Portrait Series 2016 | June

San Clemente Family Photographer-1102 San Clemente Family Photographer-1120A portrait of my family once a month in 2016

Willy: Proclaimed that kids are put on this Earth to make us age faster, die quicker, and use less resources. Also proclaims to be MVP of the bachelor party he just got back from.

Hooper: Told me he was bored for the first time ever. So that cat is out of that bag. Also says he wants 150 babies but will settle for just one more. I feel the same way.

Van: Decided to pee in Jimmie’s water bowl and then came and told me about it. Also told me he wasn’t going to marry me after I told him he had to throw his trash away before having his show turned back on (for the record, the marriage was over as soon as he peed in the dog bowl).

Sonny: Found his feet.

Me: Agreed to wanting to poop like a deer (however that is) and stepping in it to make my 5-year-old think I’m cool and then had an existential crisis. Momentarily, anyway.

Jimmie: Picked up kennel cough from doggy daycare. There were nights filled with hacking. Just when you thought having a new-ish-born at night was tough…

A Mother & Child Session, with Dori Varga

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Anytime I get to catch up with Dori is time well spent. The last time I photographed her and Noah together was when Noah was just a few months shy of one year old and now, nearly a year later, on the brink of his second year. It’s always a privilege to capture the relationship between mother and child, even more so the second time around; the juxtaposition with the year prior showing the growth of not only a growing little human, but also in the roles of mother and child. The way she speaks to him in her native Hungarian, the way he asks to breastfeed and the way she plays with his toes while he does.

You can check out past sessions with Dori by clicking here and here. And you can check out Tribe de Mama, which she founded, by clicking here.

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

Sonny @ 3 months

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Growth & Appearance:

You’re the size of most 9 month olds, the only thing giving away your age is your mannerisms; the newborn-like gang signs always a dead giveaway.

We had to buzz your random tuft of long hairs because you looked like Sloth from the Goonies.

I think your hair is turning blond. Your papa says it’s still brown. I agree it’s brown, but it seems to be transitioning to blond. In my opinion, anyway.

The left side of you head is flatter than your right, as you favor lying with your head turned to the left. We’re working on correcting it. You’re welcome.

You’ve grown out of the 3-6 month onesies as well as size 1 diapers, which truthfully should have been swapped out for size 2 sometime ago but I was determined not to waste what we had left of size one. Technically speaking, I think you meet the weight requirements for size 3, so it’s possible you’ll skip size 2 all together except the fact I don’t want to waste the size 2 diapers either, so you’ll probably be a size 3 kid in a size 2 diaper just as you’re a size 2 kid in a size 1 diaper. Ho hum. Can’t win.

San Clemente Family Photographer-0133 Sleeping:

It’s as if you wake eager for someone to smile at. I can see you, out of the corner of my eye, just waiting to lock eyes; a smiling beaming from ear to ear after a nights rest.

In the beginning of your third month you were sleeping an average of 6 hour stretches; going down around 10pm and waking in the 4 o’clock hour before going down again until 7 or even 8. Just a few days before turning 3 months, you made it all the way to 6am. Nothing super consistent but movement in the right direction for sure.

Napping is hard because as the third born you’re just kind of thrown into the mix. You nap here and there but it’s never something official and it’s often interrupted by one of your brothers smooshing your checks together to make your lips flang out in such a way as to resemble a fish.

You’re still in your woombie at night and still seem comfortable with the whole straight-jacket concept.

You put yourself to bed quite easily, usually by sucking on your fingers. Then I bring you to bed when I’m ready, try my best to wake you for one last feed, and put you down next to me. As soon as we move, we’ll get your room or corner situated and you’ll be in the crib. San Clemente Family Photographer-0144

Eating:

I feed you on demand. I pump each morning after you feed and have been donating the milk I get during that time.

If I had to guess, I’d say you nurse between 9 – 11 times per day, with some of those being cluster feeds; meaning an hour or less will pass before you’re wanting to eat again.

