Riding on bikes with boys

Have you ever rode a bike with a toddler? I remember my mom declaring that her back was never the same after teaching us to ride our bikes. We’re not there yet with Hoop; we’re still in the training wheel phase. But, in some ways, it’s equally torturous.
“What’s that, Mama?”
He stops riding and I practically walk in to his back tire cuz I’m riding his ass.
“Sounds like some sirens off in the distance”.
“I want to see”, he says.
“Sounds like they’re gone”, and we re-mount and ride along. I ride his ass because he’s going slow.
“Wook-at-dat, Mama!”
We stop to pick some dandelions. He sniffs them and there is yellow pollen that makes a Hitler-like mustache under his nose.
Re-mount. Ride his tail.
A few yards later, we stop again. This time, we pick up sticks. Then some acorns. I answer ten more questions about the various sounds he hears.
It’s so easy to get stuck in A to B mode. When he asks to go on a bike ride, which he does daily these days, I think about leaving the house, the route we’ll take, and how that route will lead us back to the house. His mind, in it’s beautiful infancy, works much different; it’s all about the space between… The sights, the sounds,
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the things he can collect. Hashtag: things you can learn from a toddler.

Slow down, Mamas, and enjoy the ride. I don’t walk so close behind him anymore.

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A Family Session, with The Allen Family

A lot of photographers speak to the lack of photos that they take of their own children, opting often for their iPhones and saving their “real cameras” for shoots only. This has never been me. In fact, I’m finding that I’m growing bored of shooting my own children and am actually yearning and craving and dreaming of shooting other people, places, and families. Walking up to a family’s doorstep is like stepping foot into the office on the first day of the job every time. And I’m addicted to that nervous, anxious rush that it brings. I’m dying to shoot more. If you’re interested in scheduling a shoot or want to work together on a project, email me: ashley {at} thestorkandthebeanstalk {dot} com for more info. I have a special deal going on for those who book now for the month of April. Because I value my time with my family and also because I’m still in the throws of recovery, I’ll only be booking a couple sessions a month. I’d love to hear from you.

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Hooper @ 3.2 years

Growth & Appearance: You’ve grown taller and when you’re in shorts you can see just how long and skinny your little legs are. The weather has been windy and you’ve developed a horrible habit of licking around your mouth, resulting in redness and chapped skin. You look like you’ve just finished eating spaghetti with marinara sauce, always. You’re more inclined to wearing hats and you look adorable in the one hat we did buy you.
You’re wearing size 3T clothes and are in size 8 shoes.
 
Eating: You hate being messy and oftentimes prefer your Papa or I feeding you to avoid having to touch your food or potentially spill on yourself. Really though, I think you’re just not that interested in what you’re eating. You have no problem getting your hands dirty with french fry grease. You can still be a pain in the ass from time to time but the table is a far cry from the battlefield it used to be. We’ve all learned how to peacefully go on and we’ve let go of a lot of the distraction techniques we used to use (ie, TV during dinner).
You love bread, eggo waffles, yogurt covered raisins, bacon, pasta (you love carbs, in general), and lately, carrots. Despite these favorites, you do eat rather healthy. We rarely allow you to eat pure junk. Things like french fries are a rare treat.
The other day I caught you hiding behind the door in the office, eating banana bread with the sliest grin on your face. 
Sleeping: Naps are a rarity. Every now and then we can tell you need one and – sometimes – you’ll take one. You’ve been getting up earlier, around 7:30, which feels like a drastic difference to the days you’d sleep until 8:30. With that said, you sleep through the night with ease.
We bought you bunk beds with intentions of moving your brother in with you. You sleep on the top bunk and love it.

