Portrait Series 2016 | May

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A portrait of my family once a month in 2016

Willy: Had a meal he bought for a homeless man rejected because he said he was going vegan. He gave him $5 instead.

Hooper: Said he wants another baby and asked if he can give me his ‘seed’ instead of ‘papas’.

Van: Threatened to kick me in the penis if I didn’t give him a dollar.

Sonny: Finally took notice of who has been breastfeeding him. You know when they lock eyes with you and gently release your nipple from their mouth and smile as if to say ‘I see you now’.

Me: Dreading the biweekly shower I take because I’m starting to notice more hair coming out. So much for encapsulating my placenta.

Jimmie: Room clearing gas.

Sonny @ 2 months

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Growth & Appearance: You seem gigantic to me; I feel robbed of ever knowing what it’s like to hold an actual newborn because you and your brothers all seem to be the size of a one month old at birth.

At your two month appointment, you weighed 14.9lbs (94th percentile) and were 25 1/2 inches long (97th percentile).

You grew out of the 0-3m size within a month or so and are now wearing 3-6 and even some 6-9, which you fill out easily as far as length but with room to grow in terms of width.

All your hair that fell out has grown back in. It seems a little lighter than the hair you were born with but is still definitely brown. Your hair, in general, is still funky. Investing in a bonnet was a good decision. Never mind the fact you’ll kick my ass one day when you stand over 6 ft tall and pull out your baby pictures only to see that your mom had a bonnet on your head. Forgive me.San Clemente Family Photographer-6671
Feeding: I feed you on demand throughout the day. Typically this means every two hours but in the evening, still, you seem to cluster the feedings together a bit more.

I pump every morning, after your initial feeding. I’m ready to donate milk, as we have way more than we’ll ever need, but have not found anyone to give it to yet. In fact, I’ve been putting it your brother’s sippy cups instead. They like it. They also don’t know it’s breastmilk.

We still give you a bottle every now and again to keep up that skill, though Papa struggled this morning so I think we’ll need to increase the frequency of these sessions. San Clemente Family Photographer-6682

 

Sleeping: You’re ready for bed about 9pm but I try to keep you up a bit longer so we’re on the same schedule. We settle on 10pm because you just can’t keep your eyes open any longer.

There have been a few glorious nights where you made it an entire 7 hours, waking around 5am and then falling asleep again until the rest of the house is up just after 7am. On average I’d say you sleep about 4 hours, waking around 2am or 3am, depending on when you go down.

You take about 15 minutes on each side when you feed. At night, I change your diaper in between breasts in an effort to wake you because you usually fall back asleep after taking only one side.

You’re still in your woombie at night though soon enough you’ll be too long for it.San Clemente Family Photographer-6673

 

Development: You smile a lot and have let out a few giggles, too.

You can track me across the room.

You very rarely cry or fuss, will go to anyone, and are perfectly content wherever we put you (even if it’s in a basket while I’m doing the laundry). You’re adaptable and patient.

People Who Knew Me

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I remember being on a camping trip when we were young, in a rented RV. I can’t recall a time that a trip with a rented RV went smoothly; meaning, I can’t recall a time that the RV didn’t break down.

It’s funny how you recall small moments from childhood, never big excursions or monumental events in their entirety but instead short little bursts. Glimpses, if you will. Like recalling the first house you lived in when you were arguably not even old enough to remember but somehow you have this hauntingly clear recollection from within its walls, almost more of a feeling than an actual memory.

That’s the first memory I have of my sister writing; we were on one of our summer trips, in one of those rented RVs, and I can remember flipping through her novels which – at that time – were nothing more than pieces of white paper stapled together down the center to give it a binding-like appearance. Because she was older, I idolized everything she did. And yet, I remember flipping through those early books and thinking it wasn’t even worth trying to compete; it was something so innate within her that I knew I never stood a chance. I was competitive on many fronts, always eager to fill the shoes only a big sister can, but writing and making books? I never touched that.

The books only got longer and more sophisticated. Writing, for her, was an evolutionary process. There were essays and short stories and novels; novels my parents would read – a pile of computer paper stacked on their nightstands that, to me, looked like it would take a lifetime to read. Maybe two. I oftentimes felt distant from her as I sat in my room and picked the nail polish off my toe nails in an effort to procrastinate writing a 5 page paper for school on a book I only read the Cliff Notes version of.

I remember one year for Christmas when other kids were asking for a new pair of Sketchers and she was asking for a fire proof safe to keep her work in.

Then came the rejections. Oh the rejections. I remember her telling me once that there was a writer that used to save the rejection letters and glue them to his wall as wallpaper; alluding to the fact that there were so many that an entire room or more would be covered. Over the years, I witnessed just how difficult it was to get published. That despite how much there is out there published independently and how much there is out there in form of blogs or websites that are also self-published, that seeking to strike a deal with an actual publisher boarders on being downright masochistic.

