The Pumpkin Patch

I’m tellin’ y’all, if I could have taken the kids to a Christmas tree lot before my surgery, I would have. As luck would have it, our favorite pumpkin patch opened its doors a few weeks before my surgery. We took the kids on a weekday and practically had the place to ourselves. We rode the ponies, pet the goats and sheep, ran down aisle after aisle of big round pumpkins, and came home with some fresh picked strawberries.
Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween.

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A Guest Post, from Diapers & Skinny Jeans

Today’s guest post is from Kate over at Diapers & Skinny Jeans. Kate is a beautiful mama to two and a freelance photographer. So, ya know, same same but different. She’s here today to talk about breastfeeding. Many thanks, Kate, for sharing.
If I could have just told myself, had a sit-down conversation and taken my own hand, I’d have said, “Listen up.” Gentle, yet stern. I would tell myself all the things I’d learned through this breastfeeding experience.  I’d talk about the pressures, the struggles, how from the moment I started that it was ok to be a little embarrassed.  That it would be hard going back to work full time and trying to pump, and that I should go easy and rest often.  I’d remind myself to drop the “you-know-everything” act, and let the lactation consultants do their job.  To ask for help when you needed it.  To be okay with feelings of failure, doubt, sadness; they happen to everyone.  To remind myself that I was doing the most important job, the very best job, of being a mother.
After beginning the breastfeeding journey with the birth of my second child, Alba, it put a lot of things into perspective for me.  There’s a certain confidence that comes with experience.  There were many things that I had to make peace with first, like weaning my first daughter before I was ready.  I never expected it to resonate so deeply inside of me, all of my past memories both good and bad, but they did.  I remembered how absolutely clueless I was the first time around, though I had tried my damnedest to read every instructional how-to ever made.  It’s funny how that works.  You can never really prepare yourself for it. I plan on breastfeeding my new daughter up until she chooses it’s time to quit.  Definitely over a year, maybe even two.  Do I know I can get there for sure?  Absolutely not.  But I’m okay with that now.  The experience itself goes by so quickly, and really, all I’m trying to do is enjoy every second that I have.  It’s so hard to quiet the chatter of what society thinks, what the stranger sitting next to you thinks, your mom, your in-laws, that ever opinionated friend you have – I know.  I’ve been there.  And for what it’s worth, the most important advice you can ever get is to not take any of it and go with your own gut instincts.  You just gave birth to your child, the most powerful thing that I’m sure you’ve ever experienced.  You are a mother.  You are learning, and your child is growing and thriving and completely your own.  You are perfect.  This whole breastfeeding thing is more intuitive than we give it credit for, and babies are the most masterful of teachers.I look at the two of them and everything they’ve taught me and how they continue to be the greatest blessings I’ve ever known.  My eldest and her fierce independence, my baby and her cautious, careful gaze.  My opposites, yet perfectly complimentary to one another. Ying and yang.  So much in motherhood has become all about balance.
If I want to breastfeed in public, I do.  If I need to call in sick because I miss spending time with my kids, I will.  If your body starts to make less milk before you’re ready to quit, it’s okay.  If you chose not to breastfeed, or were unable to, you’re supported.  This is the hardest, most rewarding job on the planet, and no matter how you do it, we are all just feeding our children with love.
Thank you so much to Ashley for having me over on The Stork & The Beanstalk. I’m tickled to be among who I consider to be one of the most inspiring mothers and writers I’ve ever met.  This lady right here?  I swear.  She tells it like it is and I love that about her.
 You can find Kate here: Blog // Instagram // Facebook

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Brothers

Hooper, you’ve taken to holding Van’s hand and leading him around. I’m not gonna lie, I couldn’t wait for Van to walk for the pure joy of watching you walk side by side. It really is a beautiful thing.
When you’re not holding hands, you two are at each other constantly. Hooper, you’re lucky you’re still bigger than your soon-to-be little-big-bro because one of these days he’s going to tackle you. And I may even pretend not to see. You can be so mean at times; biting him, grabbing his arm with all your might (note photo above with your teeth clinched n’ all), pushing him (especially from behind when he has no idea it’s coming), and taking every toy away that he manages to get his hands on. Some days it’s just easier to put on Curious George so we can all have a moment of peace.
Van, you copy everything Hooper does. If he’s fixing his wheel with a hammer, as soon as you can get that hammer, you’ll bend down and mimic exactly what Hooper was doing. You really idolize your big brother and take so much pride in doing the things he does.
Hooper, you like to “help” wash Van in the bathtub. This consists of rubbing soap on his back and dumping water on his head. It’s really a big “help”.
Hooper, you love to hold Van’s cheeks in your hands and say “ca-uuuuut”. You also enjoy giving him a hug and a kiss every night before bed.

