Guerneville

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Every time I fly or drive into the SF area I’m overcome with that feeling of nostalgia that takes over when you’re returning to a place that holds some of the most formative memories of your early adult years. San Francisco is where I spent the chunk of my college days, where I made plenty of mistakes and took many fumbling missteps; most notably with one for-lack-of-more-appropriate-terms man who really was anything but.

I pointed out my old apartment to the boys as we drove past it on the freeway, a glance back at the two of them in their carseats reminding me how different my life was then versus now and how sometimes I really think we need to thread through the muddy waters to learn the lessons that enable us to allow something good and solid and true into our lives. Willy, and the boys, being my good, solid, and true.

We quickly drove through the city and across the Golden Gate, both boys too tired to keep their eyes open any longer to see that great big red bridge in all it’s glory, and made our way to our friend’s house in Sonoma County for a quick hello and tour of their relatively new home and farm. The boys fed the chickens and alpacas, rough housed a bit with their son (who could easily be mistaken for their brother), and shot some pool while listening to some tunes.

We then took the scenic route into Guerneville, driving along the coast and stopping along the way to take in the rocky cliffs and windy roads along with the hazy fog that defines Northern California, in my mind anyway.

Pulling into Guerneville was like breathing a breath of fresh air, the yellow leaves on the trees a testament to the season… a season that had yet to really show itself down in the southern part of the state.

We rented a beautiful home via airbnb and the ceiling to floor windows had us believing we were floating among the redwoods. We poked around town, spent sometime in the Armstrong National Forest (you can see my images from there by clicking here), and tried our best to ignore the tantrums and fights that seem to be the trademark of life with two boys who love each other one minute and hate each other the next.

I shot a beautiful wedding that I’ve coined the wedding of the year; made perfect by a variety of ingredients that blended so beautifully together as to fool one into believing pure magic must have played a part.

And just like that, we drove back to the city and I bid a sad farewell to my boys (all three of them) before heading back into the city to stay for the next few days and power through the family shoots I scheduled; all of which went off without a hitch, despite the nerves that seem to plague me before any and every shoot. Mad love to my girl Jordan, who has been a long time friend from the blog world, and allowed me to stay with her and her lovely family.

The Bee & The Fox | Black Friday Sale

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We recently released a new tee, Love Your Mother, and in honor of Black Friday The Bee & The Fox is having a sale. Use promo code SMALLBUSINESS20 for 20% off your purchase of $50 or more. Sale runs today thru Sunday.

Please feel free to leave names / links to other small businesses you’d like others to check out in the comments section below.

Happy Thanksgiving

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“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Wishing everyone out there a wonderful Thanksgiving. May we all pause and take a moment to give thanks.

With love, from my family to yours.

Images found on Pinterest

The difference between midwives and OBs

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I have a lot of conflicted emotions about medical care and for anyone that looks in through a window at my life, I’m sure they would be confused as well.

For starters, I work in the medical field as a registered nurse. I work with doctors, surgeons, case managers, social workers, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, dietitians, radiologists and so on and so forth. I seem to baffle a lot of my co-workers when I divulge the fact my first two children were planned to be born at home, in the care of midwives, given the fact that I should know what “could” happen and all that jazz.

If I’m being honest, I’m happy to be planning a hospital birth this time around. Two failed attempts is enough for me and while I support it wholeheartedly for other women, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not for me. I wish it was.

This is the first pregnancy I’ve been followed by an OB, from the beginning. The OB that delivered Hooper was fantastic, fully knew and supported the midwives I was working with, and did a fantastic job navigating Hooper’s tumultuous birth (though I’m still against induction despite the fact I know it’s necessary at times — I blame much of the decline in Hooper’s birth experience on the pitocin I was given).

During my pregnancy with Van, I had to chose a different back-up OB (the previous OB suffered a sudden death heart attack, which hit many in the OB community like a ton of bricks). I met with the new OB one, maybe two times. Because Van’s birth involved an ambulance transfer to the closest hospital, the OB that actually delivered him had never met us before (and to-be-clear by delivered, what I actually mean is pushed on my belly until his 9.8 pound body literally popped out — it was, um, audible). Point being, I’ve had OBs that have had to intervene along the way, but this is my first pregnancy where I will have been seen by the same OB from beginning to end, and more-or-less, only by him (I can’t help but think as I type that how ironic it would be if he couldn’t make my birth for some unforeseen reason and baby #3 ended up being delivered by yet another, new-to-me, OB. Hashtag: funny not funny).