Talking: You say whatever you are thinking and ask about every noise or new thing you see.
Favorite sayings:
“Sorry ’bout dat Mama” (said after that time you hit me, while driving, in the back of the head with a stick)
“Waffo ready” (every time the toaster pops up, regardless of what’s in it)
“Waz dat?” (constant, these days)
“I want to hit Van” (gotta love honesty)
“Going?” (where are we going?)
“Baby fire truck” (aka ambulance)
Development: I took you to your first movie, “Walking with Dinosaurs”. It was about an hour and a half long and I came prepared with snacks to hold your attention. At one point, after getting up and down like a little whack-a-mole a thousand times, you said to me “go home, mama”. The movie sucked anyway, so I asked you to pick my purse up off the floor (I’m still on bending restrictions). You picked it up from the bottom, the contents spilling all over the place. We had to stick it out until the end when the lights came on. I retrieved my lip stick under the seats in the first aisle. It’ll be a while before I take you again.
You can ride your bike, with ease, with training wheels. We duct taped your feet to the wheels to get you started because you refused to use the pedals initially. Within seconds after removing the duct tape, you were off. You ask to go for bike rides numerous times throughout the day.
You still write with your left hand and ride your scooter with your left foot, but throw with your right hand.
You stopped sucking your two fingers a few months ago and it kinda breaks your Papa and I’s heart.
You love picking your nose and eating it.
You’re full blown potty trained and able to pull down your own pants. You lift up your ding-a-ling and threaten to pee on me often. When I tell you “no”, you proceed to point it toward the bathtub or sink or wall or trash and ask if you can pee on these things instead. The answer is the same. You prefer to crap at home.
You started preschool in the beginning of December and seem to enjoy it minus a few long faces when your Papa or I leave.
You like going on adventures, but often ask “going home?” at some point.
You love to play pretend. You’ve been a cat a lot lately and meow a lot. You ask to be pet and call your hands your paws. You also like to make pretend meals with your fake food. You also wear your cowboy boots and refer to them as your “firemen boots”.
You’re a bit bossy and seem to think you’re in charge at times. You tell us often to “stop it” and also feel as though it’s your own duty to scold Van. 
Favorites: You watched the Wizard of Oz and loved it. You love playing the “get me” game. You love cars and trucks and asked Santa for a “big truck” for Christmas. He delivered. You could watch videos of trackers on YouTube all day long. I’ve added things like excavator, impact hammer, and digger to my daily vocabulary. You also love playing “mailman”, where you go around the house delivering “packages”. You love cats and collecting coins and making piles of sticks.

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My Everyday

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On The Mend

I have a running list of things I want to do when I’m feeling better… you know, when my limitations don’t feel so limiting and when my endurance allows me to get through a day without having to rest. The list includes things like day adventures, restaurants I want to try, and places I want to take the boys. Also on that list is the Rose Bowl flea market. We used to go to the Rose Bowl every other month or so and it was not but a few weeks ago that returning and fighting the crowds and having the endurance to make it through the maze of aisles sounded unbearable. But something has happened within the last week or so and I, quick-knock-on-wood, feel closer to normal than I have thus far in my recovery.
I had my three month post-op check-up with surgeon and have since weaned myself off my brace almost entirely. When I do start lifting the kids, I’ll need to wear it, but I’m not allowed to do that just yet so my back brace sits discarded on a chair in the office. It used to sit right by the side of my bed, right next to my slippers. Before, when I didn’t wear it, I’d have this sick and uneasy feeling in my stomach. But since weaning off of it, that feeling has disappeared. I’ve been off all my pain meds for a few weeks now and am finally allowed to take Advil, which I think would have been beneficial long ago (because the fusion works through an inflammatory process, I wasn’t able to take any anti-inflammatory medication). It was nice when my surgeon asked me if I needed a prescription for anything and I answered, “no”. I considered writing an entire post on my experience with pain medication but decided I’ll leave it at this: feeling normal is way underrated.
In any event, we made it to the Rose Bowl and I left questioning if that means I’m actually on the mend. I mean I didn’t anticipate crossing anything off that list I had made for some time. We didn’t stay as long as we normally would and we did take advantage of handicapped parking and we got only what we came for but, ya know, baby steps. On the way home, I was still feeling good so we stopped at what has become our favorite pizza joint in LA. It was our third day eating pizza for lunch in a row (we brought pizza home after our first visit). I had the pesto pizza with the ricotta cheese and it was as good as the first time. If you’re in the LA area, do yourself a favor and check out Vito’s Pizza.
Feels so good to be feelin’ good again, let me tell ya.

