On Feast and Family: These Two Inspire Lesbian Couple Goals

on

Carrie Welch and Jannie Huang just might be one of the coolest lesbian couples you’ll ever meet. Welch is the Co-Founder (along with Mike Thelin) of the wildly fun and successful food festival called Feast Portland, for which Huang is the Creative Director. The two live in Portland, OR and run a super groovy – and also wildly successful PR firm called Little Green Pickle.

As if that’s not enough, the couple has two kids, Evelyn, who just turned one, and Taylor, who is about to turn five. “Every parent tells you it goes fast, and you kind of don’t believe them, but it really does,” Welch says. Life has been markedly different since Evelyn arrived. Welch explains, “It feels like double time! We joke with other parents that all the ‘spare time’ you used to have is now gone. If one is occupied, the other needs something and vice versa. I’ve taken to wearing running shoes because I want to be able to keep up with them and go for walks, ride bikes and do all of the fun kid stuff all of the time. Because we worked so hard to have these two beautiful children, I want to enjoy and live every moment with them to the absolute fullest.”

Here’s Welch on all things family and Feast!

AfterEllen.com:  What are the biggest surprises that came with child number two?

Both of our biggest surprises are how different their two personalities are and how strong the bond between them has been from the get-go. Taylor is a laid back guy, super sweet, empathetic, funny (he loves to tell jokes and is tickled when anyone tells one to him), and lives life on his own schedule. He tackles skills in his own time, he loves to sleep (I know! He still takes a nap!) and he just chills and snuggles.

Evelyn is a very different story. She is tough, discerning, quick, silly out of nowhere, and full of energy. She’s sort of learning how to walk, which right now is more of a double knee hop that she’s really proud of. She’ll hop across the room and part of me thinks she thinks that’s walking. She takes a second to warm up to people she doesn’t know, but she loves her people with her whole self. This girl I knew was going to be a force as soon as she was conceived, and boy was I right.

The bond between them is one of the greatest gifts of my life. To see her eyes and whole little spirit light up when Taylor walks in the room, to see them play together (even when they argue when she gets into his toys), and when they relax and watch a show together on the couch, maybe even hold hands for a second, it’s the best. There is nothing that can top that except my relationship with my amazing wife. I love every second of seeing Taylor and Evelyn together because I know in those moments that I have more than I could have ever asked for in this life.

In what ways has Evelyn been different than Taylor was as a baby/toddler?

Ask some of the well-meaning people who have tried to hold her or even look at her and she’s burst into tears! Evelyn has an intensity, a fire in that little belly, that is undeniable but also growing. Sometimes I think she doesn’t know what to do, so she just cries. She is protective (already), and understands everything we say to her. Last night Jannie said, “Evelyn, bring your chalk over here,” to see if she’d do it. Of course she did. When Evelyn wakes up in the morning she gives me these huge hugs with her whole body, and holds on for a while, as if to say, “You’re my person and I love you.”

Taylor as a baby was outgoing, gregarious and a toddler of the world, much like he still is now. He’s going to be a great musician who travels and loves everyone.

What are you discovering raising a biracial child?

It’s been interesting and a learning curve for me! I have been asked if I run a daycare, if they are siblings and how, and other personal questions on our front porch, in line at Target or the grocery store. Jannie and I both try to approach each one as an opportunity to educate and inform people how our world and our family works. Most people are really receptive to our answers and many thank us for answering honestly. Some of them I can tell are not prepared for the answers, so I ask them how far they’d like to go in the explanation.

I have had to educate myself as a fairly privileged white woman on what our kids might experience in the world and how to help navigate that as best I can. The bottom line for me is that I’m so freaking proud of our family and I’ve learned many different ways to talk about it to many different people, so I feel I’m ready for anything.

I’ve had to check myself a few times when asked about their donors and their backgrounds and update to: “Taylor’s donor was Dutch and Greek. Evelyn’s was Chinese.” Rather than just saying white for Taylor which seemed gross, and like I wasn’t treating the world equally. I have had to educate myself as a fairly privileged white woman on what our kids might experience in the world and how to help navigate that as best I can. The bottom line for me is that I’m so freaking proud of our family and I’ve learned many different ways to talk about it to many different people, so I feel I’m ready for anything.

 How are you managing the work-life balance?

I view work and life as a constant flow. I’ve stopped worrying about or trying to have work/life balance. It’s a myth. It’s unfair to tell people they need to be great parents and spend all of their time with their kids but also work really hard, achieve and don’t let anything stop you. What’s realistic for one parent is totally different for another and I think both are fair and ok. I answer email first thing in the morning because I like to know what I’m walking into each workday.

I work-out and spend active, present time with our kids in the morning before dropping them off at our awesome, inclusive and super smart school that they both go to five days a week. I cram as much as I can into my eight hour office workday, then leave at 4:30pm to pick the kids up, then take a break and have dinner with the fam, playtime, backyard time, art time, and whatever fun stuff we can think of to do together until bedtime (7:30 pm!). Then during busy times, like right now, I get back on email at 8:30 and work as long as I need to until I get the pressing stuff done. I don’t mind working more because I truly love what I do and I missed it when I was on maternity leave with both kids.

The time with them is absolutely everything, and it always my number one priority, but I want them to see successful mommies who know how to manage their schedules to do as much as they can for both life and work. And when we have to travel for work, we’re lucky enough that my parents moved from the East Coast when Taylor was born to be here for just such an occasion. We’ve definitely been taking them up on it a lot lately and I’m grateful that they drop everything to be there for our family. I know our circumstances are unique and different from other families, so I say, whatever works for you and don’t worry about the rest!

Getting pregnant was such a big part of your lives for so long. Are you planning to have any more kids? If not, what’s it like being off the fertility wheel?