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The Long Way Home

Kho Pha Ngan, Thailand, 2006
Getting to the very essence of life is more challenging than anything else. Making sense of it. It’s interesting to consider how long we’ve fought and worked for the things we have today; technology (plasma TV’s, cell phones, fast cars) and capitalism (because bigger is better and excess is wealth), yet it seems these things we’ve taken so long to obtain are the very same things we need to rid ourselves of to feed our hungry souls. It’s only when I’m taken away from these things that my soul is fed. It leads me to believe that the bigger challenge is freeing yourself and feeding your soul in the midst of all the chaos we have created.
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My Dad

Family is a special thing, isn’t it? It’s my dad’s birthday today and as I recover from spine surgery, I can truly say I don’t know what I’d do without him. Or my mom. Or my in-laws. Or my husband. Or my grandma. Or my sister. Or my friends. This recovery thing is taking a village and I feel very fortunate to have a little village to rely on. Here’s some fun tidbits about my Pops…
-He’s the guy you want at your party. Last Christmas, after a few drinks, he rallied us together and we went door to door caroling in our neighborhood.
-He was a minor league baseball player (left handed pitcher) and he can tell you stories about groupies like Anita Peter Beater. He was also my softball coach. He also cried the day I gave up softball for gymnastics. And then he cried again, years later, when my sister and I framed our old softball cards and gave it to him as a gift.
-He’s incredibly humble and always finds room for improvement.
-He wishes he could sing. In fact, he’s been known to say his dream job would be to be a singer or a hairdresser, which are both totally random if you actually knew the guy. I think of him everytime I hear Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the dock of the bay”. I also think about the time I called my childhood friend to tell her I couldn’t play for a while because he cut my hair so awfully bad I was too embarassed to be seen.
-You don’t want to hear one of his lectures, trust me.
-He cheated in grade school by putting the answers to the test in a tennis ball he had cut open and threw the ball back and forth with his buddy during the test. And if you heard him tell the story, you can still see the pride in his eyes.
-He gets really excited for silly things like leftovers from the night before for breakfast. He’s easy to please.
-He’s left his toast in the toaster and gone to work without thinking twice about it many times.
-He always taught me the value of hard work and instilled a strong work ethic in me from an early age. My mom did the same.
-Currently, he golfs. A lot. Willy would tell you he’s really good. My dad would say he’s okay.
-He can chop corn in half using his bare hand, samurai style.
-He climbed Half Dome last year.
-He squeezed his pet bird to death when he was a youngster while watching the Twilight Zone.
-He owned a rust colored molester van with curtains for a long time and I remember him getting quite emotional on the day he sold it. My sister and I used to sit in the back of it and drink orange soda while he played in his basketball league.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Thanks for taking care of me and my little ones.

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The Long Way Home

San Fernando Valley, 2006
“Stand on the peak of the mountain and contemplate the long ranges of hills, observe the courses of rivers and all the glories offered to your view, and what feeling seizes you? It is a calm prayer, you lose yourself in unbounded space, your whole being undergoes a clarification and purification, your ego disappears, you are nothing.”
-Carl Gustav Carus
As the future nears the present, and the present grows increasingly closer to the past it becomes clear – again – as to why I’m here… back at my parents, back with my best friend. The journey is peeking it’s head out from around the corner. We’ve been playing a game of hide and seek. It’s chasing me at the moment. Been trying my best to distract myself from
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the one thing I can’t do anymore than wait for — travel. I can feel my senses awakening. I sense my view of the world on the brink of change. I crave it – can’t wait to get away.

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A Guest Post, from LaTonya Yvette