So in a sense, I’m merely jumping through the hoops this go-around. I’ve had more ultrasounds in the first half of this pregnancy than I had combined in my pregnancies with Hooper and Van. I’m taking my first ever glucose screening test (I opted not to with the midwives because I was checking my blood sugars regularly at work and knew that if anything, my sugars were running on the low side of normal — therefore ruling out gestational diabetes).

The one thing I did turn down was the genetic testing and that’s based on nothing other than the fact that finding out the results of the test would have no bearing my decision to go through with the pregnancy.

I had my first ever ‘comprehensive ultrasound / anatomical screening’, which I was surprised to learn is not performed by regular OBs but by perinatologists instead. The very definition of a perinatiologiat, by the way, is “a physician that works in conjunction with a patient’s obstetrician when pregnancy complications develop and is able to provide care for both the mom and unborn baby”. My eyes were already rolling before I even made the appointment because I understand the absurdity in involving a physician who deals with complications being involved in the care of an individual experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy. But, alas, the hoops — I’ve agreed to jump through them (almost entirely for Willy’s sake; as he was rather traumatized from the first two births).

When I arrived at the perinatologists office, the receptionist pointed out where the bottles of water were; they sat on a fancy mirrored tray above the magazines that included none of the trashy stuff I only pick up in doctor’s office and in line at the grocery store, but instead “Travel & Leisure” and other sophisticated crap my burnt out brain cells didn’t feel like picking up. The sofa was oversized and included a large velvety blanket that I presume was there  in the event anyone felt like cuddling. Point being, it felt very spa-like. Very pampered. And this experience continued as I was shown to my room, which was dimly lit with a desk at the window like you would find in a hotel room; a desk I’m sure no one has ever sat at with a small cup of pencils I’m sure no one has ever written with. At the sink were special soaps and lotions and a basket of hand towels. I sat back in the large chair, with my feet up, and watched the ultrasound on the big screen tv placed in front of me. I was a bit disappointed the chair didn’t have one of those massage mechanisms like they do at the manicurists. I’m being facetious.

It’s funny because sometimes I want to remind the very patients I care for in the hospital that they are in fact in the hospital, because of medical necessity no less, and not in a hotel. But I found myself on the flip side, wanting to remind the staff that they are indeed in a medical office and not some kind of massage pallor. It made me question further if any of this were necessary as I assume things that are necessary contain less fluff and more, I dunno, latex gloves.

In any event, all checked out fine. I closed my eyes while they checked out the baby’s goods and met with the doc at the end who summarized the findings; “My only concern”, he said, “is the baby’s size. You’re measuring a week ahead of where your dates put you”. He went on to suggest I have an additional test done to rule out gestational diabetes (because gestational diabetes accounts for larger babies). We then had a conversation about the birth weight of the boys (Hooper was 8.15 and Van was 9.8) and how neither of those involved any gestational diabetes. He also confirmed that birth weight has a genetic component (both Willy and I were 8+ at birth). And despite all the exchange of information, and this is the part that makes me hate the medical field, he wrote me script for the additional gestational diabetes testing and said he’d like to see me back, at 32 weeks, to “see how the baby is growing”.

Surely at 32 weeks the baby will be growing. It isn’t rocket science. It also doesn’t take rocket science to make the prediction that I will be carrying another large baby. The best indicator of the future is to look to the past, after all. I also know that ultrasounds later in pregnancy are less accurate due to the fact the baby is taking up more room. Sometimes they say weight can be plus or minus a pound, which is pretty substantial when you’re talking about a being that is only a handful of pounds anyway. And what’s it matter? It bothers me that women are not trusted to birth babies anymore; that so many are encouraged to go down the planned c-section path or the planned induction path (and while I have no judgements toward woman that chose this path, I do have judgments on practitioners that lead their patients to this path based on some kind of instilled fear). I have no doubt that this baby will be big. I also have no doubt in my ability to work with my doctor to get it out safely.

I could go on and on. I could even jump over to the other side of the coin and defend certain arguments from that side as well but all in all I think the take home message that I want to remind myself is this: Trust your gut. The care you receive is at times reflective of the larger population and fails to take the individual experience into account. Be your own advocate and ask questions that force your practitioner to see you as an individual.

And so, thus far I haven’t had many, if any, questions for my OB. I spend more time waiting for my food at the drive-thru window than I do in his office for an appointment. But when I did ask about the baby’s weight and his confidence level in delivering a big baby, he more or less shrugged off my concerns, boasted about the 9 pound baby he delivered that morning, and before-I-knew-it I was back in my car, on my way home.

I miss the care of midwives. I miss having my belly measured and touched. My OB appointments are exactly the same: pee in cup, stand on scale, check blood pressure, wait a minute for doc, doc comes in and asks “any bleeding, cramping, discharge, headaches?”, performs an ultrasound and listens to the heartbeat for maybe 7 seconds, asks if I have any questions, and I’m dismissed.