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4/52

A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014
This week has been a busy one with talks of the not-so-distant-future and a lot of reorganizing. I know I’ve been doing more than I should, so today I’m resting. I didn’t get around to snapping pics of Willy and I this week.
Van: Hates when Hooper takes his lawn mower away
Hooper: Thinks the sofa is only for him (and his toys)
Click here to check out the series, in its entirety

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Preschool

We’ve known for a while that Hooper was ready for preschool. It happened about the time he stopped taking his marathon naps (seriously, sometimes they were up to 4 hours long) and insisted on watching back to back to back episodes of Curious George.
I hesitated, knowing I’d be having back surgery and therefore having to delegate yet another chore to another friend or family member.
Initially we were going to wait until I was fully recovered but we both decided he was more than ready and we figured we could swing it at this point in recovery. That, and we couldn’t handle him kicking, pinching, or biting Van one more time.
Willy looked at me from across the table on one of our lunch dates and said, “How do we sign him up?”. I always giggle to myself when he asks me questions as if I’ve been a mother longer than he’s been a father. I looked at him with equal cluelessness and said, “I dunno”.
And so, we made a few phone calls.
The first school we toured was a Montessori. Perhaps it was the fact that we saw the price prior to the tour, but neither of us got the warm fuzzies. We drove away wondering how the majority of people afford to put their kid through pre-school. No, really, how do you all put your kids through pre-school?
In the hopes of finding something more affordable, we stopped at a church and inquired about their program. Before price was even discussed, Willy and I gave one another the secret nod of approval. It all felt very organic.
And, just like that, Hooper started pre-school.
The first day Willy and I dropped him off together. He went straight for the toys without looking back and Willy and I walked to the car giggling over the thought of that day marking the first in what is bound-to-be years of schooling. I picked him up and was given a few handouts with classroom information, a playdough recipe, and a list of some things the teachers needed for the classroom and all the sudden I was the legit parent of a pre-schooler.
Despite a couple days of long faces at the time of drop off, he’s been doing great. I started him three days a week, half-days.
My favorite day yet was the day I dropped him off wearing a beanie with a large pom pom on top and came four hours later to pick him up to find he still had the cap on his, albeit a bit disheveled. The teacher told me he didn’t want anyone to take it off. I giggled to myself all the way to the car as I put my sweaty little ski-cap wearing toddler in the car. Man I love that kid.
When did you start your little one in pre-school? Is pre-school affordable in your area?

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Support Local: Sperling Nursery

We love picking out plants. If you kept track of the plants in our home, you’d probably argue that we like picking them out more than we like keeping them alive; and you’re probably right. We typically opt for the succulents because, well, they’re harder to kill.
Sperling nursery, in Calabasas, is our favorite. They always have a large variety of high quality plants. Their prices are a little steep, but the quality is always great.
And they always have fresh popped popcorn. So, I mean, come on. Hands down, right? Nevermind those grubby little dirty hands I have to share it with… Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Margaret Jacobsen

Born: Los Angeles, CA
Wants to go: Iceland
Favorite place: San Francisco, CA
Lives: Portland, OR
Margaret Jacobson | Photographer | Aspiring yogini
I met fellow photographer Marge via instagram back in November and instantly fell in love because of her free and fun-loving spirit. As an added bonus, after a mid-afternoon Belgium waffle and mimosa, she was willing to step in-front of my lens for a little personal project I’m in the midst of shooting.
You can check out some of Margaret’s work by clicking here and follow her on instagram by clicking here. Hey Marge, it was a pleasure.

