), FaceTime has become hugely important for each of them to develop a relationship with Olivia.
“FaceTime gives Olivia the chance to talk to her grandparents on a regular basis. She tells them all about her day and shows them her art projects, which doesn’t work nearly as well over a phone. For our parents, it allows them to feel like they are watching Olivia grow up. One night, Olivia played Hide and Seek with my dad over FaceTime. She would ‘hide’ my dad and then find him after counting. It didn’t work out that well, but she thought it was hilarious! Seeing each other on video has really cemented Olivia’s relationship with her grandparents, so when they do finally visit, she knows them right away and there is no hesitation.”
Due to the guests, their FaceTime session was short-lived but Stephanie says typically they have the grandparents on video the entire time.
“We all sit down together and call my parents. Then we say grace and eat together as if we lived in the same house.”
After dinner, Stephanie headed out for puppy training with their new dog Sven, named by Olivia after a very popular reindeer. Obviously.
“We got Sven in early November, right as harvest was ending. He definitely adds a level of energy to the evening that is much higher than ours! I’ve been taking Sven to puppy class, which is once a week for five weeks. I like the break in my normal routine because it’s a special time for me and Sven to bond. He’s my second child.”
Stephanie had a pretty traumatic delivery with Olivia, with a bad tear and a lot of blood loss, and she talked about how this has affected her and Simon’s desire to have more children.
“We’ve talked about it a lo,t and Simon wouldn’t want to risk losing me to have more kids. Olivia is better off having two parents in her life instead of more siblings.”
With Stephanie out for an hour, Simon was in charge of dishes and bath time.
Stephanie talked about how she and her husband have no problem interchanging roles and responsibilities.
“Simon is a very involved father. We split household duties in that Simon does all of the cleaning, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn and washing the cars. I usually do the laundry and the cooking. I also do most of the dog care. With childcare, Simon did all of the diaper changes. Other than that, we just fill in where we are stronger. Olivia picks who she wants to play with in the evening and the other will do what needs to be done chore-wise. We’re a team and however we can reach our goal of being able to relax on the couch quickest is what we’ll do.”
After bath time, all three guys drank some wine and played a big game of hide and seek with Olivia.
“We try not to have visitors too often during the week because we are firm believers in bed time. Visitors always delay bedtime because Olivia hates to miss a party.”
Simon read Olivia a book and had her say goodnight to the guys, who were leaving the next day.
Soon after, Stephanie returned with Sven and took Olivia to bed to tuck her in.
They said their prayers and then Stephanie left Olivia with a flashlight and a book to “read” on her own until she fell asleep.
The gang then hung out in the living room, sharing dessert and of course, wine.
I asked Stephanie what she thought after seeing the photos.
“It really did shock me how well they turned out! First of all, my house isn’t nearly as messy as I think it is! And it’s neat how much joy the pictures show. They made me realize our evenings aren’t as crazy as I think, and there is beauty in the ‘average.’ They show how happy our little family is!”
I asked about her fear of not looking “put together.”
“Now I don’t think that matters at all. All I am looking at is the smiles on everyone’s faces and how relaxed we all look. I can see how much more important family and friends are than the state of the house or how I am dressed. I think I will appreciate the time we have together more, because I can see being together makes us all so happy.”
I asked Stephanie what three adjectives she would use to describe her evenings now.
“Happy, beautiful, and full of love.”
This post is part of the “Wednesday Evenings” series sponsored by Allstate. From bath time to bed time, every family has a special evening routine. This series aims to show the beauty in the day winding down. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.