I’ve come to learn that evenings spent with Tara are evenings where time is well spent. She radiates beauty and there is so much love in her relationship with her kiddos. When connections are felt so immediately and so deeply, I trust them and feel gratitude wash over me. Feeling grateful for this one. And my boys are pretty head over heels with the “big kids”. Some sweet connections going on right there. Now who wants to watch said children so that Tara and I can have an adult beverage together?
A portrait of my family once a week, every week, in 2015
Willy: Bounced back surprisingly fast from his trip to Vegas. Also finally used the new smoker he purchased and made some killer chicken wings. I was taking Jimmie for a walk while he was cooking and I’m pretty sure I could smell the applewood smoke from blocks away. If you could eat a camping trip, it’d taste like Willy’s smoked chicken wings. It might be the buy of the century.
Hooper: Was being an a-hole and got threatened with a time out on the patio. He asked how long the time out would be for and Willy told him he may have to spend the whole night out there, to-which-he-begrudgingly replied, “people don’t spend the night out here, roly polies sleep out here”. Then when he saw Willy doing something he wanted to be a part of, he asked to help him. Willy declined, reminding him he was on timeout, to which Hooper replied, “That’s what love is though… like when I help you take suitcases up to the hotel room”. Sometimes it’s hard to keep him in timeout. First borns sure seem to know the way to your heart, don’t they?
Van: Was asked to interpret Jimmie’s barking and stated, “He’s saying he pooped in the refrigerator”. I swear he’s never watched Anchorman.
Me: Have been trying how to navigate how to get the boys to stop hitting me. In the words of one of my favorites, I don’t know if I’m the boxer or the bag.
Whether I need to add anymore clothes in my closet may be debatable but the fact I feel like I hit jackpot while thrifting in Arizona and in Utah is not debatable. And we’re heading out to Arizona again and rumor has it that a new thrift store just opened up. Ugh. Can’t stop, won’t stop. Pictured are just a few of my favorite finds. I suppose it’s a good thing that I rarely get the opportunity to hit the thrifts when I’m home because the cycle I’m in of donating – buying – donating – buying is getting ridiculous.
And one more new-to-me item, for the home, not thrifted, from this talented artist. I bought two and I love them both.
I think a lot about my children’s educational future. I realize this can be a delicate subject as we all have our own opinions on education and ways to raise our children.
The other day I was chatting with a friend who mentioned that her friend just pulled her children out of a highly rated public school and placed them in private school instead. She was upset because, apparently, “masturbation” was listed under some sort of description of the curriculum. Hashtag: why third hand information is dangerous. She has four kids, so you have to multiply the cost of private school by four. Here in Southern California, that means anywhere from $6K to $25K per kid, per year. The alternative costs nothing. Nothing.
I went to a public elementary and junior high. This may mean something different, depending on where you live. At the time, they were good schools. Sure, I remember the playground being vandalized with graffiti every now and again and the occasional playground fights that would send everyone running over to watch until someone of authority came to break it up. I don’t recall any problems with any of my teachers, nor do I recall either of my parents hovering over me. I know it was like pulling teeth to get me to sit down and do my homework and I do remember battles in this respect. I also remember my mom declining my english teacher’s suggestion to place me in an accelerated english class. My mom’s response sums up how I remember both of my parents attitude toward education; she declined saying this: “I don’t want the extra work”.
That may sound like a lazy response from a mother that doesn’t care about her child’s education, but it’s quite the contrary and, I think, one of the more important lessons I’ll take forward with me in guiding my children through school.
The lesson is this: Ultimately, success depends on the individual, not the institution. I see it as my job to set my children up to be successful, but I also know there is a delicate line between trusting them to get there on their own and pressuring them so much that, rather than them walking the path on their own, you’re dragging them by the seat of their pants. I hand it to my mom for acknowledging that I didn’t have the interest in school at the time. She knew advancing me in school would mean greater homework battles and she chose not to push it.
My sister, on the other hand, was very self-driven academically. She was that girl who graduated high school with a 4.7 GPA and had those like me scratching our heads and pondering, “I thought 4.0 was the highest?”. When she didn’t do well on a test, it was her sobbing and my parents trying to talk some rational sense into her.