Today we have a lovely guest post from super-hip mama LaTonya from the Old, New, and the Wee one too (Pop over to her blog to read my guest post). You may also know her as one half of the team behind Welkin NYC. She’s as sweet as she is stylish and I’m just dying to get to New York so we could hang.
Hi guys! While Ashley is home recovering from a massive surgery (girl, I hope you’re getting lots of hugs, kisses, and sweet cuddles) I am here to bring a quick little style post. When Ashley asked me to do this, I was all kinds of excited. I am such a little fan girl of her sweet blog. I have often spent nights trying to figuire out how to get her here to New York and teach me some photography things. One day.
Let’s get to style shall we?
Well, I’ve been a stylist for a quite a few years now. I would say 7 years on and off. I have always loved the fashion world as a kid, but didn’t quite grow to know it until I started working in it. As the years went on, I went from a partying teenager, to a young mama with a few extra lbs (you know how that is), that were so stubborn… I just gave up. With that, I switched a lot of my style “expertise” if you will, to also help other mamas out. Even if the extra lbs aren’t my client’s problem, the basic ground of new mama drama is usually one in the same. The whole balance of looking cute, comfortable, and chic is quite hard isn’t it?
Anyway, here’s a little something about a skirt that has a stereotype that proceeds itself.
When I was younger and skinnier a full skirt felt like something that would swallow me up. I wanted to hold onto any shape I had (wasn’t much) and the wide skirt did not allow for that. So I thought.
Years later, I gained weight, but more importantly two beautiful pregnancies and one beautiful baby. My hips tell the story. They were made for birthing I tell you. I embrace my new found curves, but at the same time, things don’t fit the same. Also, walking miles and miles and miles a day throughout the city also made my calves much larger-another story. So once again, a wide skirt did not seem like it was for me. Instead of swallowing me up, I felt it would hug me completely wrong. Again, I thought wrong.
I gave my vintage full skirt a try. With confidence, without reservations.
It worked. I loved it.
I think a full skirt is one of those pieces that just comes with a stigma. And some of us aren’t willing to risk it and maybe-possiblly kick that stigma’s ass!
DO IT!
If you decided to give the full skirt a try, a basic top goes well and is super easy styling wise. Also, a button up with a pair of heals work just as well. Or for a comfy look, throw on a pair of sneakers and a basic t-shirt!
Good luck, and next time you see that full skirt at the thrift store-get it!
You can visit LaTonya’s blog by clicking here // Welkin NYC // Instagram // Pinterest
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The Long Way Home

I’ve been wanting to share some of my travel tales on here for some time, for a lot of reasons. For one, I want my words to live somewhere other than the bursting-at-the-seams journal I have them in now. More than that though, these tales are the foundation of who I am; they mark a point in my life when I was wild and free and my mind ever-expanding. It all started when I was lost and, by the end, I was found. These tales are my personal journey, before I was a wife, before I was a mother. I’ll be posting these every Monday, I hope you enjoy.
San Francisco, 2006
“…And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’…”
-Bob Dylan
One charge gives birth to another. Now isn’t that the truth and pattern of life? Reproduction. Cycles. It all comes in waves; waves of furry, waves of peace. One wave continuously follows another.
Been giving change some thought. Ready for new challenges and maybe searching for new
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scenery. Been dreaming big dreams of far away places. Ready to break out the box we all trap ourselves in. Been thinking about my future. Ready to close old doors and open new ones.

Yes, indeed, change is in the air.
This year, the tide has changed. I’m smarter and stronger. Amazing who you become when suddenly it seems you’re all you got.

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42/53

A portrait of my husband, once a week,
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every week, in 2013.

This guy does such a good job taking care of all of us. Not sure what we’d do with out him. This is a throwback pic cuz’ I’m barely starting my long road of recovery following surgery. Thank you all for
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your continued support and well wishes, it means a lot.

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Life

When I’m in the moment, sometimes I want nothing more than to be out of the moment. I hate saying that because I know how important it is to be present. But sometimes the kids are just all sorts of crazy and I can’t think about anything other than the mess I’m surrounded in, the dishes, the laundry, the shower I want to take, etc… and the moment slips away.
I photograph my children a lot because it’s something I enjoy doing. I love documenting all the mundane moments… even when my mind is elsewhere. And it’s a funny thing because I’ll upload the pictures after I put them to bed
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and all I can think of is how precious they are and how lovely that moment really was even though, at the time, it felt so chaotic and relatively unfulfilling.

Motherhood is such an oxymoron like that, isn’t it? What’s a snapshot of your life look like today?

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The weekend before

The final days before my surgery felt like a mad-dash. You know the feeling, right? Like I had to squeeze in all I could, filling every crevice of time with something real, something meaningful. My surgery had been weighing on my mind so heavily that I really hadn’t anticipated life after recovery, my brain frozen in time, my calendar cleared with the words “recovery” written in month after month.
So we celebrated my dad and sister’s birthday early, down in Ventura. It was a warm October day, the time of year when the Santa Susana winds howl wildly and the air feels like someone with hot breath is breathing on you. My sister and I took the kids down to the water’s edge where Hooper made cakes out of sand and Van gave himself a sand beard.
And as the last of the light shined in I realized another day had passed and that meant my surgery would be another day closer. The impending feeling of doom, the ambiguity of what would be, all the uncertainty made better only by the company of family and
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The Salton Sea

Some places are just so wonderfully odd that they keep yanking at your soul to return again. And so, I did.
*You can read my post from my last visit
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We got this

The kids and I tagged along on another one of Willy’s business trips out in Palm Springs a few weeks ago. Being a mother to two young children is not easy even on seemingly quiet and easy days at home. So anytime we travel, we know, shit can hit the fan.
Lately, however, life with the boys has been a breeze. And for the first time, on our drive out to the desert, I looked over at Willy and said, “We got this”.
Van is at that age where he is no longer a baby and not yet a tyrant toddler. He’s so enjoyable and easy. I’m done breastfeeding and now that I’ve gotten past all that hormonal bullshit, I’m throwing myself high fives left and right. Breastfeeding is great, I’ll be the first and last one to defend it, but being done is so freeing. It’s easier to look at my family as one unit as opposed to Van and I off in the corner keeping to our own private schedule of neurotic feedings.
Life is running at a less chaotic pace and we’re all enjoying the tranquility. Perhaps it was the calm before what is soon-to-be the storm. Be it what it may, we had a fabulous time and life has been treating us good. Today, I’m counting my blessings and feeling grateful.
More photos from our time in Palm Springs and our return to the Salton Sea to follow.

