Portrait Series 2016 | April

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A portrait of my family once a month in 2016

Willy: Has unexpectedly had to travel a lot for work, suddenly making life a lot harder and more stressful.

Hooper: Found a hermit crab at the beach, brought it home, named it ‘Strong Claw’, suggested that we sign him up for ‘pinching lessons’, asked that I hire a babysitter to watch him while he’s at school, gave him grass to eat, and surprisingly didn’t shed a tear when Strong Claw ‘slept’ all the next day. Strong Claw has been replaced, via the good ol’ pet store, with ‘Giant Claw’. Ya…aayyy for another mouth to feed.

Van: Spent a day throwing up. Initially we worried it was the stomach flu but when it quickly passed we placed our bets instead on the fact that the day prior we caught him licking Hooper’s butt.

Sonny: Came with me to sign Hooper up for Kindergarten and was quite the hit in the school’s office. He came home smelling how I remember my first grade teacher to smell. Also, seems significantly bigger than the day he was born but still throws newborn gang signs like it’s going out of style. Who knows what I’m talking about?

Me: Quickly came to realize just how much I yell after losing my chops to this awful cold / sore throat bug going around. Perhaps a megaphone would make a great Mother’s Day present. Or just a warm cup of tea.

Jimmie: Successfully licked the spit up stain that has been on Sonny’s bouncer for weeks, cleaning it better than any washing machine around. And for that alone, I love him.

Pregnancy + Birth in Numbers

San Clemente Family Photographer-3736Sonny was born at 41 weeks + 4 days.

My water broke at 12:20am, with my first ‘real contraction’ coming about 12:25am, arrived at the hospital at 1am, had a baby boy on my chest at 1:16am.

We drove 95 MPH on our way to the hospital and ran about 4 red lights.

Weighed 10 lbs at birth, 9.7 upon leaving the hospital, 9.13 at his first doctor’s appointment, and 10.4 at a week and a half old and 12.5 at his one month appointment.
22 inches long at birth, 22 1/4 just 4 days later, and 24 inches at one month.
I gained a total of 21 pounds during the pregnancy, 9 pounds less than during my previous pregnancies in hopes it would have some impact on my baby’s weight. It did not.
Sonny has been in size 1 diapers since the day he was born. So much for the pack of newborn diapers I had neatly organized in a woven basket on his changing table.
It took me 4 days after giving birth for me to poop. Yay for Colace.
The longest stretch of sleep I’ve gotten in the first week of Sonny’s life is 3 hours and I feel incredibly grateful for those glorious 3 hours.
I’m feeding on demand, which sometimes means feeding up to 2 times in an hour.
It took about 12 days for my lady parts to feel more or less normal.
Despite being my biggest baby yet, I only sustained a first degree laceration.
Number of hemorrhoids: 0. Following Van’s birth, that’s cause for major celebration.

Visual Supplement: James Mollison

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Hull, UK

playground2Tokyo, Japan
playground3Kathmandu, Nepal
playground5Chuquisaca, Bolivia

playground6Bethlehem, West Bank

playground7Hidalgo, Mexicoplayground8Gujarat, India

A while back, I wrote a post that may be one of the ones I hold most dearest to my heart to this day – The Overprotected Child – which highlighted the change in how children have come to play and interact with their environment over the years. You can read the original post by clicking here. In any event, play has always been a subject that interests me and whenever I travel, I always try to make my way to the schoolyards… I’ve photographed kids from Thailand, Belize, Cuba, and India, to name a few.

Photographer James Mollison recently published a series of photographs in a book called Playground, “inspired by memories of his own childhood and his interest in how children learn to negotiate relationships and their place in the world through play. For each picture, Mollison sets up his camera during school break time, making multiple frames and then composing each final photograph from several scenes, in which he finds revealing ‘play’ narratives. With photographs from rich and poor schools, in countries including Argentina, Bhutan, Bolivia, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Norway, Sierra Leone, The United Kingdom, and the U.S., Mollison also provides access for readers of all ages to issues of global diversity and inequality”.

You can learn more abut his work by clicking here.

Cuba | The Bad

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I’ve traveled enough to know that certain countries are simply more difficult to travel to than others. I remember walking the streets of India with Janet years ago and literally turning around to tell a beggar boy that if he didn’t stop following us and harassing us that we would never come to visit his country again. Admitting that makes me think of myself as so evil, but when you’re in that heat and you’re dirty and down-trotten and the same little boy has been following you for blocks trying to sell you something you already told him you have no interest in from the get-go, your patience tends to waiver. I loved India… but I’m also not ready to return there with my family… these boys of ours are enough of a test to our patience.

Cuba is a hard place to travel to as well, but for different reasons.

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For us, it started when we took a closer look at our plane ticket. We flew out of Miami (offering flights to Cuba from the US is a relativity new thing given the history of the ban on US travel to Cuba). Rather than an airline, we took a charter and having got into Miami the day before, I wanted to call and talk to someone to confirm our flight time and the charter we were taking. My friend Carolyn picked us up from the airport and as Willy waited for our luggage, I confessed that I was just a bit nervous that our tickets were totally bunk and that our agent (whom I refer to as our ‘Cuban hook-up’ as we’ve used her twice now to get to Cuba… both before the lift of the restrictions and, now, after) could possibly have taken our money and ran.

As a side note, the first time we went to Cuba involved lengthy instructions that included things like, “you’ll see a man in a red shirt at the airport in Mexico… give him your envelope of cash and he will return with your tickets” as well as “keep your humanitarian licenses until you get to Cuba, then you need to rip them up”… needless to say, it was sketchier than what was our current situation but nevertheless the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in Florida for two weeks instead with my whole family looking at me like a moron for wiring our money to a woman I refer to as my ‘Cuban hook-up’.

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I never was able to confirm the legitimacy of our tickets, nor the departure time, so when we left for the airport I crossed my fingers and complied with the ticketed instructions that suggested we get to the airport 4 hours before our flight, in the wee hours of the morning, before the airport actually opened.

I should back-up and mention that none of the flight times worked in our traveling-with-kids favor. We had to get the kids up at 3am to make our first flight to Miami and then, when taking the time change into consideration, we had to get up the following morning – errr night – at 1am to get to the airport four freaking hours ahead of time.

