It’s Meet a Mom Monday! This week’s Meet a Mom feature is Trudy Robinson, Lakeview mom of 2 boys and the founder of Kickin’ & A Pied! Keep reading our interview below, where Trudy shares all about her journey to opening her two fabulous boutiques in Roscoe Village, some of the BEST advice I’ve ever heard about eating out with kids in tow, and fun tidbits about life raising her boys in the city!
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Where are you from originally? What brought you to Chicago?
I am from Fort Wayne Indiana. Came to Chicago to do my undergraduate at Northwestern University.
You’ve lived in several different Chicago neighborhoods, which one has been your favorite?
Lincoln Park & Lakeview are my favorite – nothing like easily being able to run and bike to the Lakefront.
Which neighborhood do you call home, and what do you love about living there?
Hard Question! I currently live in Lakeview. I love so many coffee shops and the Victorian homes within a couple blocks of where I live. But my retail stores are in Roscoe Village and I love the sweet strip of stores and restaurants on the block. I feel like I know everyone in Roscoe Village.
You’re a mama! How many children do you have and how old are they?
I have two pre-teen boys. 10 & 13
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
Getting to do all the fun things kids get to do.
What has been the most surprising thing (so far) about motherhood?
No matter what stage you are at it’s equally hard and equally busy. Just in different ways. Someone once told me it got easier…
What are your favorite things to do around the city with your family?
Sail on Lake Michigan and jump in the water off anchor in the summer. Skate at outdoor ice rinks (Grant Park and Wrigley & others) in the winter. Followed by going to fun new restaurants like Cindy’s overlooking the park downtown. Also love to see the Nutcracker as a family – brings back childhood memories of dancing in it!
You mentioned a really fun family tradition, where you eat out with your family once a week (even when your kids were babies). Tell us more about this fun idea, and give us ALL your advice on eating out with kids in tow!
We love to eat out at small “upscale” independently owned restaurants. In fact our favorite are (and were when they were little) ones that don’t have typical kids menus. A lot of times they are the ones people say “aren’t family friendly”. Start when your kids are babies if you can; if not, it’s never too late. Here are my tips:
1.Enjoy the early part of the meal with a glass of wine for yourself and a milk etc. for them. (Start letting them order their own drink by the time they are 2. It lets them practice manners and feel like the dinner is for them too!) Don’t give the kids electronics of any sort before the meal or during the meal. (We never brought an ipad to a meal.) Don’t have them put on earphones during dinner, it takes them away from the community that a family dinner is.
2.DO NOT order your kids food first. I see parents make this mistake ALL the time. Don’t let your kids eat before you. It’s much easier to entertain them and keep them occupied before they and you eat!
3.If adults order an appetizer (or even if you don’t) consider a small one for them. I often got the fruits and vegetable in this way! Many restaurants will provide a special SMALL appetizer for kids if you just ask for it. You should make the recommendation/inquiry. A small bowl of cherry tomatoes, or sliced fruit/berries, or sliced avocados, some dried cherries that are normally served with salads etc. were often our requests. Sometimes a side of steamed broccoli or steamed peas was our family appetizer. (Baskets of bread also suffice as appetizers for kids often)
4.Try to use the utensils the restaurant provides. HELP your kids with their real plates and real glass until they are old enough to handle it themselves. Keep them out of their reach if you don’t trust them. But if they always have real plates that can break they and you will be more careful and they will learn quickly. (Waitstaff appreciate this..they like that you aren’t bringing a big plastic placemat and making the restaurant look kiddy). Let the baby/kid fit into the environment as it is.
5.Order things you like and introduce them to it when they are young. If its a complex dish consider ordering it “deconstructed”. At least half the dishes in any restaurant can be done this way. It basically means with all the parts on the plate separately. Most restaurants are happy to do this. That way you can provide the parts to the baby/kid without all the sauces on it. I limited the variety of my orders a bit more than I normally would have when my kids were 6 and under. I tried to order things I knew they would like to some extent. Try not to bring much food from home. Maybe a small box of raisins just as back up. The goal is to enjoy the dinner and introduce your kids to nice restaurant food. Yes, it might cost a bit more now, but no more than that extra glass of wine would have cost you before kids and DEFINITELY less than what a babysitter would cost if you had to have one.
6.Use the time before the food comes as family bonding (and parent bonding time.) As they get a bit older restaurants with WHITE PAPER table clothes are perfect spots for family art drawing competitions. ((Always have a pad of paper and pencils and crayons available too.) Each person (even starting at age 2 ) gets to say one thing they will draw. So maybe its a boat. After 2 or 3 minutes (decide how long) you all show your drawing and the person who chose the item to draw decides who the winner is. We have also played MANY Tic Tac Toe games (starting about 3) and hang man games (starting in Kindergarten).
7.Cut up your kids food so they can easily handle it or help feed them at the restaurant instead of using their fingers (unless the food is not messy). They can use their fingers at home but its a great spot to learn about utensils and eating nicely even from an early age! One bite for you and then one bit for them. Just go back and forth and enjoy some normal mealtime conversation too.. My kids often sat on my lap for this until maybe 3ish. Especially if we were sharing a meal.