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Capturing My Everyday

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41/52

A portrait of my husband, once a week, every week, in 2013.
As I lay here in the hospital, I can’t help but look at this picture and think of how beautifully it captures what was our everyday life. I know our current situation, with me recovering, is temporary but I long to get back to normal and the journey to get there has barely begun.
Pictured above is the moment Papa walked in the door from work earlier this week. I’m including the outtakes this week as well because they’re good for a recovering mama’s soul. 
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Breastfeeding

You can’t see things straight when you’re depressed, you just can’t. I knew enough in those dark two days after I weaned to know that I was in a funk, that things that were once exciting were no longer exciting. I shared my thoughts here and here. The fact I’m still writing about it has got to tell you I’m an emotional person. I mean I declared that post to be my last breastfeeding post and that was what is now four breastfeeding posts ago. Good grief, get ahold of yourself Ashley.
And, well, I want to give an update because I don’t think it’s fair to leave things on a sour note. My mind is clear and I’m back to my happy place, so I can reflect on our breastfeeding relationship with a sparkle in my eye as I reminisce on how things were at one time, in the beginning.
And that’s part of why ending your breastfeeding relationship is hard; it’s the end of a very long and tiring and emotional first chapter.
But there’s a second chapter and a third chapter and so on and so forth. As I type this, Van is handing me an over-sized birthday card my Aunt and Uncle gave him for his first birthday. When you open it, music plays and each time he drops his little bottom back and forth toward the floor. He sees my chapstick on my desk; it’s the same chapstick I had to take away from him yesterday when he managed to get the top off and began eating the contents of the tube. He whines and points in the chapstick’s direction and when I take the chapstick and hide it away in the drawer, he cries. He looks at me with tears in his eyes and I comfort him, his thumb in his mouth, his head on my chest.
Every time he has his thumb in his mouth, I think about it being my replacement. When I was breastfeeding him, he never sucked his thumb. And as I look down at him, I think how amazing it is that he’s able to comfort himself. I see, for the first time, the beauty in his independence.
And so, you see, the second chapter reads just as beautifully as the first. It’s just different. He’s not a baby anymore. But he’ll always be my child.
And thank you, again, to all of you that leave such beautiful comments. Sometimes it’s your own words that make me see things differently and I appreciate new perspectives more than you know.
You can check out my other posts on breastfeeding by clicking here

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A Guest Post: Michelle Gardella

Today is the first guest post of a few I have planned while I’m in the hospital and recovering from my surgeryMichelle is a constant source of inspiration and courage for me. Her talent is one thing, but her soul will absolutely blow you away. She inspired this postI wrote back in June and I’m so thrilled to have her here on The Stork today. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Asking for help when you’re an artist is a hard thing. When you make something, it becomes an extension of yourself and every time you put that something out into the world, there’s a part of you that becomes vulnerable.
With no further adieu…
I teach a class online, and at the core of the curriculum it’s all about telling the truth. With our photographs, with our words, to the world, and most importantly, to ourselves.
Each week I’d show up and share. And each week, I felt like the biggest coward ever. Here I was, preaching and praying for the reclamation of everyone’s creative fires, but deep inside I was completely ignoring my own. I was encouraging everyone else to fight down their resistance, while completely bowing down to mine. I was waiting for the day when I wasn’t so terrified.
A book.
It has always been my one giant dream. The scary kind of dream that makes you want to run away forever. The kind that keeps you awake at night. The kind that resurrects your biggest inner demons: self-doubt, fear, denial.
A book.
I launched my kickstarter campaign. And it might seem so romantic and beautiful and poetic. And it is! Don’t get me wrong. But it is also in the face of the accumulation of countless inner fights with myself. “What are you thinking?! Why would ANYONE want to see your images or words printed?! If you fail your children will think so little of you!” Yup. My resistance doesn’t mess around, and this whole process has taught me this:
It’s never going to feel easy. It’s never going to feel fearless. Your palms will sweat, and your adrenaline will charge, and your mind will totally keep playing tricks on you. But, you HAVE to do it anyways.
My son shared a quote with me this morning, “Can you be brave when you are totally afraid? In fact, that is the ONLY time it can be called bravery.”

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