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As soon as we got to the Miami airport and worked our way past the seldom individual sleeping on the non-sleep-friendly airport benches and to the area of the charter planes, it became evident that four hours was exactly what we needed in order to make our flight. It was so disorganized and the communication was lacking in such a way that made me look over at Willy and ask, “are you sure we’re not in Cuba already?”. It’s a different experience than traveling to countries in, say, Europe, where there are several other tourists. When  you go somewhere like Cuba, you stick out like a sore thumb because nearly everyone else in line is either from there or visiting family that lives there. Which is fine, and actually a preference of mine when picking places to visit. It just makes the experience a little more intimidating and a little harder to navigate as it’s not necessarily set up so conveniently for tourists.

In any event, we waited in long lines and paid over a hundred in taxes (in cash because not even the airport in Miami will take credit cards when dealing with their Cuba customers) that we didn’t even understand. I think we were also the only ones that opted not to have our luggage wrapped in that weird blue cellophane that we presumed serves no other purpose than to protect your luggage until someone behind the counter clued us in that people do that instead to protect what’s inside their luggage because apparently once you get to Cuba, the airport employees there will go through your luggage and take what they need. Hard to blame them when what they need cannot necessarily be bought or found, for that matter. We opted for zip ties instead and worried the entire time that our shit was gonna be stolen.

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There’s a herding factor that seems to occur when traveling international and Cuba is no exception. Personal space goes out the window and as soon as that plane touches down, people are practically climbing over you to make their way to aisle only to pile into a bus you’re all going to be on, packed like sardines. I can’t explain it except to say that Americans follow a very orderly life whereas there’s a certain free-for-all-without-purpose in many other countries.

When we arrived in Havana, we had to quickly put our guards up. Obvious tourists basically scream dollar signs and given the fact the other obvious tourists are traveling mostly in guided tours, you’re kinda the lone ranger… the sitting duck… and everyone – and their mom – wants to give you a ride. I’ve learned to get out of the crowd and separate myself from the hysteria and find the lonesome taxi guy patiently waiting in the background to give us a lift instead because more times than not, the ones that are all up in your face are also the ones that are going to try to talk you into staying at this fabulous place their friend or brother or cousin owns and it’s all some sort of scam in some way.

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We gave the driver the address to the casa particular we had arranged to stay at (a casa particular is basically a room within a local’s home that they have been given permission by the government to rent out to tourists). We had rented two rooms, as there aren’t any rooms that we could find to accommodate a family of four. Upon our arrival, however, the women we’d come to call ‘crazy Olga’ shuffled us all into one room and communicated (with her broken english and our broken-ish spanish) that the other room wouldn’t be available for another day or so. We glanced into the room that was available and looked at each other a little weary when we noticed two twin beds pushed together to resemble a large king bed.

We ended up sticking with the room for the duration of our trip because it worked out… but that’s not to say accommodations in Cuba are top-notch or first-world-friendly. For twenty five dollars a night we got: a private room with a private bathroom (many have a shared bathroom with other guests or with the family you’re staying with), two twin beds with horribly bad bedding (the kind of sheets that are so thin they never stay wrapped around the edge of the mattress and pillows that are literally stuffed with cotton balls — not to mention that there are no extra pillows available… that means the boys had to sleep on the presumably dirty decorative square pillows and my pregnant ass had to make due with none of the creature comforts I was used to at home), and hot water but only at certain times throughout the day, which really translates to mean mostly cold showers with a few delightful surprises here and there. Someone also comes in, each day, to tidy up your room which sounds wonderful in theory until you notice $100 missing from a pocket deep in your bag and have to accuse someone who probably needs that $100 way more than you do – someone you probably would have tipped very nicely at the end anyhow – of taking your money. Kinda leaves a sour taste in  your mouth and the feeling of ‘coming home’ / aka back to your room a little less inviting. Without going into much detail, I’ll say that there was a lot of finger pointing and a lot of “that never happens here” said and a lot of yelling amongst themselves but ultimately, the money was returned. The sour taste never went away though.

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Five years ago, when we first visited Cuba, we couldn’t get over how bad the food was. We felt bad for passing judgement given the fact that much of what they have to cook with is rationed and, well, that makes for a lot of baked chicken with little more than salt and pepper on it. And a lot of fried chicken. This time, the food improved. Since Raul Castro has been in power, they’ve had a culinary revolution and restaurants are provided more ingredients to work with. And you can tell, for the most part… though I still wouldn’t suggest traveling to Cuba for the food. Accompanying the more vast menus, however, is a much steeper price tag. Considering that a room for the night cost all of $25, it didn’t seem to make sense that some dinners, which like I said were good but not great, ran us upwards of $70. I justified our trip to Cuba by making the argument that “it’s not that expensive” but really, it wasn’t that cheap either.

The old cars are fun to ride in and a joy to photograph but after a few days walking the city streets the idea of smoking three cigarettes at the same time actually sounds like a breath of fresh air to the ol’ fume engulfed lungs. I can’t tell you how many times we rode in a bicycle taxi only to get behind a bus or 1950’s Cadillac and be spit on by exhaust.

Speaking of old cars, car seats are not a thing in Cuba. All seven of us would pile into a cab, no problem. It sure is easier and more convenient and certainly freeing in a lot of ways. I’ve always believed that we’re a bit overly anxious and protective in the States, but lingering in the back of my mama brain was always the tormenting thought of “what if”… a fear that was so grand I couldn’t even bring myself to verbalize it for further fear of the whole jinxing mentality that thrived in the third grade. Trusting drivers we did not know, roads that were a bit precarious, cars that were a bit tattered, and two crazy boys – that I love with every bone and cell in my body – who flat out refused to sit still.

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Cuba is obviously well known for their cigars and when we were there 5 years ago we learned quickly that to get a legit cigar, you have to buy directly from the factory. The honest Cubans will support this truth as well. The price is a bit steeper than buying off the street, but buying off the street is not synonymous with buying a true Cuban cigar. While the cigars in the factory are top quality and rolled with true tobacco leaves, many sold on the streets or out of people’s homes are rolled with crappy banana leaves. Willy’s hot to trot when it comes to cigars so we made the walk to the factory several times and each time we were stopped more than once and informed that “the factory is closed” and encouraged to buy in the alley behind the factory instead. By the second time we were told this lie, I just wanted to respond with “uh-huh, and pigs are flying, LOOK!”. To make matters more annoying, smoking cigars on the street would lead to being approached by at least five different individuals who want to know where you got it and how much you paid for it and then try to persuade you to buy from them, or their cousin, instead. It made the whole smoking cigar experience less than enjoyable.

We also got hit with the oldest trick in the book, a scam that’s prevalent just about anywhere I’ve traveled, which is when  you agree on a price for a cab only to arrive at your destination and be told that the price is actually per person, not total. This happened with a bicycle taxi on one of our last days in Cuba; day after day of paying the same price and more-or-less knowing how much fares to and from our place should be. Point being, we weren’t fresh off the boat and when the taxi driver started getting hostile, we paid him half of what he was asking for (which was double what we had paid for any other fare), rolled our eyes, and kinda looked forward to returning home.