I went to a private high school and the environment was drastically different than it was in public school. I was surrounded by kids who all came from affluent and successful families. My friends from junior high all went to the local public high school. And you know what? We all went to college and we all have careers of our own. So, in the end, public school versus private school didn’t really make a big difference.
And the same can be said about college, as well. I graduated from San Francisco State University and later went to a small college in LA for an additional degree in Nursing and I work along other nurses who graduated from Yale and others from Pierce (a community college) and we all make the same amount of money.
Point being, if you’re kid is driven, they will succeed no matter where they are planted. I hope I don’t lose site of that reality because I’ve seen the crazy-brand-name-school-driven parents and I don’t want that for myself or my children.
I got a good laugh over the holidays in watching how Hooper constructed his gingerbread house, on his own. It made me giggle to look around at all the other gingerbread houses the other preschoolers created with their parent’s help. I’m not against helping my child and I certainly have no ill judgement toward those that walked home with beautiful gingerbread homes, but I truly did appreciate Hooper’s independent effort and the truth is we ate it all before we got home anyway. The comparison will give you a good chuckle. Guess which one is Hoopers:
I guess the bigger questions are how to motivate your child, when to push and when to pull back, and choosing which battles are worth fighting. I’m obviously still figuring it all out.
How do you feel your education impacted your life path? Do you hold any resentment toward your parents for pushing you in one direction or another?
When I was younger, I remember my parents taking me out to the grapevine to visit an art installation by Christo & Jeanne-Claude of yellow umbrellas. My parents weren’t really the artist-types, but I do remember trips of this nature often. You could see the umbrellas from far away, the little specks of yellow growing larger and larger the closer we got. I remember reading about one of the umbrellas killing someone. I think a gust of wind caused one to come out of the ground. I suppose that’s beside the point.
In the 60’s, artists began a movement away from the museums and galleries and started creating art in the landscape itself. Spiral Jetty was created by Robert Smithson 1970, using over six thousand tons of black basalt rocks and earth from the site to form the coil that is 15,000 feet long and 15 feet wide. “Created at a time when water levels were particularly low, the artwork was submerged from 1972 onward, and was only known through documentation. However, regional droughts thirty years later caused the lake to recede such that by 2002, a salt-encrusted Spiral Jetty reappeared for the first prolonged period in its history. Smithson often asserted that by responding to the landscape, rather than imposing itself upon it, Spiral Jetty is a site to actively walk on rather than a sculpture to behold.” I love the idea of not imposing oneself upon it; I like to think of myself as a photographer in the same sense — not imposing, but rather using what is real and before me. Makes it more indestructible, I suppose. I find that really beautiful.
I hope my boys care about art and have enough interest in the matter to search things like this out. And, at the same time, I don’t want them to be anyone other than who they are. But, at the same same time, I hope the things I expose them to leave some sort of impression on them. Much love to my girl Janet for the introduction. And with that, my images from Utah are complete. But if you wanna take a moment to discuss Van’s oversized mittens, I’m game.
A portrait of my family once a week, every week, in 2015
Willy: Got stuck juggling working from home and caring for Van, who spent much of Wednesday morning throwing up. I suppose it’s all but forgotten at this point as he got the hell outta dodge and is spending March Madness in Vegas.
Hooper: Has a growing stick collection that he has been toting around with him for weeks. It’s been growing by the day and as I watched him carry his load up to his room in preparation for bedtime, I thought he looked more like someone prepping to build a fire. He also has a sinus infection; the coughing has kept us all up and I think it’s fair to say we’re all exhausted. Taking a family portrait this week was a challenge. We are all grumps right now.
Van: I turned around, my mouth open with wild anticipation, as I watched him try his first strawberry milkshake from In n’ Out. From his backseat car seat, he told me to “turn my face around” and “put my teeth away”. It was the latter that I don’t want to forget. Who tells someone to put their teeth away?
Me: I knew I was in trouble when Willy gave my number to the people at 24 hour fitness. I’ve probably fielded at least 20 calls over the past two weeks. This week, I used my best foreign accent and told them they had the wrong number. I haven’t gotten anymore calls.
