I was determined to make a safe world for our brave little boy and not let anything stop him enjoying a ‘normalized’ childhood. I do still struggle to comprehend that our beautiful little boy has a ‘condition’ though. The shock never really goes away, you just learn how to live in your new normal.
Name: Lee Talbot
Kids (name + ages): Otis Adler (5), Bertie Beatrix (3), Rufus Crosby (7 months)
Website: www.mavendolls.com.au (currently undergoing a re-vamp)
Tell me about you! What’s your background?
I was born on our family’s dairy farm in New Zealand before moving back to my mother’s home town of Berry NSW when I was 4. I went on to graduate Interior Architecture at UNSW and then work in Sydney, Los Angeles and London for more than 10 years. Designing everything from boutique hotel interiors, retail boutiques and branding, to high-end residential environments, it was fabulous.
Where in the word do you call home?
Thirroul, on the Coal Coast NSW.
You are an amazing interior designer and architect by trade, but shortly after having your second babe, Bertie – you launched your first collection of French inspired rag dolls; your beautiful Mavens. Can you tell me a little bit about your creative journey? What made you take that first leap of faith and how did you turn your creative idea and passion into a business?
When BB was born in April 2013 I began searching for the perfect doll that would sit beautifully in her new nursery. Being an Interior designer I was really after ‘a piece’ as opposed to something she would ‘play’ with. Something unique, on-trend, fashionable and decorative. A year later, Maven Dolls was launched with my first doll, her 1st Birthday gift, a Maven Bertie. “I was instantly hooked and my obsession grew from there. I see Maven Dolls as a guilty pleasure for mothers as it’s a fusion of both my loves – interior and fashion design. It appears this resonated and now my Mavens are a popular keepsake and statement Nursery item. I’m still so surprised people actually want to own one!
Do you have any advice for other mamas wanting to start something, but are letting self-doubt hold them back?
Just go for it. Give it a shot. Always strive to be unique and different whilst remaining true to your original design intent, no one elses.
A little over a year ago you made the decision to leave the hustle and bustle of Sydney – can you tell us a bit about this sea change and why it was the right choice for your family?
We always wanted a big family and knew we couldn’t afford a home large enough in the beautiful suburbs of Sydney. It also felt right to move back down south as I grew up in Berry and my husband in Stanwell Park. I only knew a handful of people but now feel like I know the whole village. We definitely feel grateful to have found this warm and friendly community to raise our children in. On the beach, in amongst the trees and only a quick trip back up to the city when needed. We can’t imagine being anywhere else now.
Recently, your family suffered some devastating news about your son Otis who was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Can you tell us a little bit about this disorder, the treatment and what it means for Otis?
When Otis was just 16 months old he broke his first leg. At nearly 3 he had his second broken leg and at 3.5 years he suffered his third and fourth broken legs (both left & right simultaneously). His last 2 breaks left us heart broken and admitted to hospital. With our little boy so weak both mentally and physically, we sadly knew it wasn’t coincidental. From there, diagnosis through a dedicated team at Westmead was relatively quick. OI is very rare connective tissue disorder more commonly known as ‘Brittle Bone Disease’. The disease typically involves the bones, teeth, ligaments, eyes and skin, and is characterised by fragile bones that break easily. It will never go away but the bigger and stronger Otis gets, the more easily it will be managed and less fractures (hopefully) will occur. In our case it was caused by a spontaneous mutation at conception as there is no genetic history in either of our families. Just a case of serious bad luck.
Since diagnosis and commencing a specialised treatment (which is a 4 hour infusion of Bisphosphonates to thicken his bones every 8 weeks at Westmead Children’s Hospital) in November 2014, Otis has been fracture free. Touch wood. Type 1 means he has the mildest type but when diagnosed the scans confirmed that he had also been living with a broken back (5 crushed vertebrae that are still compressed) for a number of years. This was devastating to hear and yet another setback. Alas, he has bravely endured physio to learn to walk again, more pain then we could ever imagine, a million and one DEXA scans, X-rays, blood tests and needles. More than any little boy ever should. However we take great comfort knowing that his body has had such a wonderful response to the treatment and take each day as it comes having as much fun as possible along the way.
As a mother, it must have been so devastating to receive this news. I can only image all the different emotions you go through regularly on this journey. How did you deal with the diagnosis and what keeps you strong and positive?
When we heard those big words ‘Osteogenisis Imperfecta Type 1’ I felt like the world stopped. Dr Google really didn’t help but I knew instantly that Rick and I together could tackle anything thrown at us. And I was determined to make a safe world for our brave little boy and not let anything stop him enjoying a ‘normalized’ childhood. I do still struggle to comprehend that our beautiful little boy has a ‘condition’ though. The shock never really goes away, you just learn how to live in your new normal.