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We opted to keep The Bee & The Fox open while we were in Cuba. I changed the allotted shipping times to reflect the time we’d be gone and intended to answer emails via etsy while there. To our surprise, however, our shop was shut down and the inability to communicate with heated customers proved stressful. Ultimately, we learned that because Cuba is a sanctioned country, we were unable to conduct business from there. Meaning, simply logging in to etsy from a sanctioned country is prohibited. Certainly we were not shipping any items from there… just managing the shop and keeping up on emails n’ such. And in the whole scheme of threats against the US (other sanctioned countries include Iran, Syria, North Korea), Cuba seems rather outdated and miniscule. In any event, we managed to work things out with etsy despite the shotty internet access, but it was certainly time spent and stress endured that we did not intend on.

All in all, when considering the good and the bad and the fact we’ve been to Cuba twice now, I don’t think we’ll be returning anytime soon. I’m grateful that we got to see it when we did and to compare that first time with this second time and to note the many changes already taking place. It’ll always live in my heart as one of the most unique places I’ve ever traveled and I hope this is just the beginning in terms of international travel for our family.

*You can read my previous post on Cuba, ‘Cuba: The Good’, but clicking here.

Sonny @ 1 month

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Growth & Appearance: You were born with brown hair. It’s not as dark as I remember your brothers’ at birth and I anticipate that it will lighten, as theirs did, over the next several months.

I had to trim your nails in the hospital as being ‘overdue’ allowed you to be born with daggers. You scratched yourself often until I was able to give them a proper cut. I’ve had to cut them twice since then.

By your third week of life, you developed a bald spot on your head. Near your cowlick you have a longer patch of hair so you look a bit like this.

Your eyes are a deep ocean blue, which again is reminiscent of your brothers and I imagine they, too, will change with time.

Your fingers, toes, and limbs are all long. Like, really long.

At birth you weighed 10 lbs, 22 inches. At about a week old you were 10.4 lbs and 22 1/2 inches. At your one month appointment (at 5 weeks) you weighed 12.5 lbs and were 24 inches long. Your head circumference is 15.5 inches. sonny05b

 

Eating: I breastfeed you on demand. I’ve been floating through these days too much to take note of any sort of pattern, but there does seem to be some vague sense of one forming.

You like to cluster feed, especially in the evenings and will either flip flop between breasts several times or separate feedings by a mere 30 minutes.

You have a great latch and fortunately the whole breastfeeding gig has been smooth for both of us.

You’ll take a bottle and we’re trying to remember to give you at least an ounce of expressed milk once a week or so to keep up on this skill.

You’ll latch onto anything. A video of you latching onto your Papa’s nose has generated over 81K views on instagram with only a small handful exercising their social media policing powers. Hashtag: eye roll.

If I had to guess, I’d say you nurse a total 8-9 times during the day and 2-4 times during the night. sonny07b
Sleeping: By your second week, you were sleeping in 2 to 3 hour increments, with a rare 4 hour stretch thrown in once, I think. For the first two weeks, feedings took an average of an hour (30 minutes on each side).

By the third week, our nighttime schedule looked like this: go to sleep about 10pm, wake up around 1am, 4am, 7am. I think there was one 5 hour stretch slipped in on one of those nights. Feedings took an average of 15-20 minutes on each side, for a total of 30-40 minutes per feeding.

At one month, you wake, on average, every 3 hours and nurse for a total of 15 minutes or so on each side. Sometimes you’ll fall asleep without taking both sides. Most nights we go to bed around 9 or 10pm and you wake around 1 or 2am, again around 4am, and for the day around 7am.

We’re sleeping together, in the guest bed.

You’ve been sleeping in the woombie, which Hooper refers to as your ‘worm packet’ since week one. You sleep much better in it.

Even when you wake to feed, you don’t cry; instead you let out a few grunts and gently start kicking your feet.

Your farts during the night are enough to make the bed vibrate. sonny20b
Development: You spend much of your day either sleeping or eating.

You prefer turning your head to your left over the right. The doc noted that the left side of your head is slightly flatter.

You’re independent in the sense that you don’t need to be on or around anyone; you’re content to snooze wherever we lay you and in true third child fashion, not much disturbs you. This is in-spite of the fact you’re constantly being kissed by your brothers or licked by Jimmie. I suppose it just comes with the territory and you’ve proven to combat any distractions with some wonderful adaptation techniques.

You don’t mind being on your tummy.

Other than peeing on me during your bath, twice, you have not sprung a leak while having your diaper changed. Considering your brother peed in your Papa’s mouth, we’re all celebrating this small victory.

You’re patient. Again, I chalk this up to being the product of a third born. You rarely cry when you’re hungry or need to be changed, using quite grunts to tell us gently that you’re hungry or uncomfortable.

When you are awake, it’s obvious the wheels are spinning. You lock eyes with us on occasion and study our smiles; I can tell you’re trying to smile back, it just isn’t translating quite yet.

You don’t care who holds you, you’ll cuddle with whoever’s arms you’re in. I’m sure this will change in time, but I remember both of your brothers’ always preferring to be on me, at all times.

You’ll take a pacifier for a short period of time but end up spitting it out. You prefer to suck on a finger instead. And not your own, unless – that is – it happens to land in your mouth. In general, you’re just not that coordinated yet.

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All of these lovely images are by my talented friend, Noel, whom I am greatly indebted to. You can check out her site here and follow her gorgeous instagram feed here

Van @ 3 years, 9 months

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Appearance & Growth:

Your hair is turning more brown and is more aptly described as “dirty blond”. I wonder if that will change come summer. Your rat tail is in full effect and is looking rather good; you get compliments on it often. You hate having your hair cut because the little shards of hair make you “itchy”.

You have your Papa’s build, with a good chunk of meat on your thighs that is so grab-able that we end up squeezing a little too hard at times. We refer to you as “munchy” often. You’re dense, with a barrel-like chest.

You’re in size four pants and shirts and share shoes with Hooper despite probably being a size or so smaller.

You insist on wearing your cowboy boots often, a staple in your wardrobe since Halloween. You’re very particular about what you wear and if you deem something as ‘not cool enough’, you refer to it as ‘too funny’ with the same kind of attitude and disgust a teenager would exhibit. You prefer shorts over pants, no matter the weather, mostly because you like utilizing the added pockets n’ loops as sword holders. I pulled out a pair of jeans to put on you the other morning and you told me you were going to call the police and that people were going to laugh at you because ‘power rangers don’t wear jeans’; a defense used often with ‘jeans’ being the fill-in-the-blank for whatever it is you don’t want to wear.