And after years of what I’ve decided to refer to as self-torture, it’s happened. My sister is having a book published. Let me rephrase that, her book has been published and can be found, today – at this very moment – at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.

I always knew there would be relief and pride coming from her when this day came, but I never imagined sharing in the relief and pride to the degree that I am.

I have a copy of the book, the “Advance Uncorrected Proof” version and as I flipped each page, “Kim Hooper” lining the top of the left page and “People Who Knew Me” lining the top of the right, a flood of pride washed over me. Two hundred and ninety four pages later and those words, “Kim Hooper” and “People Who Knew Me”, and the pride associated with such, never wore off.

It’s with great pride and love that I introduce you to my sister’s first novel, “People Who Knew Me“. A synopsis:

Everything was fine fourteen years after she left New York.

Until suddenly, one day, it wasn’t.
Emily Morris got her happily-ever-after earlier than most. Married at a young age to a man she loved passionately, she was building the life she always wanted. But when enormous stress threatened her marriage, Emily made some rash decisions. That’s when she fell in love with someone else. That’s when she got pregnant.
Resolved to tell her husband of the affair and to leave him for the father of her child, Emily’s plans are thwarted when the world is suddenly split open on 9/11. It’s amid terrible tragedy that she finds her freedom, as she leaves New York City to start a new life. It’s not easy, but Emily—now Connie Prynne―forges a new happily-ever-after in California. But when a life-threatening diagnosis upends her life, she is forced to rethink her life for the good of her thirteen-year-old daughter.
A riveting debut in which a woman must confront her own past in order to secure the future of her daughter, Kim Hooper’s People Who Knew Me asks: “What would you do?”

You can find her book on Amazon (here) and read her blog (here).
Love you, Kim. So proud.

Traveling With Kids | Cuba

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I feel like any gosh-I-hate-this-term “mommy blogger” has at-some-point written a post filled with advice about traveling with kids. I’m pretty sure if I dug through my own archives, I’d find one that I even wrote prior. But if time and experience has taught me anything about traveling with kids, it’s that the key – the secret ingredient – is not something you can fit in your suitcase, forget at home, or buy when you get there. What makes or breaks traveling with kids is nothing more than your attitude and the perspective and expectations you use to funnel your travel experience.

Because what parent is going to forget the bag of snacks or to download their child’s favorite cartoon on the iPad or your iPhone? No one. We all have a similar bag of tricks and there’s no secret trick that you can buy, other than maybe Benadryl – and sure, I recommend that, too – that’s going to make your trip go as smooth as can be. Except, that is, for your attitude.

When we first brought Jimmie home, life sucked. He’s not an easy dog and there were times Willy and I both wanted to throw in the towel. Those that have been reading my blog since the acquisition of Jimmie know that his anxiety is through the roof, so-much-so that he’s on prozac and still looks as though he’s going to have an aneurysm should we even use the word “go” or “leave” in a conversation. In any event, the boys picked up on the tension in those early days and were not so nice to Jimmie. They’d hit him and speak mean to him; behaviors that, in hindsight, mirrored how Willy and I were affected by his behaviors.

Point being, kids notice shit. And they mirror what they see. If you’re calm and relaxed, they’re calm and relaxed.

So how do you keep calm and relaxed while traveling with kids? You take care of yourself and nurse that attitude I’ve spoken so highly of. Little things, like making sure you stay fed and hydrated. Other things that help facilitate a good attitude:

-Realistic expectations. Traveling is never easy. Airports suck. People can suck. Spending money you didn’t expect to spend sucks. Changing time zones suck. So planning on and expecting the worst sometimes makes it so the little victories – like a plane that’s not full and a free seat next to you – really shine through. I set myself up for such grand disasters so that when the plane lands and we’re all still alive, I smile. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the point.

-Talk with your spouse before the trip about your concerns and fears. When you can know what’s really going to throw a wrench into one another’s trips, it’s easier to navigate and avoid such. For example, I’m not one to make many plans when I travel. Before having kids, I’d go wherever and find a place to stay when I got to wherever “wherever” was. Prior to leaving for Cuba, Willy expressed concern about the potential of running into difficulty finding a place to stay once we arrived in Havana. And trust me, finding a casa particular (home to stay in) before actually arriving in Havana is in no way as simple as booking a hotel. I had made reservations with one only to be told weeks later it was no longer available, with no reason provided. In any event, I found us a home just two days before we stepped foot on the plane. Crisis averted. Fear squashed.

Really though, the point is to be on the same page with one another; to communicate and act and support one another as a team. Because nothing wears you down faster than having children. Oh wait, that doesn’t have anything at all to do with traveling, does it? Are you sensing my point? Traveling makes those little rascals wear you down even faster and to a even smaller entity than you ever thought possible. So build the trust in your partner to hold you up when you need a little lift and vice versa. And if you’re both being worn down at the same time – go back to my hydration plan and grab a beer. Sometimes a little break with a cold one in an outdoor eatery where the kids can run around in circles like crazy lunatics is a game changer, an energy recharge.