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Adjusting

Life rarely goes according to plan. It’s funny because growing up you hear all kinds of advice about making goals and putting together visions of where you find yourself in five years. I’m not opposed, per say. It’s nice to try to keep the train on the tracks and envision what moving forward looks like.
But life doesn’t always move forward, nor is the shrubbery that is the path always beat down and wilted well enough for you to even see where you’re going.
And so, I’ve come to learn that those who are the strongest are those that learn to adapt the fastest.
We all reminisce of our childhood, where presumably we were all cared for and fed and given valued guidance and love along the way. And then, when you become an adult, you celebrate the fact you can care for yourself. I’ve always valued my independence and am in no way blind to the ways my parents raised me to appreciate such.
This road to recovery has a lot of the aforementioned shrubbery. It’s hard to know if you’re even on the path, and thus, I’ve had to learn to adapt. Everyday I dig deep to hold on to a perspective that I believe in; you know, the whole glass half full perspective? And, for me, it’s a challenge.
For my children, on the other hand, adapting seems to be their second nature. No matter who walks in the door to care for them, they welcome them with open arms. I know my children are too young to know my struggles, but I’ve thanked them a million times over for their ability to adapt and adjust and allow others to do for them what I felt only I knew how to.
It’s an eye opening experience to relinquish control and allow others to do your job in the absence of any training. What I’ve learned is that it all gets done and no one dies.
There were days I was stuck in bed overhearing others trying to find Hooper’s blanket when I knew where it was. Or days I heard others trying to figure out what Van was pulling at their leg for and, without even being in the room, I knew what it was he wanted. And, you know what? It didn’t matter. They figured it out. My children are not books written in a language only a mother can read. And that truth has been very humbling.
Rolling with the punches. Adjusting. Being humbled time and time again. Hashtag: things words cannot express my gratitude for.

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The Long Way Home

Jaipur, India, 2006
The Dali Lama said something to the extent of this: small problems, hardships, or inconveniences should be but mere ripples in the sea, floating just over the surface. If you were to let the small things turn into waves, you’d only be knocked down more often than not. This notion is the key to survival, especially in India. India’s relentless. Just when you think it’s as hot as it could possibly get, it gets hotter. Just when you thought you couldn’t be any dirtier, you get pushed to the side of the road by a rickshaw, or cow, and step into a puddle of water (insert question mark) and look up in frustration just in time for the rickshaw’s exhaust to blow right in your face. The streets alone are relentless. Walking through them requires the same strategy as a video game and produces the same quantity of outcomes. It’s a wonder to me how my toes have escaped being rolled over. They’ve curled themselves under in deep fear of their lives. Horns are honked so often, I’ve come to believe the horn itself must be India’s native musical instrument. The people are also relentless.
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understanding of “no thank you” or the more blunt response of “I don’t like it, I don’t want it” and “please, it’s not expensive, it’s very inexpensive” is suddenly the only english they know. Some will even follow you down the street, dropping the price of the one thing they think you have have glanced at, and the price drops with every step you take until a cow slowly intervenes and passes between you – or it doesn’t – and you have to turn around with attitude and say, “LOOK, I will NEVER come back to India EVER again if you don’t stop following us”. The latter of course being the less desirable of the two.

But it’s all ripples, really. No big waves have dropped on us. The frustrations or inconveniences have only made the colors brighter and the Himalayans bigger and between the two – the good and the bad – there’s no competition, not even a discussion of such nonsense.
And just like that… it’s off to Egypt…

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3/52

A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: Wants to be just like his brother
Hooper: Loves jumping off rocks and throwing sticks into water
Willy: Misses the Christmas break from work
Me: Wants to make up for lost time
Click here to check out the series, in its entirety
THE OUTTAKES:
The boys’ shirts are c/o our friends over at The Be Kind Movement. You can follow along on
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Around the Table

Hooper: gets out of his seat a thousand times, won’t try new things, often prefers to be spoonfed, requires a lot of effort (on our part) to finish a meal.
Van: starts trying to climb into his high chair as soon as he sees food being made, feeds himself, often requires seconds, will try anything, puts food in his mouth by the fistfull. 
Sarah: does not require a rag or sponge, thinks the food in her bowl is overrated, loves having babies and toddlers around, hates blueberries.
What’s it like around your table?

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A Day With my Husband

It’s funny how life works sometimes. The day before I passed out cold and Willy saved me from falling head first into the bathroom wall, we had a rare and wonderful date. In hindsight, it matched in beauty to what the evening matched in misery.
We started the day at The Penthouse in Santa Monica. I had the Belgium waffle with fresh squeezed orange juice and it was delightful. We drove around Santa Monica a bit before heading over to Venice, where we sat and people watched. Then we stopped at The Daily Pint known for all the rare whiskeys they carry. Willy got a glass that came out to roughly $6 per sip (I made him count). It’s not something he splurges on often, so it was nice to watch him enjoy it. And enjoy it, he did. We drove along the PCH on the way home and watched as the sun set. It was beautiful.
Then I came home, didn’t feel like eating dinner and spent the rest of the night on the toilet with a bucket on my lap. It all ended with an ambulance ride to the hospital and an overnight stay where I received a total of seven liters of IV fluids.
The ebbs and flow of life…