You’re always grubby. You care little about food on your face or stains on your clothes. You do, however, have an annoyingly insistence that your laces not touch the floor; even if your shoe is tied correctly, you want the ends of the laces tucked into the shoe so as to not drag or even hang near the ground.San Clemente Family Photographer-4457 copy

Eating:

It’s a wonder most days how we can refer to you as “munchy” when you seem to hardly eat. You’re at the stage where everything else holds you attention and sitting at the table for even a 10 second period is nothing short of a challenge. You typically eat breakfast well and then it’s all rather downhill from there. You rarely eat dinner. It’s frustrating.

When you don’t want to eat a meal you say you’re ‘full’ but then proceed to ask for something you do want. Usually dessert.

You drink your smoothies well so long as the straw is of your choosing. Ingredients include: OJ, chia seed, flax see, spinach, pineapple, and strawberries and you always come up to the counter and steal a frozen strawberry during the blending process.

Rewards and encouragement do little to get food in your mouth. The tantrums that follow when you don’t get whatever reward offered do not reflect this (you’d think if you cared that much about not getting the reward that the initial offer of a reward would mean something to you, but alas, it does not). And so, eating in general is a bit of a struggle and source of stress.

There was a time when you’d eat, or at least try, just about anything. This is not the case anymore. You refuse things like asparagus and take forever to eat other things, like chicken. Then there’s other times we turn away for what feels like ten seconds only to see an almost clean plate in front of you. Point being, when you want to eat, you can eat fast and when you don’t want to eat, it just sits there.

Favorite foods: bananas, carrots, oatmeal, bread / carbs in general, raspberries.San Clemente Family Photographer-4534
Sleeping:

You nap from about 1:30 to 4pm, which we’re ever-so-grateful for. On average you sleep about 11 consecutive hours, from about 8:30pm to 7:30am.

You sleep with your blanket every night, with a changing conglomeration of stuffed animals, toys, or trinkets surrounding you.

You still sleep in a diaper overnight and have gone through periods of not needing it followed by periods of needing it and so, we keep it on. Each morning you like to prove to us that it’s dry by grabbing our hand and directing our hand to your crotch. It has a very against-my-will feel to it, yet makes me giggle.

You’re scared of the dark and ask often that we keep the bearded dragon’s light on, which we do during your nap but not at night. The night light seems to be enough to ease your fears, in addition to the fact your brother is in bed right next to you.

Your Papa gets you ready for bed and then you get in bed, pull the sheet over your head, and hide from me. Every night. It’s pretty easy to find you considering all the squirming around and squealing that goes on while you’re “hiding” under your sheets.

Each morning you come into our bedroom, bring Papa his watch that he keeps on his nightstand, and climb into bed to cuddle with Papa. Always Papa, never me. Ho hum. San Clemente Family Photographer-4502
Talking:

You ask a thousand questions a day and get upset if your question is not understood or if we write you off and simply say “I don’t know”.

When you can’t hear, you ask, “what’d you said?” and it’s so cute we make you repeat it over and over.

You insist on having someone to keep you company while you take a dump, insisting the entire time that you’re actually not dumping and that it’s – in fact – “just pee”, then this sly little grin spreads across your face when your dump plops into the water.

You whine a lot. 90% of what you say seems to be said in a whine. We’re working on it. San Clemente Family Photographer-4438

Development:

Your head still does this adorable little lazy bob from side to side when you run, which has been a longtime favorite characteristic of yours.

You’re hard headed and stubborn, but at the same time easy and carefree.

We asked you to stop sucking your thumb and, just like that, you did. We catch you every now and again but you seem to quickly realize what you’re doing on your own and stop on your own. It’s bittersweet, but hopefully translates to less colds / germs.

You love to do things by yourself and get quite frustrated when you’re unable to do something you’ve set out to accomplish in the absence of help. You refuse help, most times, and prefer to whine about whatever it is you’re having trouble with instead. It’s a cycle that never leads to a good ending.

You mimic everything Hooper does or says… at times you seem like nothing other than a puppet. Sometimes I wonder who you’d be in the absence of your older brother. Ha. San Clemente Family Photographer-4588
Favorites:

You’re deathly stubborn when it comes to dressing yourself, your favorite shirt being a long sleeve vintage GI Joe shirt I managed to find in a thrift store for you. You care not how hot it is outside and insist on wearing it whenever you see it hanging in your closet.

For months, since October 31st to be exact, you have insisted on wearing your cowboy boots with everything. You’re just now starting to let that phase go. You’ve moved on to rain boots, even though it’s not raining.

You love the Power Rangers and refer to yourself as the red ranger often, declaring red to be your favorite color.

An Interview, with photographer Niki Boon

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It brings me so much pleasure to introduce you to one of my favorite photographers to date, Niki Boon; someone’s whose work I’ve long followed via Facebook and perhaps one of the only reasons I stay on or even log in these days. She’s a relatively new member to our Childhood Unplugged group as well and fits the bill as well as anyone could; living a life off the grid, covered in mud, and outside of the norm. For me, she captures childhood like no other, her images being further complimented by her and her family’s lifestyle itself. Phenomenal self-taught photographer, living life extraordinaire… with no further adieu, I welcome Niki Boon.

 