Some days I forget entirely. Other days, like when I’m at the park and he can’t go on a certain slide, or at a birthday party when I live in fear of ‘that’ jumping castle, I wish I could wear a sign on my head. I have felt judged on so many occasions with eye rolls and silly looks. It’s taught me a lot. Everyone has their story, so always be kind. Otis started primary school this year and although he is loving every minute, it has presented us with a bunch of new challenges but we couldn’t be prouder of the braveness he continues to show.
I first “met” you through Instagram almost 2 years ago and I know this platform has brought many amazing people into your life. Can you tell me a little bit about your Instagram experience?
I love Instagram. I love having the opportunity to meet so many like-minded mothers/designers/makers without getting ready and out of the house! The only negative I find is the occasional judgemental comment/message and the pressure to make and create so much quicker. People can be impatient, but when I put myself, family and business out there like I do, I guess I have to expect that.
There is nothing like a good love story and you often post about what an amazing support your husband is – can you tell me a bit more; how did you guys meet?
I barely remember life without Rick. First kiss, first boyfriend and the love of my life. High school sweethearts, our story doesn’t get much more unromantic – he ‘asked me out’ in the school canteen line! We have now been married nearly 7 years, together nearly 17. As clichéd as it sounds, he is my rock. The kindest, calmest, selfless, loving and loyal spunk of a man. He makes me laugh constantly and couldn’t possibly be a better father to our 3 children. He understands how difficult it can be for me at home all day every day with our babies and appreciates everything I do beyond words. The minute he walks in the door from work the kids jump on top of him and he demands I take that shower immediately. He adores me and I adore him.
In September last year, you welcomed baby number 3, Rufus to the world but it was a rocky start. He ended up in the NICU after some post birth complications. That must have been a very scary and emotional experience – how did you cope?
It was indeed. I have super quick and aggressive births (brutal but beautiful) and as a result my babies don’t cope initially. It was devastating to have him stop breathing twice, turning lifeless and blue and rushed off to NICU. We weren’t allowed to hold or over stimulate him for 52 hours and it was so difficult for me but especially for my big babies who were beyond excited to meet and cuddle their new baby brother.
Thankfully for us all the tests came back clear and he continued to thrive. A small part of me though will continually worry about Rufus having OI until we can rule that out in a few months’ time. Fingers crossed.
You are the primary carer for your babes during the day and the creation of your Maven Dolls are completely worked around your family time. Is keeping the balance hard and how do you juggle the responsibilities?
I won’t lie, it’s tough. Really tough. Especially due to the handmade labour intensive nature of my Maven Dolls. By the time we get the kids all dinner, bathed & in bed I am often too exhausted to work on such intricate details in the evening. Instead, I grab a glass of wine and snuggle up on the couch with hubby. And scroll Instagram!
How do you take care of yourself – what do you do for “me” time?
It’s not a strength of mine. We all struggle with mother-guilt and I feel I do big time. But when I do let go, I most enjoy a full body massage and potter around the shops solo. Getting from A to B so easily and driving in pure silence will never get old for me.
You have such an amazing interior style – what are your top tips for creating a warm, welcoming and family friendly space?
Have fun with it. Be daring with graphics, tones and textures and always try to inject your personality. I’m a big believer that your home doesn’t have to look like a crèche!
If you could go back in time to before you were pregnant, what is the once piece of advice about motherhood that you would tell yourself?
Enjoy the quiet.
What has been your biggest parenting fail and what did you learn from it?
I have so many. Every day. But I guess my biggest would be not following my motherly instincts that I had about Otis in the early days. It makes me sick to my stomach. Always try to trust yourself as you are your child’s best advocate and so often know more than the professionals.
If you could fly anywhere and do anything in the world for 24 hours, where would you go and who would you take with you?
I’d fly to the nearest tropical Island with my husband (sorry kiddos) and just enjoy being ‘us’ for a change.
What are a couple of your favourite brands and shopping websites?
Norsu Interiors for home, SEED Heritage for me, Hubble & Duke, Little Scout Co & Love by Five for the kids and Country Road for everything.
And finally, who should we follow on Instagram – tell us what accounts inspire you and why? The ladies at Norsu Interiors for their style and savvy business sense, a long list of supportive mothers that also have a child who faces unique challenges on a daily basis, Kip & Co for their explosively colourful feed that always brightens my day and finally, the enchanting Tutu Du Monde because it’s imagery constantly inspires my creativity and motivates me to continue making my Maven Dolls.