-Slow your roll. If you’re the type that travels with an itinerary, loosen it a bit. If you’re a planner, schedule time to do nothing other than relax. Because sure, seeing King Tuts tomb while in Egypt is certainly important, but so is that 2 o’clock nap. And arguably, the former may only be enjoyable if the latter is accomplished. Catch my drift? Don’t fill your plate, fill yo’ cup.

Have other tips you’d like to recommend to one another? By all means, sharing is caring.

A Family Session, with The Inges

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I received an email from Anne-Marie stating that her and her family would be in town to visit friends; they are from back East. My heart was warmed immediately; to be included in a family’s vacation plans? To say it’s an honor is an understatement. We toyed around with meeting up in the desert but Anne-Marie is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda mama, which I love, and ultimately I ended up meeting them at their friend’s beautiful home in the heart of Venice.

Her husband Jay was equal parts relaxed and kind, their daughter Masie perfectly adapted to their spontaneous lifestyle (they’ve already traveled with her to several countries, which I think is so wonderful). We spent some time in-home, where Masie got some ballet lessons from Willow (Anne-Marie used to nanny Willow in Willow’s younger years, which I also think is so beautiful and added to the richness of the shoot).

We finished the shoot on the beach, the setting sun behind the mountains serving as a picturesque backdrop to their California holiday. Memories I can only hope they treasure for all the years to come in spite of all the new memories they’re sure to make, being the adventurous family that they are.

Interested in booking a session? Shoot me an email: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

On having kids…

San Clemente Family Photography-5717The other night our neighbor, who is an older man with no children of his own (by choice), gave the boys ice cream. As we sat together on our shared front yard he mentioned having not heard the boys all day, alluding to the fact that most days the chaos and ruckus that is our everyday filters it’s way over like the smoke from a BBQ.

The ice cream dripped down their cones and in true childhood fashion made for sticky hands and a rim of chocolate around their mouths. Our neighbor glanced over at his long-time girlfriend and said something along the lines of, “Now see, no need to remind me why I opted not to have children”. We made a few jokes about releasing the boys in his newly carpeted house and eventually we parted ways; they, presumably, to enjoy a quiet and peaceful evening and, us, to clean the chocolate off our kids’ faces, fight them on brushing their teeth, and remind them for the umpteenth time that it’s not nice to say that they “hate” us or that we’re “not their friends”.

I know life as a parent only from the mother’s perspective. And having children, for me, was a very innate desire. I spent my childhood training for motherhood; taking my cabbage patches to pretend school, filling out forms I’d take from the drawers of my dad’s office, and loving and cuddling any baby that came within a ten foot radius of me.

That night, I glanced over at Willy – who was struggling to get pajamas on one of the boys – and asked him if he’d rather have had it another way. His answer was true and sincere, he said, “I think I would have been perfectly okay if you didn’t want to have kids. But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world”.

It would be hard to argue that parenthood is where it’s at to a neighbor who realistically sees (and, errr, hears) you struggle nearly every day. I suppose it’s hard, in general, to make the argument for having kids to someone who clearly never wanted kids. And while the days are generally a struggle, all I can say is that the hard days, filled with relentless whining and tantrums, are all but forgotten in the second it takes for them to tell me that they love me.

I think any mother would agree; sticky hands, chocolate crusted mouths, booger filled noses n’ all.

Cuba

Going through video footage and piecing it together is a lot like editing images from a wedding; by the time I’m done I know every image – all footage – better than I’d like and I’m not pleased with any of them… a direct result that comes with looking at anything too long. In any event, I’ve started and restarted the making of this video more times than I care to admit due mostly to user error, followed in a close second to user dissatisfaction. I’m happy with the final result, but it’s hard to view it without knowing the downright struggle, errrr challenge, it was to make. In any event, here lies a small glimpse into our time in Cuba… A place that’s unlike any other and is changing in so many ways. I have a few more posts on Cuba to share but if you want to see what I’ve already shared thus far, here’s some links:

Cuba, The Good

Cuba, The Bad

Cuba, Part I

Cuba, Part II

Childhood Unplugged, Cuba

All The Heart Eyes

the stork & the beanstalk _ ikea2I’ve been incredibly stressed lately. All first world problems, so I hardly feel I have the right to complain about any of it. That said, we’re hoping to move sometime this summer into a home that has a yard because living in a townhouse with two wild boys and one that will soon be wild – because time just moves too fast, dammit – has proven to lead to varying degrees of insanity. For all of us. The other day Hooper came up and asked me if he could go ‘run outside’ and he literally sprinted around in a circle like a caged animal. In any event, the hope of a new home inevitably brings on the search / hunt of what to fill it with. Not that we need more ‘stuff’ because, really and truly, minimalism is where it’s at; especially in respect to said insanity. We just donated two large boxes of toys and it feels like we hardly made a dent. We’ve only been in this home for two years… where does all this stuff come from? Anyway, I digress. I’ve been scouring all my usual one-of-a-kind haunts; the thrifts, craigslist, etsy, eBay, the flea market, etc and while I’ll never turn my back on any of them, I have to say… Ikea?… well, they’re killing it. Came across this new collection and have to say I practically stood up by my desk and gave a round of applause to an empty room. I’ll definitely be nabbing a few items from this collection. Where have you been finding stuff for your home lately? I know Target has a much-improved home line too…

Childhood Unplugged

the stork & the beanstalk _ childhood unpluggedI’m moderating the feed over on Childhood Unplugged this week, sharing images of motherhood. Feel free to join in by hashtagging your images with #cu_motherhood. Also want to take a moment to give love to all the women out there – both the ones that are mothers and those that long to be. There is so much surrounding conception and pregnancy and birth and life that is out of our control and while it is important to celebrate those that have children here on Earth, it’s also nice to acknowledge those who’s children live in dreams or heaven or in another form all together. I imagine this last weekend was difficult for many and I hate for their pain to be buried, or unheard.

A Family Session, with The Streets

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When I arrived to Jamie and Ben’s home, the screen door was shut and I locked eyes with the most welcoming and brilliant smile from sweet baby Townes. He’s seven months old and apparently is stoked by the idea of strangers showing up on his doorstep. Scratch that, this baby is stoked on life in general because I got nothing but wide eyes and smiles for my entire time there. I’m sure Jamie and Ben could tell you about the sleepless nights and other hardships that come along with an infant, but you won’t get anything but good cheer out of me. Seriously, how cute is he? Rhetorical question because I’m pretty sure he’s cuter than my own kids.

I met the Street family in their home in San Diego, a quaint bungalow-style home decorated beautifully. We spent most of the time indoors, catering to the typical needs of two youngsters: snacks, favorite records, pillow fights, breastfeeding, and some good old-fashioned cuddles, along with some time in their backyard, where Henry was hard at work gardening. And when I say gardening, what I really mean is destroying plants because that’s what little boys do, right?

The entire shoot was perfectly carefree, an ease that comes when photographing another photographer, I suppose (you can check out Jamie’s work here and find her on instagram here).

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

A Family Session, with The Gulas

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I met the Gulas family at their home in Queen Creek, Arizona, which was an added treat to our most recent visit to the area, back in February. I love photographing somewhere different and the desert landscape did not disappoint. Nor did the beautiful Gulas family, who just added their fourth babe to the mix, and who checked many of my proverbial boxes: large family (yay for more chaos), breastfeeding (my latest obsession in terms of photography), maternity (because it’s close to home and I’m “feelin’ it”), and well, as mentioned, Arizona (something out of my norm).

We spent the first part of the shoot in-home, capturing some candid moments as well as some posed family portraits — I’ve learned to welcome both in my shoots because the reality is that if it were strictly candid, you’d never get a family of this size all in the same frame. Chances are Tatum, who is 14, would be hiding out in her room like I’m sure most 14-year-olds do. We ventured out, just before sunset, to the Salt River; a place I’ve been numerous times now and love more and more with each visit. We shot until all the people that were there when we got there had left along with the last bit of light. I swear the light seems to linger just a bit longer in Arizona. And those colors? They rival even California’s palette. Or perhaps it’s just the change that is nice. Whatever the case may be, it was a beautiful session, with a family I hope to have the pleasure of photographing again.

Interested in hiring me for a session? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com. You can also find more information by visiting my website.

Childhood Unplugged

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We stopped for Mexican food at one of those hole-in-the wall places that boast the best reviews before heading out to the wetlands, our first outing out as a family of 5 and not a single picture of sweet Sonny – asleep for much of it – in his carseat to show for it.

A few wrong turns later and we were worried we’d make it at all, the last of the bird photographers packing up their long lens as we made our way across the wooden bridge, sightseeing along the way; the contrasting white heron against the darkness of the water and the setting sun casting all sorts of beautiful colors in a sky that looked edible, like cotton candy. Ever trying to tire these boys out, I let them run. And run. And run. Much of what I seemed to capture this evening was of the backs of their sweet heads and on an evening such as this, when simply getting out the front door feels like a feat, I could have cared less to capture anything at all.

And if a good evening doesn’t end with a nice long leak in nature, I don’t know what does.

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.

*Also, I’ll be taking over the Childhood Unplugged feed the week of Mother’s Day… Use hashtag #cu_motherhood for a chance to be featured. Love sharing all your precious moments with your littles.