Where do you live and how would you describe your home?
We live in the south island of the New Zealand, in a region called Marlborough. We live in a big old wooden house on a 10 acre lifestyle property. Our house has a bit of history as it was part of the a local catholic school’s boarding house before it was moved to this site by a previous owner. Our property has a variety of animals and a small vineyard on it.Niki Boon (7) Niki Boon (9)
What do you and your husband do for work?
Prior to our decisions to homeschool our children I was worker part –time as a physiotherapist. My husband currently works in finance.
Can you touch on each of your children as a subject; how are they different to capture? What do each of them bring to the table? Does one enjoy being in front of the camera more than another? Please provide your favourite portrait of each of them along with this question.
Each of four children are quite different from each other in everyway, which makes for some ‘interesting’ interaction during our days. I don’t know that any of them enjoy the camera more than the others, I think they all accept the camera as part of their , and that if they go anywhere with me , it will be present, certainly none of them play up for it… they generally don’t acknowledge it all , unless I draw attention to it, so there doesn’t seem to be any theatrical performances from any of them at all, at least not for the camera. Occassionally , if I ask for them to repeat something , or just to hold it for a second… then it is usually the younger two and occasionally my eldest that are a little more open to helping me out with that.Niki Boon (16) Niki Boon (15) Niki Boon (12)
You’re not on instagram, but if you were, you’d have loads of images deleted from your account due to “nudity” as your children are often topless. Can you discuss your (presumed) frustrations with the sexualization of young girls? And perhaps touch on your children’s own feelings – even if there are none – toward being topless or even naked in front of one another.
Part of our decision to homeschool our children was so they could develop a strong sense of self without the societal pressure that exist in our world right now, they will be and already are subjected to all the judgement and beliefs that are out there already.  I believe very strongly in a degree of freedom that we all possess, and that includes with our body’s. It saddens me that there are others out there that struggle with that. My children think nothing of how they present themselves in day to day life at home, and I celebrate (and document) that. As they grow , I see them becoming more aware of both themselves and how they are viewed by others, it is the world we live in , but hope that I have given them the experience of freedom enough for a base from which to both stand strong  grow in this world of judgement we exist in today.
I think those of us that are driven to document can error on the side of obsession at times. Does anyone in your family get bothered by the documentation of their lives? If so, how do you navigate around this?
My children are so used to having the camera around now, that they react very little to it.  I generally captured play as it unfolds, but occasionally I might ask them to do something again, or hold it for just a second, and they will sometimes get a bit frustrated with this, which is a reminder to me that I back out just a bit, and to put the camera down too.
I know more about what I am after in a photo now, and when I have got what I am after , which also means that I spend less time with the camera in front of my face , and more interaction with my kids than I used to. Although I will admit , I am just as obsessive as other documentary photographers at times.Niki Boon (14) Niki Boon (10)

Cousins at home
Cousins at home

 

The good majority of your images are shot outdoors, what percent of your day would you say you guys spend outside? What does a typical day look like? How do your activities change with the seasons?
We do spend a lot of time outside, yes. But I think it is also because I am also more inspired to shoot outside than inside.
Our activities change a little with the colder weather , often to involve more time inside, but we will still adventure to nearby beaches,rivers and bush frequently , just that the adventures we have there differ.
What kind of chores do each of your children have around the house?
The children are all responsible, at least in part to look after the animals, all that entails. They also assist at times on the vineyard. There are also the regular housekeeping jobs, washing, dishes , cleaning etc… They are all expected to help out to complete all that needs to be done morning and night. They don’t have a specific job list , but rather encouraged to use their initiative (with a few whack of verbal prompting !!!)Niki Boon (13) Niki Boon (8) Niki Boon (3)
I once watched the documentary “Surfwise” about a father that raised his family in various RVs on various beaches; modern day “unschooling”, I suppose. How would you defend the way you raise your children to those who say that kids that are raised this way are at a disadvantage should they chose to be a part of the larger society they’re apart of?
I haven’t seen that movie, but I have heard about it.
I used to take a defensive stand with our choices when talking to others who had strong opinions on what we were doing , but these days I tend to just listen to them  , and sometimes I will explain a little more about what we are doing and how philosophies behind our choices, but others times I am happy just to acknowledge that everyone has their opinions, and that it is OK to just nod and smile and thank them for sharing them with me.
I feel our kids are suitably out there in society to know how it all works, at least to the best of their ability at their ages.They interact with a wide range of the community on a daily basis and have a pretty down to earth and real set of parents to make sure the kids are seriously grounded.
Can you touch on your children’s relationship with technology. Do they have one? Do you feel like they’re missing out when compared to gadgets other kids have? Is it ever a struggle to pull them away from screens or hand-held devices?
We don’t have a TV. Although they are on special occasions (birthdays or sickness) able to watch the odd movie on our computer. We own an ipad, but it is not free for all. Our kids have never and still don’t ask for TV or use of electronic devises. I guess they have never had them, so don’t know they are missing out. Am I worried they are missing out? No … they is coming a time when they will be accessing the computer for research and in small ways is is happening now, and as they get older I am sure that will increase significantly as their needs change. But when they are young I feel it is so important for them to learn about the world they live in , by experiencing first hand , with their feet on the ground, hands on the creatures and plants, noses in the air, and tongues in the rain… with all their senses.Niki Boon (6) Niki Boon (4)Niki Boon (5)

 

What do you shoot with? What’s your favorite lens? 
I shoot with a canon 5d mk iii , and currently almost always use a 35 mmm 1.4 lens. I love this lens, it took a while for me to get used to how to use it well, but I think I am getting better. It allows so much of the story in front of me to be told, and lets me play around with composition in the process, which is awesome when I have so so much still to learn about all things composition and light.

 

Many thanks, Niki, for taking the time. If you’d like to check out more of Niki Boon’s body of work, you can find her here, here,  and here

A Family Session, with The Records

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I photographed the Record family last year, when they lived literally just down the street from me. This go-around I had to make the still-short 10 minute drive to your new home and meet their newest addition, June. Sara delivered June with the same OB as me which, at-the-time (being pre-Sonny), offered me all sorts of reassurance following her smooth delivery. And seeing that sweet little girl sent me home with all sorts of anticipation that, sure, I had all along but made it all a little more real.

I also got to hang with Hazel, who is closer to a ball full of energy than a fairy princess; my kinda girl is what I’m saying. She’s got spunk like you wouldn’t believe and is fulfilling the role of big sister like one bad mamma jamma.

I’m always impressed with the growing number of animal friends within this household; last year I met their horse, this year we played with their bunny and Henry, the poodle, with the poor bearded dragon being left out, somehow, of any photos.

In any event, this family of four is one of my favorites; easy to photograph and having ended the session with a cookie and a glass of milk, they definitely solidified their place on my list of favorites. So much love to the Records and many congrats on their new little girl.

Interested in hiring me for a session? Shoot me an email: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com. You can also check out more information on my website by clicking here.

A Discussion on Epidurals

San Clemente Family Photographer-3758With the rise of influence via social media in conjunction with the over abundance of glorification of natural births, epidurals have – in my opinion – gained some weird association with turning your back on the ‘real experience’. I remember a family member telling me after my birth with Hooper that women who give birth naturally don’t deserve some special trophy. It hurt my feelings some at the time because I felt like she must have inferred that I chose to give birth naturally because I had some crazy notion that doing so would win me some prestige. It was quite the contrary, actually. I was scared to get an epidural. So scared, in fact, that the idea of giving birth screaming and yelling and feeling every single contraction somehow seemed more appealing. I didn’t want a c-section and I understood the connection between having an epidural and ultimately needing a c-section. And, in hindsight, had I gotten an epidural with Hooper I can almost guarantee that I would have ended up on the operating room table. I mean I delivered him on the operating room table anyway but was luckily afforded that final opportunity to push, something that would have been more challenging had I been numb from an epidural.