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Living Deliberately

I get asked a lot about how my recovery is going and I never know quite what to say. Like most things in life, there are good days and there are bad days but dumbing it down to that cliche doesn’t speak to the actual experience of recovery.
And then I came across “The Spoon Theory”.
The Spoon Theory was written by someone who has Lupus. The girl gives her friend a bouquet of spoons and has her talk her through her typical day. Each daily task comes at the cost of one of the spoons; taking a shower, for example, makes one spoon drop from the bouquet. And one by one, as the friend accounts for each event in her typical day, a spoon disappears.
You see, when you’re healthy the possibilities seem limitless. Never before have I looked at taking a shower as a task as opposed to a privilege.
Recovery has changed that for me.
Living daily life with a disability forces you to live very deliberately. Almost every decision is a calculated one and my reason for choosing one thing over another depends greatly on my pain and / or limitations. When I shower, for example, depends on when I’ve given myself my daily neck treatment (I have an ultrasound machine at home I use to massage heat into the sore tissues in my neck). The gel gets all over my hair, so when getting ready, it’s something I have to take into account. I also have to take into account when I took my pain medication last (the heat from the shower will make me pass out if it’s too close to the time I took my pain medication). And I thought getting out the door with two kids was hard…
For a long time, I had difficulty raising my arms up over my head. Washing my own hair just about used up all the spoons I had. Blow drying my hair was / is nearly out of the question. Today I’ve gained mobility back in my arms but due to my bending restrictions I am still unable to properly blow dry my hair.
And so, caring for myself – and, in turn, feeling good about myself – has been a challenge. It feels like it’s been years since I’ve had the freedom to wear whatever I want. In 09′ I was pregnant, in 10′ I was breastfeeding, then in 11′ pregnant again, then in 12′ breastfeeding again, and then surgery in 13′. I’ve resorted to leggings, slip ons, and an oversized cardigan I can fit over my back brace.
Recovery has made me let go.
Would you believe I bought Crest White Stripes for the sole purpose of feeling like I’m doing something to help my appearance?  
I digress. Back to living deliberately.
I went to run a couple errands by myself the other day. Sounds like normal life, right? It was during one of my I’m-feeling-better waves so I always take advantage and usually do more than I should; I dip into tomorrow’s cluster of spoons, if you will.
When I get into my car, I watch how far I open my door. If I swing it all the way open, once I’m inside sitting in my seat, I’ll be unable to lean over and close it. I keep the door just barely cracked and squeeze in so I can close it on the third rock: rock it back and forth once, twice, and with a third rock, I get my door closed.
I drive an SUV because I’m a mom in Southern California. The gear shift is up by the wheel and I dread putting it in reverse. As soon as I do so, my scapula on my right side feels funny and I immediately start wondering if driving is something I should be doing. I remind myself of the PDF my surgeon gave me and I try to picture the word “driving” with the words “one month post op” next to it. I’m three months post-op and I remind myself it’s okay.
I drive and listen to music. Nirvana comes on and I turn it up loud. It feels like forever since I’ve been alone. Between having family by my side or, more recently, the nanny we had to hire to come in to help, the days when I could simply get away and be with my own thoughts feel like long ago.
I want to go shopping for shoes. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to try any clothes on (just getting dressed once a day costs me a spoon) and a pair of moccasins I had prior to surgery somehow mysteriously disappeared. I pull into the shopping center to discover the store has moved.
I put the car back in reverse and I get that weird feeling in my right scapula again. I go through the same imagery as I did before, “Driving – – – one month”. I feel the weight of the chip on my shoulder as I drive out of the parking lot having stopped but not having crossed a single errand off my list.
I head to CVS to return some medicine we had bought for Hooper only to get home and find that the bottle had already been opened. I crack the door open and do my typical slide down off the seat and I close the door using my whole body. Because I’m not a fan of potentially poisoning my son or of spending twelve bucks on something we never used, I wait in line to return it. They give me cash back and I immediately remember I had wanted to pick up some hair gel and bobby pins too. I make my way to the hair aisle and as I near the gels I can feel the muscles in my neck starting to tighten. I glance back at the line of three people behind the only open register and I leave without hair gel or bobby pins for fear my time is limited. It was going to cost me an extra spoon.
I get back in my beast of a car and rock the door three times before closing it. I put the car in reverse and confirm that, indeed, my neck is sore.
I make it to the shoe store I had originally intended to go to. I slide down off my seat and close the door, again, with my whole body.
I walk into the store with my purse hanging from my shoulder. It’s the first time in three months I’ve dared to let it actually hang from my shoulder as opposed to caring it under my arm like a clutch. With the soreness creeping in, I immediately start cursing myself for the extra little things in there that I don’t need: the raisins that are starting to feel like rocks, the two pairs of sunglasses that are starting to feel like their actually sitting on someone’s face… someone’s face whose head is in my bag.