Jimmie: Got into the can of dirty diapers.
Anita is the sister of Hooper’s best little friend at preschool. It’s not often enough that I get to photograph a little girl, so you better believe I was all over the opportunity. I posted some other shots that I edited in color over on the 5 Minute Project. You can peep my post by clicking here.
We were on our way to one thing, short on time, with two cars filled with kiddos that had been promised things we realized we’d no longer had enough time to give them. The side of the road in a beautiful majestic canyon served as a fair substitute. Complaints of cold hands quickly dissipated as those numb little hands discovered rocks to throw into the stream, sticks to collect, and tree stumps to climb. And those little babies faired pretty darn well; arguably better than others. We stopped at a diner on the way home, got the big kids chocolate milk, and unthawed in the car on the way home.
We had intended to venture out to Antelope Island last time I was in Utah and ultimately decided we didn’t have enough time and ended up at the Great Salt Lake instead. I suppose that’s the thing about Utah, you can’t really go wrong. You can argue a lot of things about Utah but denying it’s beauty is just not debatable.
We came across two different herds of Bison, both of which tolerated us at a relatively close proximity. Van was more interested in staying in the car, in the drivers seat, and pretending to steer the wheel. Hooper braved the cold with me and came out to get a closer look. It was all pretty amazing. Growing up in Southern California, I feel like the zoo is the closest we get to seeing animals in their natural habitats.
I think Antelope Island will stay on my must-see list for any and all future visits. And I won’t complain revisiting in the summer when it doesn’t feel like the wind chill is going to cause any moisture in my eyeball to freeze. Who knows, Van may even be more turned on by bison than by the car’s steering wheel by then.
A portrait of my family once a week, every week, in 2015
Willy: Has been told a lot as of late that he resembles Chris Hemsworth. I had to google who that was.
Hooper: Has been calling himself out on his own farts.
Van: Was playing with a roly poly when Willy noticed it mysteriously disappear. When he asked Van about it he said, “I put it in my nose”. Sure enough, when Willy asked him to blow his nose, out came a roly poly and a booger. Also, first words out of his mouth the other morning were, “Mama, you so pretty”.
Me: Got out of a traffic ticket by going to court. The cop that wrote the ticket didn’t show up so my case was dismissed. I can’t really argue with the fact that I was going over the speed limit – I probably was – but never have I been met with such disrespect and attitude from a person of authority. I went with the intent in mind to urge her to treat people with common courtesy. It seemed rather fitting that she didn’t show.
Jimmie: Has never officially been invited into these family portraits but ends up on the bed with us every time, without fail.
Weekly Resolution: We made an effort not to check our phones while driving. I’m guilty of checking things on my phone at red lights and I annoy myself with this behavior; when did time sitting at a red light become time wasted? A reminder, for me, to slow down; metaphorically, not literally, though I suppose the literal sense would be beneficial too.
“One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then, quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life”. -John Green
Images taken from my Pinterest. Wish I knew all of the creators.
I flew to Utah with both boys on my own which isn’t as gutsy as it sounds. For the most part, they’re good travelers. Sure, the guy sitting in front of Hooper may have stories about a particular tray table that kept going up and down and the flight attendant may have had to talk to Van about keeping his seat belt fastened, but all in all it was trouble free. Perspective is everything, right? Van’s insistence with pushing the suitcase actually paid off because when you add up the number of car seats, suit cases, and carry-on bags and compare that number to the number of willing and able hands, I’m clearly outnumbered. Janet (pronounced Jeanette) met us at the airport and helped out from there.
The weather was cold, much colder than it had been in the weeks prior. I would have whined more, but Hooper and Van did enough whining for all of us. Determined, we refused to let any whining or cold weather or hungry babies or nap times slow us down. We had a list of things we wanted to do and we damn near did them all. As for our time spent in the home though? Well, in looking at these pictures now, it’s painfully clear that the majority of our time at home was spent feeding people. Namely babies. But the bigger kids, too.
More from Utah to come in the days to follow… lots of adventures were had.
Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t write posts about topics I don’t have the answers to. It sounds foolish admitting such, because who am I to think I know anything at all? Chances are I’m no different than you; I have opinions and experiences, but not always answers.
Do you ever feel like motherhood is best viewed in hindsight? Sometimes the day to day feels like nothing short of a struggle, with a rare glimpse of beauty or moment of peace. And I wonder how it is that I actually love this motherhood gig as much as I do. Because it doesn’t really make sense to always feel like you’re about to drown, yet love the near-death repetitive experience.
That’s when it dawned on me that things don’t always go great in the moment (or smooth, or easy… insert the adjective of your choice), but looking back on whatever the moment was, even if it’s a mere hour later (especially after the kids are in bed — who’s with me?), is a whole different experience. I can’t comprehend it and I won’t even attempt to explain it.
I suppose it’s because the good always outweighs the bad even if the bad outnumbers the good. You can go on a road trip with your obnoxious whiny kids who spill their juice all over the carpet of the floor, make you stop for feedings and changings, and whine more-or-less much of the way, but chances are that in a week’s time you’re not going to remember anything other than watching the sunset behind the vastness of the ocean with your family, all together. Even looking back on photos of a vacation or even just any old day that I remember to be draining and hard makes me chuckle; Like the suffering I go through literally becomes humorous. Only in motherhood.
This thought – of enjoying motherhood in hindsight – has popped in my head several times as of late. Most recently, for example, while I watched Janet feed her beautiful babies in Utah. It made me sentimental to watch them latch on and the way their tiny little hands held on to the side of her body. And yet the look on her face of exhaustion and frustration and the yearning for just a moment of time to herself brought me back to reality. I didn’t always enjoy that time either. But in looking back on it, in hindsight, I don’t remember the exhaustion, frustration, or the lack of time to myself; I remember my boys latching, looking into my eyes, and caressing the side of my body with their smooth tiny fingers. Motherhood makes you forget the bad and dwell on the good.
So I guess the million dollar question is how do you enjoy it when you’re in the thick of it? That’s the answer I don’t know. But what I do know is that looking back on it all is really beautiful.
I was waiting for Willy and the boys outside of a Renaissance Festival in Arizona when this couple walked past me and into the festival. I was drawn to them immediately. When Willy made his was to the entrance with the boys, I mentioned the urge I had to photograph them. I thought there was a chance I’d find them until we actually entered and realized that the grounds were huge; my chances of coming across them again was like finding a penny someone dropped for you in a mall. We watched the whip show, ate some food, sat for part of a comedy show, met up with some friends, and killed hours just walking around. At the end of the day, we made our way back to a pottery booth near the entrance where I had bought something but left it there for easy pick-up once we were ready to leave. And there they were.
I grabbed the girl gently by the arm and positioned her next to her boyfriend and recall saying something along the lines of, “I’m going to take your photo, I don’t even care what you say”. Numbers were exchanged and the next thing I knew I was photographing them alongside a river. She wore the same flower crown she had on when I first saw them. That evening, we all became friends. I photographed them again the next time I was in Arizona.
And now, the images live in a published magazine.
Publication aside, because that’s not what it’s about, it goes to show that if you’re drawn to someone – for whatever reason – you should reach out. I’m not always so ballsy. In fact I’ve become a coward more times than I’ve had the balls to approach. But the last two years or so, as I’ve matured (I chalk it up to maturity, anyways) I’ve asked myself “why the hell not” and replaced self-ridicule with an I-don’t-give-a-damn mentality. I think that along with the rise in handheld phones / computers, we’ve lost the art of conversation with strangers and I personally would love to make the extra effort more often. I sat down in my seat on our flight to Utah, for example, and the entire row of people next to me were looking down at their iPhones. Perhaps it’s a separate topic. Point being, people are really special. It’s one of the parts I love about photography the most; it gives me a reason to walk outside of my comfort zone. Camera hanging from my shoulder or not, I’d like to think I’d still make the effort.
I challenge you all to start a conversation with a stranger sometime this week. I’ll do the same.
And because I dig the layout of the spread, here they are, in Mozi Magazine. The images of them above are from when I ran into them at the Renaissance Festival.