Some use the argument that those that receive an epidural aren’t fully present for their birth but as someone that has given birth three times now sans an epidural, let me tell you, neither was I. I don’t even recognize the person on that video on Willy’s phone pushing out that baby. It’s not me. It’s not sounds I make. All I wanted to do in that time was escape myself.

Had it not been for my fused spine, I may have just opted for an epidural this third time. In fact, when I got to the hospital, even in my rushed state, the nurse asked if I wanted something for pain. And my answer was quite different than my first birth with Hooper where, in my sober, non-labor-land state, I told the nurse to kindly not offer me an epidural. This time, instead, in my full-on-labor-land-state and between rapid and strong contractions I said, “what can you give me?”… By the time the exchange of info was made – they learned of my fused spine and I learned that the anesthesiologist was in the OR assisting another patient – it was time to deliver Sonny anyway. But the point is, I wanted a way out and dammit, if given more time and opportunity, I would have taken it.

My sister recently sent me a link to this blog post, via Scary Mommy, which serves as a hysterical pat on the back for anyone that may be leaning toward an epidural but feels like there is a certain degree of scrutiny associated with such a decision.

Final point being, you have to do what you feel comfortable with. I wasn’t initially comfortable with the idea of an epidural and now that I am, it’s not an option for me. Ho hum. Fortunately, Sonny came fast enough that whatever pain I experienced is already a fleeting memory… but not really, cuz – I mean – ouch.

I’m curious to hear from any mamas that have given birth both ways – with an epidural and without – and what your experiences were like when compared. And, of course, any random thoughts on the topic are also invited… if you chose not to have an epidural, what was your reasoning? Would you do it again? And for those who had an epidural, did you experience any complications? Also curious to know what it’s like watching your baby come out in the absence of the hysteria that comes with a natural, un-medicated, birth… I imagine it’s pretty surreal. I mean it’s surreal anyway… but I digress. I’m rambling now.

Newborn Daze

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I’ve mentioned before that the newborn phase has never been kind to Willy and I’s relationship and I think it’s fair to say that lack of sleep, in general, is never a recipe for a successful marriage. This third time around, however, we’ve changed our game plan and thus far, Sonny has afforded us the smoothest transition. Everyone says the jump from two children to three is the hardest and while I’m sure there are hard days ahead that are surely chuckling at us as we make such grossly ignorant statements so early on, thus far it’s been the perfect amount of team work combined with smooth sailing with, of course, the small doses of tears and tantrums that, in part, are to be expected. Just fewer than I anticipated, I guess.

So what’s changed, you may be wondering?

With both Hooper and Van, Willy and I shared nighttime duties. I found it hard to get any sort of solid sleep when around the baby because I was always on-edge and anxious over the thought of them waking up hungry, ready to feed. So after a feeding, I would go to bed and Willy would sleep on the sofa, with the baby, and wake me when it was time for the next feeding and then we’d switch. It was fair and afforded me at least a few hours of promising sleep but it also left both of us in that survival mode; depleted and rundown. And it opened the door to a lot of bickering that really had nothing to do with whatever subject matter was brought up in said bickerments, but instead in the fact we were plain tired; our reserves empty.

With Hooper and Van now older, it seems silly to have us share the newborn responsibilities. In hindsight, it was probably silly to share it even back then. What we’ve found is that the best way to divvy up responsibilities is to have one take the nighttime shift (me) while the other takes the supportive role. And when you have two already, it’s kinda a draw as to which one is easier. Thus far, these roles have worked in such a way that a transition we were both kinda dreading has actually become sorta – well – enjoyable. And I think that’s because we have a good balance.

I’m getting a few solid hours of sleep at night, in chunks of course, but there’s also no rush for me to start my day because Willy has been getting up with the boys, fixing them breakfast (never mind the fact it’s Eggo waffles most days… which I pick up off the floorboard of the car days later in their stale, hardened state), getting them ready for school, and dropping them off.

The days are slow and most days are spent checking off the bare necessities a family needs to accomplish to get to the next day, but happiness and joy have been encasing us. Alas, we have found a system that allows us to enjoy these fleeting days just in time for it to all change; because that’s how these early days go, isn’t it? In any event, trying our best to take it one day at a time and to welcome the changing tides. And feeling grateful for our current situation; having Willy around as often as I do is something I didn’t have with Hooper and Van.San Clemente Family Photographer-3724

Mother’s Day Sessions

mothersday-2bI’ll be taking on a very limited number of sessions for Mother’s Day this year. If you’re interested, here’s the details:

One hour of shooting either in-home (preferred) or on location

All high resolution edited images with print release, approximately 75-125 images

Travel up to 30 miles included

Price: $600

Email me with questions or to move forward with booking: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com

You can visit my website by clicking here

Perspective

San Clemente Family Photographer-3808 San Clemente Family Photographer-3833Our days take a while to get started and I catch myself in fleeting moments of feeling unproductive; like I’m floating from one thing to the next as opposed to moving with intention, crossing things off the ol’ daily list of tasks. My inbox always seems flooded, dishes always piling, legos forever spilling across the floor; the days are moving faster than I am.

But I have this little tool in my arsenal that I arguably had before but it’s just a bit sharper now; the edges made more defined by the days behind me. If ever there was a l lingering theme in my life, let it be perspective.

Motherhood has taught me that there is a season for everything; a time to enjoy nights out away from the kids, a time to enjoy vacations as a family and adventures to foreign lands, a time to push bedtime back a few hours and go out for ice cream, a time to buckle down and lay out the law, and – well – a time to put the to-do list down, to slow down, to welcome help with a grace and gratitude; a time to celebrate new life… and nothing more.

Celebration is so often skipped these days; we’re so eager to make it to the next big thing, the next accomplishment, that we don’t take the proper time to celebrate all that can be celebrated in the moment we’re in.

It’s not easy to slow down, to get a late start, to make it to the end of the day having accomplished little more than three meals (and questionable ones at that), breastfeeding, changing of diapers, and maybe the start of a load of laundry that may very well end up sitting there until tomorrow, the smell of mildew a reminder that you simply didn’t move fast enough but your handy dandy tool of perspective reminding you that it’s okay.

My house is a mess. The boys have ate more Eggo waffles than I care to admit and snuck more candy, compliments of Easter, than I care to regulate. But the time will come when my attention will be, once again, more evenly divided. For now, it’s all about celebrating… taking in this new life, new gift… and letting everything else fall wherever it shall fall.