I scan a couple aisles of shoes. I try on some slip ons. I try to pretend that I’m normal as I turn left and then right in front of the mirror, carefully checking myself out like I used to. I see another pair I like and I curse my size for being the box on the very bottom, other sizes that are as useful as peanut butter to a kid with a peanut allergy stacked high on top of it. I carefully maneuver it out and try to ignore my urge to reach up and stop the box on top from falling. I’ve learned it’s not worth the pain later and better to let the damn box fall. This has bled into watching my kids jump on the sofa. I sit as far away as I can with my fingers crossed because I know they’ll shoulder the tumble better than if I were to sit there and try to break their fall.
I decide it’s time to go despite the fact I have not made it down all the aisles I’ve wanted nor have I tried on all I was interested in. I decide the shoes and boots that require any lacing up or buckling can be saved for another day, another spoon. I walk toward the exit where I see an older woman and her even older mother coming toward the entrance. We’re going to meet at the door at approximately the same time and I’m hoping they’ll get the door for me. Those pesky big, heavy doors are my nemesis. I can see by the look on their faces, however, that I am expected to be the doorman; I am young and deceivingly hearty. And so I get the door for them, awkwardly pushing it open with my whole body as my feet kinda shuffle under me. I try my best to hold it for the duration it takes for her to get her walker through the door. I watch as the door just misses clipping her ankle. I don’t feel bad, rather, I feel pissed. I just used another spoon and I didn’t even get anything out of it for myself. Pain can you make selfish.
Rock one, rock two, rock three, and I shut the door and start the car. I have one stop left.
I walk into the bank and am pleased to see there is no line. It feels like karma is back in my corner. I make my way to the teller, tell him what I want to do, and he asks for my ID. I flip open my wallet and when it’s not where it usually is I remember that Willy had taken it when the paramedics came to take me to the hospital the week prior.
He tells me he’s going on his break and I sit down in the chair and wait for Willy to bring me my ID. I’m fighting feelings of anger toward Willy for having not put my license back in my wallet and as I feel those negative emotions come over me as I sit and wait and wait, it dawns on me that that’s not me, it’s my pain, and it’s trying to take me down, trying to take me over. I would never blame my husband – my best friend – for having my license after saving me from falling after I completely lost consciousness and getting me to the hospital. My pain, on the other hand, has no friends. No loved ones. No family. My pain could give a shit about what’s fair or right or humane. My pain is an asshole; it preys on my patience, it preys on my otherwise fun-loving spirit.
Willy calls me to tell me he’s in the parking lot and I’m immediately pissed off that he expects me to get off my ass and meet him there to get my license. He says something sweet and cute but I truthfully don’t even hear him. My pain has made it so his words fall on deaf ears, his smile on blind eyes. I start to say something snappy but I catch myself and hobble back toward the bank, back through the heavy double doors. There is a short line now and I wait.
Recovery has changed me. I hope I will never be the same. These days, I live deliberately and I hope that when life does return to normal that I can remember these burdens, these pains. Normal, healthy people don’t know how good they have it.
Everyday we all make choices. For the healthy, these choices are made more unconsciously but for the disabled, all decisions are conscious decisions. When you have pain or limitations, you’re constantly having to assess the gas in your tank. If you run on fumes you have to deal with the fear your car may break down the next day, or worse yet, the reality your car won’t start the next time you get in it.
I find myself feeling constantly torn between having feelings of gratitude for having a nanny to help with the boys, the laundry, and the dishes and feelings of frustration that I cannot care for my own home independently; that I have to rely on someone else, always. It doesn’t feel so wonderful when it’s not a choice. Offer me a nanny when I’m fully capable but feeling lazy and you’ll probably see me beaming from ear to ear. But take away my ability to do things on my own and suddenly all I want is the freedom associated with independence.
Like many other with disabilities, pain, and / or limitations, I hate having to stay behind. I’ve missed birthday parties, days at the beach, gatherings at wine bars, day trips. Like The Spoon Theory states, having an illness or disability is – in itself – a lifestyle. It’s hard when you are your own dead weight.
I know I am not alone. The author of the spoon theory has Lupus. I’m recovering from major spinal surgery. But even motherhood is a disability in some sense, isn’t it? I mean when you have small children, you too must slow down, strategize, skip aisles of shoes and leave without trying on all the shoes you wanted to. For me, this was one of the biggest adjustments of becoming a mother; the realization that your life is no longer yours. So I guess we’re all in it together to some extent. We all have our handicaps.
When the pain subsides, I return to me and I see things for what they are. I’ve always prided myself for my ability to keep things in perspective; all the more reason I hate my pain for infiltrating my good attitude, for cracking my code so damn easily.
Health is such a gift. I hope I never lose sight of that.
I snapped these pics the other day standing in the same position; looking left, ahead, right, and down. I think it’s fitting to pair with this post because really, any situation can be seen many different ways. Recovery is not only a curse, there have been many blessings too.