It’s really easy when it’s just two kids and two parents (that’s our scenario). Each parent spends half the time “reading” a book to the kid or pointing out stuff around the restaurant or giving pony rides on your leg etc. and half the time having adult conversation with their spouse. The kids quickly learn that they can not get down from their chairs and quickly learn how to sit appropriately for 1-2 hours at a restaurant.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Hmmm. I am a pretty open book. Maybe that I drove a tractor on my dads lap as a little girl – I guess not what people expect as a store owner. That I love ballet, fashion, gymnastics and all things feminine but still play football, basketball and even ice hockey (Yep I have all the gear and play in the parents vs. kids games) with my boys.
Tell us all about Kickin’ & A Pied! What inspired you to open these two fantastic boutiques?
I have always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. My dad was an accountant by day but bought farms and turned into a farmer for the evenings and weekends. After retiring he also started a small trucking company. The entrepreneurial spirit – it’s in my blood. After working in the advertising and then magazine industry I decided I want to control my future BEFORE having kids. While I loved the energy and flying all over the U.S. for meetings etc. – I didn’t like how volatile the industry could be – especially if I was thinking of having a family. The inspiration for the concept of Kickin’ (my first store) was bringing Shape Magazine and Fit Pregnancy Magazine (magazines within the company I worked for) to life. In many ways, my boutique is the embodiment of a fashion/active lifestyle magazine for pregnant and non pregnant women AND new moms brought to life. A Pied grew out of this concept too. A Pied means “on foot” in French. The store definitely has an international cache about it, while still being grounded. I want women to be able to wear beautiful well crafted high heels as well as casual shoes – but not ruin their bodies while doing it. I want to be able to rock heels yet still have knees and feet that can ski and run. So I pick fashionable well-made shoes for people who want all those things too!
Kickin’ is unique in that you are the only boutique that caters to pregnant and nursing women in Chicago! Can you tell us more about what moms can expect to find at Kickin’?
At Kickin’ women will find “flexible fashion” that for the most part can be worn non–pregnant (yes for the college girls & 20 somethings) and pregnant and work well for after baby/ or nursing too! We run the gamut from active wear and jeans to fashions for weddings or showers. Our designers are from all over the world and are a mix of contemporary designers as well as maternity /nursing designers. More specific items like nursing wear, support wear etc can also be found. For example SPANX leggings and shapewear for non pregnant as well as specific pregnancy styles are stocked. We also have a well curated selection of baby/kids clothing from Newborn – 8 Years old.
Who are your influences and/or mentors that have helped you get to where you are today, and/or continue to inspire you?
My Mom and Grandma were huge influencers. My mom was/is a strong business woman who showed me that guys have nothing on women in the business world. She also taught me the world is my oyster. So important to teach kids to believe that! My Grandma was my inspiration to be strong and active and fun! She lived to be 100 – and still could do a pull up at 85 and traveled the world with my sister and me at almost 90. We could coax her into doing anything with us. Always a youthful positive spirit!
My professional business mentor was Carolyn Bekkedahl. She was the President at American Media when I was a magazine publisher at Shape en Espanol and Hers (Both womens fitness magazines). She taught me to lead and build teams and always believed in me as a young professional woman in a high-pace high-stress industry. She passed away from cancer a few years ago, but she will always be my main business mentor.
My husband is also a huge influencer too. I am the rose colored glasses person and he is the realist (or pessimist I say.) But if I can talk him into an idea /concept then I KNOW there is a chance it will survive or even thrive. For a year or two during weekly dinners with my husband, I would bounce various entrepreneurial business ideas off him. Most of the time his response was “How’s that gonna work. How’s that sustainable financially? How’s that going to be a competitive business?, with a sarcastic tone thrown in for good measure.” Then one night I explained my concept for Kickin’ – a bit like a fashion magazine and an active lifestyle magazine (i.e. Shape) plus Fit Pregnancy magazine all brought together as a boutique. That night he said “Well…. that one might not fail!” I took that as my green light and I started researching incorporating the business idea the next day! It’s not that I need his permission or funding to start the business but I’ve always valued his opinion. If I could convince him my business had a shot, then I knew it wouldn’t fail.
Rapid Fire Round!
Favorite local restaurant:
Tie: Volo in Roscoe & Avli on Wrightwood and Wayne. Just hosted my oldest son’s confirmation brunch at Avli on the Park.
Best spot for summer vacation: Sailing in the British Virgin Islands. Stay on your boat but dock for various nights at all the 5 star resorts! Second choice is Quebec City. I speak French so it feels like going to Europe but more affordable for the family!
Favorite childrens book: Wherever You Are – my love will find you – Nancy Tillman
Coffee order:Large Skim Mocha – 1 shot – 1 pump. Sometimes hot, Sometimes cold.
Can’t leave the house without: A sweater. – Especially in Summer. I get cold easily.
How you start your day: With our mini golden doodle Haven barking for my husband and me to get out of bed and pet her!
The last book you read: Elie Wiesel – Night (Read it at the same time my 12 year old read it for his Global Issues class)
Your binge shows: Reality: I don’t have any! I don’t really get to watch TV at all. Maybe I watch a few minutes of a travel channel at like 11 PM once a month with a glass of wine.. or I watch 2 minutes of a sports game with my boys. I hardly know how to turn on the TV or my password for any of the services. – Tried to watch Titanic with my son when he was sick last week and couldn’t figure out how to get it with any of our services!