For tomorrow there will be time to sort out all the fallen pieces. Or at least some of them.

Cuba | The Good

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Let’s be honest, traveling with children opens the door on lots of shit potentially hitting the fan. I mean sometimes simply making the mile trip to the grocery store and back can be a f’n nightmare. Throw in long flights, delayed flights, missed meals, changed time zones, water you can’t drink and puddles that ought not to be jumped in, not to mention entirely new surroundings and I think it’s fair to drop children from the equation all together because that shit ain’t easy for even us adults. If it weren’t for my whining children (and, at times, husband) I know I would have gladly worn the whining crown, but someone’s got to carry the team and dammit, more times than it, you better believe I throw on my big girl jeans. Albiet reluctantly. Because dammit, I wanna whine too sometimes.

In any event, this post isn’t about what went wrong – I’ll save that for a follow-up post. Instead, right here and now, you’re going to hear about what went right. Because with all that can go wrong and with the limited bag of tricks you seem to have when away from home, it’s pretty amazing – to me anyhow – that anything goes right. Or even close to it, for that matter.

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We were sitting in a restaurant in Havana, nearing the end of our stay in Cuba, when I turned to Willy and said, “Taking everything into account, I’d give the boys an ‘A’ for this trip”. He scoffed, nearly spit out his food, and said “I’d give them a ‘C’, at best”.

It’s always interesting to me how two people can experience the same event so differently. His reasoning for his ‘C’ grade had to do with things like their (at times) constant bickering. Sure, they’re at each other constantly, but that’s pretty much the norm. I had no expectations of them sitting quietly anywhere. So, when they sat relatively quietly throughout the flight, you better believe I was throwing some proverbial gold stars next the mental image of their names I held as a pretty little chart in my head.

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Shit, I was just grateful they never drank the water. Because who wants to deal with cholera ever, let alone in Cuba… where locals have a hard time purchasing tylenol. Tylenol. Minus a lingering cough that, sure, made a few nights of sleeping all in the same bed (errr, two twin beds pushed together) absolutely sleepless and miserable, no one required any real medical care. And for that, more gold stars. Especially when considering a wet soccer ball hit my leg and the next day I had a small itchy rash in that area. Point being, it wasn’t the cleanliest of places and our boys are definitely of the let’s-touch-and-step-in-everything variety.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-106 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-116Speaking of cleanliness, let’s talk for a moment about stray dogs. Because here in America if you see a dog loose on the street the better human beings will pick that dog up, take it to some vet clinic or shelter, and hope that said wandering dog has a chip inserted somewhere under it’s skin to solve the mystery of who it belongs to. A chip, people. Strays in the States are unheard of. Perhaps we have Bob Barker to thank for that. And going back to the fact our kids are of the let’s-touch-and-step-in-everything variety, let’s just say they came away from the trip knowing what a street dog is, learning to both look for a collar and/or leash before reaching out an all-too-eager petting hand and learning to navigate the streets by making quick maneuvers that included fancy footwork and/or strategic skips and hops to avoid the plethora of stray dog excretions. They also learned that stray dogs are not necessarily best described as male or female, but more accurately characterized as mamas or papas; perhaps my favorite quote from the trip being, “Mama, dat doggie has a lot of peeps”. And by “peeps” he meant penis’ and by penis’ what he was actually observing were nipples. And to think Hooper’s teacher sent along a school packet of schoolwork for him to work on… the lessons are in the nipples lady, the lessons are in the nipples. I kid. Kinda. In any event, gold stars to us for always having hand sanitizer on us despite being the parents that don’t typically regulate the cleanliness of their kids’ hands as well as they should.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-162 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-174Did I mention we slept in two twin beds pushed together? Oh, I did. Well, it’s worth mentioning again because, again, it worked out. The boys fell asleep each night just a bit before us and, to our never-engaged-in-co-sleeping surprise, actually stayed asleep while we watched something on the iPad or took a shower or cleaned up. And Hooper, who dropped his nap sometime ago, chose to nap most days in the same room – in the same bed – as his brother. Sure they share a room at home but never, ever, have I ever had the luck of getting them to nap in the same room. Not even when Hooper was still napping. If that’s not some sort of miracle, I don’t know what is. More gold stars. And lots of them. Because we all needed that afternoon break / rest / regrouping.
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We flew to Cuba via Miami and flight times were never in our favor. It was impossible, for example, to get a flight into and out of Miami the same the day. So we spent one night in Miami on our way there and one night in Miami on the way back, which – sure -was far from ideal from the travelers perspective but worked out wonderfully in that we got to stay with my friend Carolyn. Carolyn has two boys as well and I’ll be honest when I admit there were times both boys were disappointed with the, um, lack of toys in Cuba and downright demanded to go back to Carolyn’s house to play with the ‘bad boy toys’. Just yesterday, in fact, Van mentioned it again and we’ve been home from Cuba now for months. Needless to say, it was the perfect place to leave from and to return to and I think that speaks volumes when all you want to do after traveling hard is walk in the door of your own home. It was nice for all of us and I really enjoyed the short time we got to hang.

When I mention to people that we’ve gone to Cuba the most common question (aside from how did you get there, which is asked by people more-or-less up-to-date on their political or global issues) is “was it safe?”.  And the answer to this remains a big huge YES (albeit my follow-up post will highlight some of the annoyances and depending on how you rate your annoyances, some may verge on the line of safety to some degree). Kids walk home from school independently, they play in the streets independently, and all-in-all there is a great sense of community. We made several friends on our block alone (and by “we” I mean Willy because truthfully he’s the social butterfly between the two of us) and were invited in homes; the boys loved playing with the boys next door, which I spoke to briefly on the post I wrote for Childhood Unplugged. The people, in general, were incredibly inviting; the boys’ blond hair drawing much attention and walker-by comb-throughs by hands that just couldn’t resist to determine if it felt as different as it looked. And the boys’ embraced it, all of it, and took to giving their “free hugs” (something they took to doing this past summer but has weaved it’s way into our lives so that oftentimes we are stuck at a restaurant because Van has not yet hugged every patron in the establishment). Even Hooper, who tends to be a little bit more on the reserved side volunteered to join in the free hug movement. They clearly felt the warmth and reciprocated it appropriately and watching them interact and trust made for more-than-enough proud mom moments (insert gold stars here — five of them, to be exact).