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The Long Way Home

Agra, India, 2006
India’s dirty. There’s no two ways about it. The majority of it stems from the fact there’s no irrigation system. Shit flows in the “canals” linking the streets. It rains and the streets flood and people walk right through it and kids play like ti’s the public swimming pool they never had. Secondly, no matter the direction your eyes turn, you’ll inevitably see some Indian man – either standing or squatting – pissing in the street. In Jaipur, we even saw two boys shitting together on the side of the street like it was something they met up for each say, “Same time, same place tomorrow?”, I imagined one saying to the other. And lastly, everyone litters. Hidden treasures lie all over the place – old matchboxes, candy wrappers, corn husks… J keeps referring to it as “art”. I haven’t gon so far just yet, but it’s probably the rancid smell of piss that’s taking away from the museum feel.
But that’s India and certainly not all India has to offer. It’s a country of extremes, really. Polar opposites. I say this because it’s also one of the most, if not THE most colorful countries. India’s also home to one of merely seven world wonders. The Taj speaks for itself. But Agra, home to the Taj is quite it’s polar opposite. Walking down the polluted road that leads to it is like walking through the gates of hell only to end up before the gates of heaven. It’s hot, for starters. Sweat drips off your body and clings to your clothes and then you pass through the entrance and turn a corner and before you lies this “dream of marble” you yourself had only dreamed of during class, flipping through the history book pages in search of that one picture that could hold your attention and conquer the urge to close your eyes. Part of myself had already been there.
India is also part owner of the great Himalayan mountain range. And once again, you have to tolerate hell to appreciate heaven. Take a 25 hour bus ride with no toilet, dirty seats, dusty floors, no air con, busted fans, dirt and bug infested, baby crying, brakes squeaking on a winding road with cows crossing and Pakistani army men lining the street and one may have a portion of the truth I speak of. Be it what it may, but it’s not about how you get there but rather where you arrive at that’s important. The Himalayas stand in the distance and it’s like God dropped a huge backdrop and made your life his movie. I’d do it again, even if I had to ride a bike there.
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2/52

A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: I’m pretty sure if he could open the refrigerator, all the food would be gone
Hooper: Raisin fiend
Willy: Took me on a date where I had breakfast for lunch (my favorite)
Me: Trying to get used to life without my back brace
Click here to check out the series, in its entirety

