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A portrait of my boys, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: Just started riding a bike a few weeks ago, when we finally lowered the seat so his feet could reach.
Hooper: Got a new bike (on Van’s birthday) so Van could have his old one. Perks of being the older brother, I suppose.
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The Great Salt Lake

My kids whine a lot. Hooper more so than Van, due to his age. I don’t think that they are any different than any other kid; all kids whine. I know “I’m bored” is in my not-so-distant-future, but at this point in time it’s a plethora of moans and groans that make my hairs all stand on end and makes me wonder why I drag my kids out of the house ever.
When we first parked at the Salt Lake, it was tantrumville immediately. Being 100 degrees out didn’t help. Nor did the smell of pungent sulfur. Or the abundance – or shall I say downright invasion – of flies or whatever those bugs are that hang out at water’s edge in droves. They whined about going in the water, then they whined when they got in the water but the salt burned, and then – as if a miracle from above – they got over it. All of it. And they, well, enjoyed themselves immensely.
Kids have split personalities. I’m sure of it.
And as the sun went down and we hosed the salt off their skin and clothes, they whined about leaving. And so it goes.
Motherhood: the never ending test of patience.

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The Ma Books

*This post contains nudity*
…All of us women are affected somehow by the much-talked-about societal pressure to look a certain way. In search of some elusive feeling of beauty, some of us get hair extensions, some of us get fake boobs, some of us buy $700 high heels, and some of us get tummy tucks. I can’t judge any woman for what she thinks will make her feel better, but I think we should all ask ourselves why we aren’t just fine the way we are…
I’m over on The Ma Books talking about body perception in conjunction with The Nu Project. You can check out my post by clicking here. Have you guys been following The Ma Books? What do you think? I’m really enjoying it.

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Thoughts on having a third…

I’ve always had some degree of envy for the couples who don’t plan their pregnancies, but instead let nature take her course (religion aside). Both of my pregnancies have been planned. Van came along a little sooner than we had intended, meaning he came the first chance we gave him. 
And two seems to be the magical number for a lot of people. I’m one of two, as is Willy. And good things come in pairs, or so they say. Much of life today is geared around the four person family; I mean who likes to sit in that little awkward seat in the middle when riding in the car? Or be without a partner on a ride at an amusement park?
I’ve always wanted three. People told me I would change me mind after I had my second. And I did, for a short time; mostly because with all the pain and stress my body had to endure with my back surgery I couldn’t imagine actually carrying, or birthing, a baby. But slowly, as my body continues to heal, I want a third again. Not right now (as I still don’t think my body is ready), but at some point in the future.
It’s a weird debate to have, deciding whether to have another child or not. You can either take the practical or the emotional side and you can really swing it in either direction depending on what you really and truly want. There doesn’t seem to be a “right” decision.
When the debate occurs, for us, it is centered around finances with the question of “could we afford another child” being the end of the debate because who really knows how much that thrid child is going to cost or who really knows how much anything is going to cost. And if we’re making decisions based on finances, was it smart to have any children at all? I mean if two is more affordable than three then wouldn’t the notion that none is more affordable than two also be true?
You see, it comes down to what you want because the pendulum can swing either way. Now is not the time anyway, so I suppose we will put off the debate for another day.
Do you leave things up to chance or go the planning route? What does the debate come down to in your family? Would love to hear from those mamas mothering three (or more) munchkins and how the third (and each subsequent child) changed things.

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34/52

A portrait of my boys, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: Is not the good eater he used to be. Yay for terrible twos.
Hooper: Has a new
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pet fish. We’re working up to a dog.

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The Colorado River, Utah

 We had stopped to get gas when we ran into a car with three guys in it that introduced themselves as “river guides”. This explained the rafts they were hauling and given the fact we had no plans and a full tank of gas, we joined them. We spent that night on a sandbar underneath the stars.  
Fast forward eight years later; driving down the same road reminiscing and praising the angels above that nothing bad ever happened to us, ever, on any of our travels together. And there were many. We passed the same campground we camped at back then; memories of doing our laundry and putting together scrapbooks from our overseas travels we were on before we decided to hit the road. Who knew that visiting a town would unlock little mementos of tiny little memories that would have otherwise been forgotten like leaves falling from a tree and blowing away. Something as simple as a sign alongside the highway that caught your interest way back when, but did nothing for you this go-around. 
Back then, we had no iPods and no iPhones. We made CD’s for the road and blasted our favorite ones over and over again. We had a book the size of the yellow pages full of campgrounds and directions of how to get to them. We had maps, for goodness sakes.
As we glanced behind us in our rented minivan, we couldn’t help but giggle about how much has changed; the kids, the car seats, the twin babies on the way, the husbands back home, Siri telling us to “continue to the route”. Damn Siri and her route. Sometimes I just want to tell her to shove it. Or at least hold on for a minute.
But one thing remained the same. Every time we passed a “view point”, we giggled again, thought of Dan Eldon (who was at that time was our idol and in many ways still is), and were reminded – as we were years ago – that the view is always all around you.
We splashed around in the same river that allowed us to rest our tired heads on it’s banks years ago. Janet, feeling weightless. Carla, feeling brave. Hooper, feeling free. Van, dropping a load in his pants that would later roll out and surprise us all. And myself, feeling grateful to add another memory with my best, most treasured friend to the proverbial banks.