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-225The people made the streets come to life. In fact, the street life is the very thing that drew me back to Cuba and helped me rationalize staying in Havana for the full duration of our time there (last time we traveled around to numerous cities and towns). It’s one of my absolute favorite places to photograph (before having kids, travel photography had my heart) and minus the few that yelled at me or the little old lady that gave me the finger, all were keen to having their photos taken and excited to get a glimpse of themselves – stopped in motion – on the back of my LCD screen. I couldn’t always give it the attention I wanted as I usually had at least one kid’s hand wrapped in mine and one eye on oncoming vehicles, but I’m happy with the shots I did get and grateful for having a second chance at photographing such a dynamic country. 
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Other things that went right:

-You could walk out for what felt like miles in the water at the beach we frequented. It’d have passerby’s think our boys were water babies and they are, well, not. It was the perfect reprieve from city life and a nice break from having to watch their every move and step.

-We returned to our favorite pizza joint that was off-the-beaten track five years ago when we visited and is still off-the-beaten track today but just as yummy and with a newly adjacent makeshift zoo (insert question mark) that consists of a caged ferrets, iguanas, chickens, rats, and other sort of odd pairings. An old man that worked there took the boys to look at the animals while Willy and I enjoyed complete peace and quiet, so that was an additional highlight and I swear made the pizza taste even better.

-Considering traveling anywhere while pregnant can be a bit of a risk, nothing of concern occurred while in Cuba. And that counts for something when prior to leaving it felt as though my entire insides were going to fall out of my vagina. I invested in a female jock-strap of sorts and am only willing to admit it because I never ended up needing it as the pain and swelling seemed to go away after my OB suggested treating it as a yeast infection despite any of the typical symptoms. But, lo-and-behold, it worked. And if bringing a female jock-strap that you didn’t end up needing doesn’t count for something, then I’m done keeping track all together.

-The second Cuba more-or-less succeeds at beating you down, a perfect stranger will hand your kid a banana from his fruit stand and you’ll hate yourself for even thinking what he’s going to ask for in return when he instead says, in broken English, “On me, enjoy your holiday”.

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More, from Cuba, to come…San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-270

Post Birth Ramblings

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San Clemente Family Photographer-3749 Sonny San Clemente Family Photographer-3914Hooper came home from school with his belly button painted purple and red looking like a makeup artist got ahold of him and gave his belly button a good bruising. When questioned about it, he said he wanted his belly button to look like Sonny’s.

As Sonny laid curled up into me in the hospital bed, I couldn’t help but think how the kicks from him while inside me were so reminiscent of the kicks I felt with him lying next to me.

One of the nurses commented as I ate my meal over a breastfeeding Sonny that I must not be a first time mom. It sure is a lot easier the third time around.

I’ve always said that the newborn phase isn’t really for Willy and I, that we’d rather jump right into the toddler phase. But I guess with each child you gain a better sense of just how fleeting and unforgiving time is and for whatever reason, I’m really enjoying this newborn phase. Willy too.

Questions asked by the boys: Why doesn’t he open his eyes? Can we watch him suck your booby? Mama, when are you going to fill your belly up again? When will he be able to tell jokes?

Hooper broke out into full crocodile tears when he had to go home from the hospital without Sonny and I. Through choked up words and flowing tears, he said, “I want mama and Sonny to come home too”. Broke. My. Heart. He also cried heavily after Jimmie accidentally scratched Sonny.

Highlights from the hospital: lavender towels delivered by the sweetest of volunteers and home made chocolate chip cookies.

My first day home I watched Van pick a very large sized booger and was actually relieved when he put it in his mouth, allowing me to stay sitting on my injured lady parts.

Van, being to boob man that he is, shared the following observation: “Wow, mama, that is the biggest I have ever seen your booby”. Followed by, “Can I squeeze it?”.

Speaking of boobs, Hooper made one out of his legos. He used a long stick looking lego for the nipple and it resembled the fembots from Austin Powers.

Jimmie spent the first week of Sonny’s life rather out of sorts. He welcomed him home by peeing all over the hallway floor, the stairs, and the landing area.

I’ve rediscovered sleeping on my back, which never felt like something to write home about before but is nothing short of a privilege now.

My doctor’s response when I told him we’d like to save the placenta, “Um, okay. Gross”.

The following conversation took place:
Van: “How come your tummy is still big?”
Me: “Cuz there’s still gunk in there”.
Van: “But gunk only comes out of your ears”.

Willy, on having another boy: “It’s nice not having to wipe poop out of a vagina”…

My vagina itched in the worst way possible following the delivery. It’s one thing to be awoken by your newborn baby, but it’s an entirely different thing to be awoken by my own labia. In any event, desitin worked magically. Take notes.

I had made a list of things to do once I felt labor coming on on the back of a tear away calendar. When I came home from the hospital, I turned the list over only to discover that I had written it on March 17. Here I am visiting the magic eight ball’s website trying to figure out when this baby would come when all I had to do was look on the back of my pre-labor to-do list.

Van peed in his bed one night, followed by throwing up in his bed the night after that. Willy has been in charge of household duties so Van spent the next two nights sleeping on semi-barf sheets.

I texted my mom “shit just got real” the morning Van woke up with said throw up. I thought that day would be the day that would do me in but it was the next day, when Van was back to being healthy, that the first I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this tears started flowing. Luckily, they came and went.

I’m eating my placenta, which sounds better than the truth which is I had it encapsulated. I’ve never had post partum depression but as soon as I heard that it could* help with post partum hair loos, you better believe I was in.

Sonny’s belly button stump smells like an ape’s armpit. We ended up using alcohol on it to speed up the falling-off-process and I’m happy to report that the problem has been resolved.

Willy caught a video of me giving birth and I’ve only been able to watch it once or twice. In fact, every time Sonny cries that high-pitched newborn cry I am reminded of that video and equally troubled as the first time I saw it.

Sonny’s balls are the size of the rock of Gibraltar.

Van refers to the suction/bottle part of my breast pump as “water blasters” and has taken to carrying them around the house, one in each hand, shooting them like you would a gun.

Hooper asked if he could carry Sonny down the stairs, pointing out the fact he’s 5 and therefore totally trustworthy.

Childhood Unplugged

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Snapped these shots, pre-Sonny, of the boys on an evening where they became more familiar with stinging nettle than they’d like, but had fun nonetheless.

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.

The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography, for Lil Bellies

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Claudia, owner of Lil’ Bellies, contacted me just prior to my due date about doing a shoot featuring a few of her products but mostly capturing the essence of her company, the magic of childhood. We discussed different storylines but mostly let Kai and Ellie do there thing; they are friends from school and their relationship is so natural and loving. They were a pleasure to shoot and I’m so happy with how the images turned out.

Interested in hiring me for a shoot? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com. You can also check out my website by clicking here.