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A Guest Post: To be (a mom) or not to be (a mom)

This is the first in what will be a few guest posts written by my lovely sister. Hey look, there we are… (I’m on the left)
A while back, I did a guest post, anonymously, for my sister’s blog. You can read it here if you so desire.
The gist was this: I’m afraid to have kids. My fears include:
·         What if something is wrong with the kid, physically or mentally?
·         What if the world we live in isn’t kid-friendly (think pollution, global warming, wars, financial collapse)?
·         What if I’m too selfish and impatient to be a good mother?
·         What if my kid is an asshole?
·         What if having a child makes my soon-to-be-husband and I forget about each other?
·         What if pets are enough?
·         What if the thought of helping a kid with homework gives me chills?
·         What if I don’t have time to write or read or hike or cook or do all the other things I love?
·         What if we struggle financially with a kid?
·         What if I go crazy due to sleep deprivation?
·         What if there are adventures and travels I still want to have?
All those fears aside, I know there are pros to having kids. Duh. I’ve met my nephews. They’re pretty awesome. I can imagine how amazing it is to create a life with someone I love. I can imagine the fulfillment of that, the love, the lessons. I just don’t think it’s for me.
Before you encourage me to change my mind, rest assured I have thought about this long and hard. I have played Devil’s Advocate with myself. My fiancé and I have discussed this at length. We even went to a preconception counseling appointment (who knew they had such a thing?), just to get some information. The doctor said that I would be considered “high risk” (according to the insurance companies) when I’m 35 (which is now less than a year away). I know that’s just a silly policy, but the words still threaten me—high risk. I am a person who prefers very little risk. As in, no risk.
But even if I was 25, I don’t think I’d want a child. I’ve never wanted to be a mom. I’m an introvert who needs A LOT of alone time. I worry that being a mom wouldn’t allow me that. I’ve struggled with depression in my life. I worry that I’d pass that on to my child, or that my depression would flare up as a parent. I’m a chronic worrier. I worry about that.
The reason my first post was anonymous was because I’m a little embarrassed that I don’t want a kid. Most women want children. Most describe an ache, a craving, for a child. I’ve never had this. Most women either ignore any possible risks, or embrace them because their desire for a child far outweighs any fear. I’ve never had anything close to such a desire. My sister, for one, always wanted kids. When we were little, she toted around baby dolls, “feeding” them from toy plastic bottles. I played with my Barbies. These days, my sister says she feels a little sad for me and all that I’ll miss by being childless. The thing is, though, I’ll never experience having a child myself so I won’t know what I’m missing. I’m happy as I am, and I’ll just go on as that person.
I used to think there was something wrong with me. I’m in a minority, after all. Now, though, I’m proud of myself for realizing my limitations and making a decision for the life I want for myself (and my partner). Plus, like I said, my nephews are awesome. I  plan to love them with all my might.
Did any of you share my fears? Did you always know you wanted to be a mom?
Kim Hooper / Copywriter & Novelist / Also, my sister

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Bits + Pieces

Hoop got a haircut. He needs one every month or so it seems. Our friend Angela always does a great job // Willy convincing Hooper to eat his damn food. It’s still a struggle, at times // An orchid from my Aunt and Uncle that somehow we’ve managed to keep alive // A bruise on Van’s face. It happens // Walks with broom and dust pan in hand. We have clean sidewalks // In and out, in and out, all day long // Van got a haircut. We shave his head because his hair is much thicker // I’m trying to get Van to sit in the big boy chair so I don’t have to worry about lifting him in and out of the high chair. Currently, he squats. Hashtag: it’s a start // Hooper discovered we keep the candy in the bathroom cupboard for when he goes poop // Van playing a game of “mailman” by the front door // A cartoon in the late afternoon // A visit from the in-laws before Christmas. That’s Willy’s dad in the “Kum & Go” shirt. We went to Bob’s Big Boy where the guys tried with all their might to strain their necks and watch the game. Can you tell they’re related? // Raisins are Hooper’s jam // Ever since we got bunk beds, Hooper loves playing in his room  // Both boys, not fighting but sitting together watching “What does the fox say?”. They are obsessed. So much so they can sit by one another without killing each other // TV comas happen.
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