I was blessed, truly blessed, as they both feel like miracles to me, to be pregnant twice. It wasn’t easy, nor was the path to getting pregnant. Taylor was breech and had to be turned, I threw my back out during the last month of Evelyn’s pregnancy, and anyone who’s been pregnant knows that’s just the beginning. During our fertility process we found out Jannie could not get pregnant through two failed IVFs, and I had a miscarriage. It was brutal at times, and we did feel like we were on a fertility hamster wheel, just going around and around, counting days, waiting two weeks to find out if we would have life-changing news or more disappointment.

I know so many couples who have endured more and worse than we did, and it’s never easy no matter what your path might be. The one thing I want to say to anyone reading this who’s in the middle of that journey – believe something can happen. It may not be as you planned it, or when you planned it, or how, but something can happen. Evelyn was our last IUI (number 11 or something crazy) before we started to consider adoption. She happened when we least expected it.

Our best moments with the kids are when we’re being silly or using our imaginations or having a dance party, even at the dinner table. They smile with their whole selves and you have this feeling radiating from the whole family that is unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. It’s those moments we try to foster as much as we can.

We are not planning to have more kids! I am GOOD with all of that. Jannie and I are grateful to be on the other side of fertility-dom. Plus, two feels exactly right for our family. I know we were meant to be a family and have these exceptional children and we’re excited to raise them now.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about parenting and/or balancing work and parenting?

Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. Our best moments with the kids are when we’re being silly or using our imaginations or having a dance party, even at the dinner table. They smile with their whole selves and you have this feeling radiating from the whole family that is unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. It’s those moments we try to foster as much as we can. I listened to an audiobook, Parenting Without Power Struggles, which I highly recommend, and she had a theme throughout that was about nurturing the light in your child’s eyes and making sure it never goes out. I believe that’s our job, and I wear bracelets from the kids that remind me that they are the whole reason we’re doing all of this.

There are some other more practical things like – you’ll forever be doing laundry so accept it, introduce foods 20 times before you decide they don’t like it, baby lead weaning, sleep training is amazing, the wonders of a fitness ball, and so much more. But your readers will discover their versions of those things on their own.

Any advice you have to offer on either or both of those fronts?

My real advice for anyone who will listen is, be yourself. Be your real self, still be in charge, but show them who you are, and they will trust you. They know you’ve got this, and you’ve got their backs always. Evelyn gives me these hugs at the end of the day right before I put her down to sleep, as I sing her goodnight song, and it’s when they completely give themselves over to you that you know you’re their parent, and that you’ll make sure they are loved and safe and wonderful for their whole life. I love those parts so much.

What are the roles you both have at work now? How has that changed?

Now that both kids are in school, we have expanded our roles on Team Feast Presents, our new company that manages Feast Portland and other event and marketing consulting projects. That team has grown and we have so many talented brains over there I’m excited to see what we do next. Jannie and I also co-own Little Green Pickle, a PR and creative agency, where Jannie runs creative and I run PR with another awesome team.

Our roles in both companies grow every day as new and exciting projects come from different areas of food, beverage, lifestyle, and hospitality. We’ve learned a lot and are challenged in the best way all the time. I know it sounds cliché but I’m excited to go work with these very smart, creative teams. I love working with people who love food, they really are the best people. And we’re doing things in food and beverage that no one else is.

Our roles in both companies grow every day as new and exciting projects come from different areas of food, beverage, lifestyle, and hospitality. We’ve learned a lot and are challenged in the best way all the time.

We are connecting events, marketing and content creation with a fresh approach that blows even my mind. We’re updating our PR strategies to integrate more of the digital tools and measurement capabilities that are now available to us. I thank the Food Network for preparing me over my ten year career there to be able to do pretty much anything. I’m using the interdisciplinary training they gave me all the time, and it’s a great time in our businesses right now.

What changes can guests at Feast expect this year?

We have a big change, and that’s The Big Feast! We’ve updated our Grand Tasting event with a new everything and are moving it to Tom McCall Waterfront Park here in Portland on Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. It’s an iconic location overlooking bridges, mountains and our beautiful river. And, it’s our biggest Feast event to date, with more wines from the Northwest and around the globe, and more artisans like cheesemakers, chocolatiers, bakers and brewers. We’ve got the most chefs we’ve ever had before, with restaurants like Headwaters, Portland Mercado and Normandie representing. Also cocktails, Fireside Chats with Bon Appétit and a live podcast lounge. It’s going to be epic and there are still tickets available at www.feastportland.com!

 Feast has always been adults only. Is that changing in any way this year?

It sure is! We have our first-ever family event, Melty Fest Presented by Tillamook. We know kids these days are every bit as fanatical about great food as their parents (Taylor loves watching Kids Baking Championship on Food Network), so we teamed up with some of our favorite chefs to put together the ultimate daytime party that feels like Feast, but with the entire family in mind.

We’ll have food from Portland chefs like Peter Cho, Gabriel Rucker, Tommy Habetz, John Gorham and Maya Lovelace, plus incoming friends like Howard and Anita Hsu (Sweet Auburn Barbecue, Atlanta), Joe and Katy Kindred (Kindred, Davidson), Michael Scelfo (The Longfellow Bar, Cambridge) and more. There will be ice cream, floats, and grilled cheese galore – plus cheffy food by cheffy parents. There will be activities for kids and grown-ups like live cooking demos, a craft corner, outdoor games, face painting and live music from local kiddo favorite Micah and Me. That’s Taylor’s favorite band, so it’s Huang Welch approved!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ll just quote Taylor’s favorite musician, Freddie Mercury, and the band, Queen, “Don’t stop me now, I’m having a good time, having a good time…”