I remember listening to Kevin & Bean on the radio talk about that show ‘I didn’t know I was pregnant’, about women who actually go into labor and deliver a baby having never known they were even pregnant. They talked about how surprising it was that a lot of these women birthed healthy babies despite the fact they didn’t receive prenatal care. I’m not so surprised; prenatal care thus far has not impressed me. I feel like a cow being led through a corral.

Would love to hear from any mamas out there that also birthed big babies. I have a friend who birthed a thirteen pound baby at home and I always channel her in my pregnancies. Would also love to hear from any others about their prenatal care / OB experience.

A Family Session, with The Posters

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I met the Poster family at their home in Lafayette for another one of my Bay Area sessions. Watching their two young boys, Nick and Sam, reminded me so much of my own rascals; a little one that will soon enough be the bigger of the two and both with a propensity toward sticks and dirt and all things, well, found on the ground and in nature.

We shot some in-home before heading just down the street to a beautiful nature path that weaves it’s way through much of Lafayette. Beautiful light trickling in from behind the oak trees and a tree swing for any who venture down the path to use.

A beautiful, warm, and inviting family. A love you could feel.

Interested in hiring me for a session? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

A Family Session, with The Shreeves

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We spent some time exploring the surrounding area before walking down to the baths. I can remember learning about the Sutro baths – which back in the late 1890’s were the site of an indoor swimming pool – in college, when I attended San Francisco State. Nowadays you have to watch your step because falling into what was then the pool would now be like falling into a porta-potty. Okay, maybe not that bad but I’d be interested to see what kind of things could be pulled out of what’s left of the pool. We came across a few loose sandals but all in all it looked less than inviting and murky, at best.

Not that you can tell any of that from the images; the Sutro Baths today draw all kinds of photographers come dusk, quick to capture the beautiful sunsets and the reflections that so beautifully mirror the colors that fill the sky. It made a great backdrop and my time with the Shreeve family was nothing short of delightful.

Interested in hiring me for a family session, event, or wedding? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com. You can learn more details by visiting my website.

 

A Family Session, with The Yungs

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Mary and I were both once part of Childhood Unplugged and had the opportunity to meet in person at one of the instameets I put together with my friend Cindy some time back. It made it all the more sweeter when she contacted me about doing some family photos.

Their home is filled with so much laughter and, for me, there’s something extra special about watching a mama be grossly outnumbered and yet so abundantly loved. And by the same token, I enjoyed watching Winston interact with his three boys. I came home telling Willy not to fret; that there will come a day when the boys will enjoy watching football with him, or at least there is hope.

This session had such a natural flow to it; none of it felt forced and I could tell immediately that laughter is something that fills this home on a regular basis.

Cuba

cubaSurely I may come back from this trip screaming at each of you to never partake on such an adventure with children of this age. But I do have a game plan. And I’m reminding myself often that there are several way more daring than me. I mean there are people that travel in recreational vehicles across state lines, with children, permanently.

So my game plan is this:

-Return to a place you have been before. This way, even if we miss out we don’t really miss out. No patience left to hit up that museum you visited 4 years ago? No problem, you saw it 4 years ago.

-Pick a place worthy to return. I’ve always traveled under the guise that I would never go anywhere twice and this is nothing more than a testament to the fact that I love to travel and see new places and returning to somewhere I’ve been before feels a bit lacking in purpose. But Cuba? There is no where in the world like Cuba. And when Castro is officially six feet under, things will change. It’s already in the process of change. But man, so much has stayed the same. A lot of people feel like they should have been born in another generation; sometimes I feel the same way. Well guess what? Taking a trip to Cuba is like taking a time capsule to decades past.

-Convince your friends to go with you. Thankfully this wasn’t a hard sell. Janet and I have traveled all over the world together and she, too, has been to Cuba before. Convincing her to come along with one of her babes (she’s leaving the little ones with family) and hubs in tow was as simple as sending a few screen shots of Havana to stir up old memories and borrowing a few quotes from the trusty ol’ guidebook, “Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat: behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. It’s these rich dichotomies that make travel here the exciting, exhilarating roller-coaster ride it is. Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo that has grated for more than half a century, this is a country where you can wave goodbye to Western certainties and expect the unexpected. If Cuba were a book, it would be James Joyce’s Ulysses: layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but – above all – a classic”.