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What summer looks like…

 Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. ~John Lubbock
I’m so stoked to have been invited to participate in the “What ____ looks like” blog circle with some other photographers I know and have loved from afar. How it works is simple; we each link to someone else’s post until the circle is complete. If you’d like, you can check out their work by following the circle starting with the lovely Kelsey Gerhard (who I’ve had to opportunity to meet in the flesh, which rocks).

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A letter from his daughter…

Too beautiful not to share… From his daughter, Zelda
My family has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with an entire world. But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare. My last day with him was his birthday, and I will forever be grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter. He was always warm, even in his darkest moments. While Ill never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, theres minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least its a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.
To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after youve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.
Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls Ive ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. Well just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.

The OC Fair

…and because oldies are goodies…
There’s was a period of time, between being a very young adult to now- a mother of two boys- that I didn’t go to the fairs; because who likes long lines, overpriced everything, and hoards and hoards of people? Rhetorical question. But we’ve gone every year since Hooper was old enough to enjoy it; to the LA Fair, the Ventura County Fair, and now, the OC Fair. We go because it’s fun for them. 
As we waited in line to park, I glanced over at Willy and said, “Isn’t it crazy that years from now these fairs will be documented in history books?”. I learned all about the world fairs in many of my Humanities courses and each time I see the ferris wheel lit up in the distance, that rush of nostalgia floods my veins and I’m reminded that we are taking part in something that has been around for years and years and years. 
And so, we pay the fee to park, wait in the ticket line, purchase overpriced tickets, eat the shitty food that is overpriced too, and spend the day diverting our children’s eyes from things they may be into but we can’t – or don’t want to – afford.  
This go around, we didn’t ride any of the rides. It was a bummer because I had built up the excitement for the rides all day. When Hooper woke up from his nap, he said, “We gonna go ride the coasters, mama?”. But the lines were ridiculous and now that Van is big enough to ride to, multiplying the $5-7 fee per ride by two just seemed extreme. Especially when considering that they both cry every time the ride stops and throw a tantrum until they make their way to the front of the line to ride a second time. Ching ching (insert cash register sound). Can I get a collective “not worth it” chant going?
We did fork out the few bucks it cost to see the world’s largest horse (which was male, so insert big cartoon eyes here), as well as the world’s smallest horse and biggest alligator. Can’t say I support parading these poor animals around for people’s amusement, but hey, they all appeared healthy, happy, and cared for. The petting zoo was the highlight. It was free and we spent a long time petting the pigs, donkeys, ducks, chickens, kangaroos, sheep, and other animals I should probably know but I don’t because I’m no longer in the first grade. Oh yes, how could I forget the deer that nearly ate my dress? I had to clean the already-been-chewed deer food off my dress later. Yum.
But far and wide, the highlight was the demolition derby. I had read reviews that weren’t very good but figured the price was fair and thought the boys would enjoy it regardless. It ended up being one of the best shows, ever. We contemplated returning the next evening for the motor home demolition derby. The boys loved it and haven’t stopped talking about it since.
And yet, the best part of the day – for me – was walking to the car with that black and white photo strip in hand. Even if cost six bucks.

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Utah

The last hoorah. It’s only a few weeks later and already so much has changed. Van and Carla are now both 2. And those babies that had been kickin’ around in Janet’s belly have made their way out, happy and healthy. And so it goes, life runs her course and keeps moving whether your bags are packed or not.

I will be back in the beautiful state of Utah from August 28 through August 31, with bookings available on each of those days. I will then be in Arizona on September 1 & 2 and will be able to take sessions on each of those days as well. If you’re interested in booking a session, kindly email me: ashley@thestorkandthebeanstalk.com. Thank you.

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The Chorus: Family

He landed flat on his back, his head within an inch from the metal
pole that held up the lifeguard tower. That feeling of being 6 years
old, running full force down a hill that ended with the wind being
knocked out of me came into view; that feeling of your lungs
collapsing completely and anxiety quickly settling in as you fight to
find air despite all the oxygen around you. I saw first the fear in
his eyes. And then the tears.
I held him in my arms and looked up at his brother who was still
standing on top of the life guard tower, his hands being the last to
touch his brother’s strong and sturdy but still one-year-old frame. He
didn’t appear guilty or concerned.
“You must always protect him”, I told him on the way home, “he’s your
only brother”.
Shared on Amy Grace’s Chorus. Please check out the other entries by clicking here. They sure are beautiful. 

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The Ma Books

…When I became a mother, I felt much of the same connection to a bigger whole. All mothers know the same agonies and achievements, the same triumphs and tears. No matter where we are from, we are bonded by our role in raising children…
You can read my full post over on The Ma Books, along with some awesome images from photographer Ken Heyman.

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Van's Birthday Weekend

Every year, when our birthdays roll around, Willy and I discuss not what we want but what we would like to do. Sure there’s been years when we’ve exchanged little things here and there, but we tend to value experiences over anything else. Call me a lazy mother, but for Van’s second birthday I didn’t send out invitations, pick a theme, or stop at the store to pick out decorations. It always seems silly to me because my boys are still young and I’m pretty sure a simple cupcake is enough to put a smile on their face. So with a weekend spent with family and friends and numerous trips to the beach, we celebrated Van’s second year of life. And it was a blast.
Congrats to T.h.Ransom for winning the giveaway to UB2. An email has been sent to you. Also, there is still time to enter the giveaway to Sugarboo Designs. Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Childhood Unplugged

A few snapshots from our time spent in Utah.
Little Sahara State Park, Utah
Please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.