I’m envisioning a date night with Willy, when we can leave the boys with Janet’s gang (and vice versa), best friend time while the guys either sleep or smoke cigars along the malecon (boardwalk), and plenty of group hangs where despite tantrums from hungry and sleep deprived kids we feel that camaraderie that only seems to come along with being in the company of others who are suffering right alongside you. I know it won’t be easy… I don’t like travel to be easy, but I do know it will be memorable.

Added bonus: Spanish is Janet’s first language (she’s part Cuban, part Guatemalan and despite looking ‘white’, her mom doesn’t even speak English).

-Limit your itinerary. We took this to the extreme in that we have no plans. In fact, at the time of writing this post I’m not even sure where we’re staying. But I also know Havana has loads of warm and friendly families that are happy to invite you into their home and I’m kinda looking forward to showing up and figuring it out. We’re limiting our traveling around to no more than two different places and we’re not even sure, aside from Havana, where else we’ll go. And even while we’re in Havana, we have nothing on the itinerary other than ‘hang out’.

-Shorten your stay. Typically I won’t go through the hassle of flying somewhere far away and spending money on a hefty plane ticket unless I can stay at least two weeks. We’re staying shorter this go-around and I think we’ll be glad we did.

-Prep your husband. Attitude is everything when you’re traveling with kids. This will be our first time traveling international with kids and international travels brings a whole new set of annoyances: time changes, language barriers, pillows literally stuffed with cotton balls, the list goes on and on. And so, we’ve talked a lot about being patient with each other and with the kids. I also think having friends there as a buffer will help. Struggles are always lessened when shared.

Not sure what kind of cell service we’ll get, if any, but if I have service I’ll be sure to post a few images via instagram along the way. I have a few posts scheduled during the time we’ll be gone and loads of photo sessions I hope to get caught up in sharing once we get back… along with laundry and shop stuff and now I’m getting stressed about coming back. Wish us luck. And for those who have done a lot of traveling with little ones, got any tips?

images found on Pinterest

Around the home

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I sense that it will be hard for Willy and I to put down roots in any one place because we’re always dreaming of something different than what we have as soon as we acquire whatever it is we have. Isn’t that awful? Sounds like a recipe for depression, though I assure we’re happy with where we are, and grateful to have what we have.

That’s not to say that living in a townhome is ideal. There are things we love; like our neighbors and the community living with shared walls brings. We also love the pool that we rarely use despite our good intentions. And it’s bigger than our old home, with a layout we love and an interior we’ve made our own despite the not-so-attractive stucco exterior. On the flip side, we are without a yard. We have a small covered patio that we rarely use and are actually hoping to convert into useable indoor living space. We have a homeowners association that I truthfully despise; mostly because I don’t like someone telling me what I can and can’t do with a property that we own. The boys are technically unable to ride their bikes in front of our home because it’s a private road and we’ve gotten many letters in the mail reminding us of such.

That all said, we’re awfully close to the beach and to downtown where there’s some of the best pizza just a short walk away. And I figure should we be here long enough, the freedom of riding their skateboards down to the beach or down to the pizza joint is one they will treasure deeply. It’s just hard to accept that now, without a yard to roam or a street to ride bikes, it’s not really ideal.

Sometimes I watch the boys play and it feels like they are those bouncy balls that you get in the .25 cent machines in a room with hard surfaces; constantly bouncing to and fro and destroying just about everything in site. It’s a constant struggle to keep the house clean and a constant struggle to keep them entertained on the days we have to lay low to get work done within the home. Sometimes I feel like our situation is more complicated by the fact we both do a lot of work from home; like we’re juggling two things at once with a bum arm.

But I think of the years ahead… and the proximity to the ocean… and our neighbors who truly have hearts of golds… and then I just pile em’ boys in the car and set them free somewhere else. Just not quite as easy as opening the back slider.

How do those of you who live in smaller places or lack yard space make it work?

Forty Five

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A portrait of my family once a week, most weeks, in 2015

Willy: Tried blaming a fart-in-public on me but both boys called him out and said, “but mama doesn’t fart that much”.

Hooper: Made a necklace for a little girl in his class and actually gave it to her. He’s colored many pictures for her too but none have made it into her hands. Can’t believe this crush thing happens so early.

Van: Insists on wearing this sweatshirt despite the still-summer-like weather (minus the cold front that seems to have just rolled in). He asked me to take his shirt off yesterday, claiming he was too hot and thus needed his sweatshirt. His love for the sweatshirt is real but his reasoning is a bit skewed.

Me: Was coasting through what quickly became the second trimester only to now feel like all of my insides are going to fall out of my vagina at any moment.

Jimmie: Barfed but then cleaned it up himself. I told the boys to take notes.52weekproject-b

Jess Soper, on Childhood Unplugged

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“I don’t think you need to live in the country to let your kids have this freedom though.  Nature is everywhere, it’s in that patch of grass on the corner of the road, it’s in that wet, muddy puddle, it’s the slug hiding under the bin.  When I stand in the playground and hear parents telling their kids off for getting dirty hands, or mud on their school tops, or telling them to put down that ‘gross creature’, my heart shatters.

Letting your kids get mucky, letting them explore and be free is so important.  It fosters excitement and respect for the world around them. Nature is all around us, accessible and free which is hugely liberating to most children who spend so much of their lives being told what they can and can’t do. They can really push their limits, creatively, intellectually and physically, when they are outside. The sense of achievement from things like, lighting  your own fires or climbing trees is never forgotten.

Let your children embrace nature, and let them be free and unrestricted, let them take off their shoes and get mucky, let them swim in the sea with all their clothes on, let them laugh when they tread in a cow pat and I have no doubt your kids will be 100% happier and more confident as adults. In fact, I think in many ways, it is the only hope for the human race, without these people with a love and affinity for this world we are doomed, hopefully our kids will do a better job than we have.” – Jess Soper

I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing photographer Jess Soper over on the Childhood Unplugged blog. You can read the full interview by clicking here.

Trick-or-Treat

San Clemente family Photographer-74 San Clemente family Photographer-80I feel like a broken record when I admit that Halloween got the best of me because it seems to have the ability to sneak right up on me every year. I start thinking about it early enough to assure myself I have plenty of time and before-I-know-it I’ve done nothing. This year, perhaps, being the worst yet. As in we never even made it to the pumpkin patch. The un-carved pumpkins outside our door are from Vons, for goodness sake.

Though in my defense, both boys decided early on that they wanted to be cowboys and, well, for Hooper it’s the third year in a row he’s opted to be a cowboy (last year, the year before). The third year in a row, mind you, of wearing the same exact cowboy boots that my mother-in-law thankfully must have bought a few sizes up some years ago. And Van, well, he ultimately wanted to be whatever Hooper wanted to be.

The week before Halloween I found myself sifting through their closet to see how I could pull two cowboy costumes out of one. Hooper got the chaps, Van got the vest. Van got the hat, Hooper got the bolo tie and the straw sheriffs hat that my mom happened to have. My sweet friend Shella, from Sweet Threads, came through by sending me the vintage plaid button up Van’s wearing. One pair of cowboy boots resulted in quite a few tantrums until we took a trip over to payless shoes and invested in a second pair. And that was that.

We opted to go trick-or-treating a mile or so from our home down a street that’s notorious for their Halloween festivities; quite the change from last year when we still considered ourselves new-to-the-area and settled for being the lone rangers collecting handfuls of candy from neighbors who were eagerly awaiting trick-or-treaters but got very few. And still I think we came home with more candy last year, from fewer homes, simply based on the fact that the street we went to this year was so jammed backed with lines-out-the-doors trick-or-treaters that the actual handouts were quite small in comparison to the generous handfuls that characterized last Halloween. And yet, the boys know no difference, had no complaints. Less candy for Willy and I to steal, I suppose.

I’m not sure the infamous cowboy costume will survive yet another year, with pieces falling off due not to poor quality but instead to rowdy boys who have insisted on wearing their costumes for several days in a row. Time will tell. But next year I’m determined to carve those damn pumpkins.

Childhood Unplugged

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When you’re a child, you seem to simply accept the world for what it is; trees that are over a thousand years old don’t take your breath away in quite the same way as it does when you’re an adult. I guess that’s why living through your child’s eyes is all the more exciting… because you get to experience things that – with any luck – you may have experienced years ago but with a whole new appreciation and outlook.

The boys enjoyed their usual: collecting sticks, stealing the far superior walking sticks Willy and I would come across, and yelling loud enough to hear their echoes. Given the fact we were in the company of the Redwoods, they also enjoyed climbing in, under, through, and on top of the roots and fallen trees.

We drove up the hill, past the Redwoods, to catch the sunset at a spot I had located the day prior when shooting a wedding. From the clearing, we had an expansive view of the mountains, all covered in trees; the light draping different colors amongst the different layers as the sun settled beyond the horizon. The boys ran amuck, per usual, catching the occasional lizard and proving their lizard-catching-skills to be beyond the stage of requiring help or assistance. The handling of said lizards, however, is another tale.

Not pictured is the dinner that followed that consisted of numerous timeouts outside and a screaming three year old face down on the concrete sidewalk. In that moment, I longed to be buried back in the Redwoods where perhaps the echoes of his own yells could scare him silent.

More pictures from our time in Guerneville soon to follow, with any luck at least…

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