We don’t give you a bottle as often as we should but you still have the hang of it more-or-less. We’ve found you’re more inclined to take it first thing in the morning, when you’re still sleepy and super hungry and less discriminative about what nipple gets put in your mouth. So we practice then.

You’re much quicker when it comes to your time at the breast. Gone are the days I’d take the time to find a show to watch… you’re practically done by the time I flip through the DVR and find something worth watching. Unless you’re nursing to sleep, then it’s worth sitting for a bit.

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Development:

You’ve started pushing with your legs. Sometimes I have to sit sideways in a chair because during feedings you’ll push against the arm rests with your legs and it’s hard to feed you. You’ll also put weight down on your feet when I stand you up.

You’re working on rolling and able to lift one hip and push, turning slightly to one side.

Tummy time isn’t your favorite, but there are times when you don’t fight it. You rolled over once, from your stomach to your back but it hasn’t happened again since.

You’re a bonafide cooing machine.

It seems as though you are starting to respond to your name. Or maybe persistence just pays off as we call your name until you glance in our direction.

Your brain still can’t tell what your hands are doing but if it could, you’d be grabbing everything. You like to tug on my shirt when you’re nursing, your sharp little nails digging into my skin. I’ve gotten my hair caught in your grip a few times and it never feels good.

You smile with your whole body.

You notice the TV when it’s on and turn your head in it’s direction.

You’ve found your feet.

You took your first flight to Seattle and handled it like a champ albeit reminding me that traveling with a champ on your lap is still hard.

First & Third Born

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brothers San Clemente Family Photographer-42I intentionally have not googled anything in regards to any ‘middle child syndrome’ for fear of some self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I was pregnant with Sonny, I fooled myself into thinking there’d be no chance of such a thing trickling into our lives based on the fact Hooper and Van are so close in age; only 19 months separating them. I assumed Sonny would be a lone duck, which initiated my half-jokingly campaign for a fourth. I envisioned the boys being, well, bros and Sonny, who is 3.5 years younger than Van, being more-or-less on his own.

I’m still not sure what the ‘middle child syndrome’ is about, but I’m starting to gain some insight through my own observations (check me out, Google… didn’t need ya after all). Van has been the most challenging over the past few months and I can’t help but think that hindsight will draw a closer connection between his behavior and the arrival of Sonny and his new found position as the ‘middle child’.

Hooper is older and has lived to welcome a younger brother in Van, and now again, with Sonny. The transition has not only been easy for him, but it’s been filled with genuine brotherly love. The connection between Hooper and Sonny is strong and if I need help, Hooper is oftentimes the first I call on. And he seems to enjoy offering a helping hand. Even his teacher mentioned that he’s taken a liking to the responsibility of cleaning up the tables after centers, which I think coincides with the pride and fulfillment he feels when helping me with Sonny and household duties.

So while I want to take a needle and continuously poke at the center of my eyeballs when dealing with Van, I’m quite happy watching the innate connection between Hooper and Sonny. And I have a sneaking suspicion all of this has everything to do with this new-to-me middle child syndrome, that I really was hoping was not a thing but certainly is proving to be a thing. Unless it’s a age-related, because dem’ fucking fours (that’s what we call them) are just around the corner and we all know – or at least our experience has shown – nothing makes you want to take a needle to your eye more than the lows of a four-year-old.

In any event, let’s just concentrate on the beautiful connection between first and third born and then try your hand at convincing me this middle child thing will pass. Okay, thanks.

Summer

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San Clemente Family Photographer-4896 San Clemente Family Photographer-4903 San Clemente Family Photographer-4899 San Clemente Family Photographer-4909 San Clemente Family Photographer-4912 San Clemente Family Photographer-4916 I remember summers during childhood lasting what felt like an eternity; the summer vacations, annoying my sister, complaining about complete and udder boredom, laying out poolside, stalking summer crushes at the beach, and putting off whatever summer reading that was assigned, opting instead for the cliff note version in the week preceding the fall return to school.

Summer now seems like a blink of an eye, with school seemingly getting out later and starting earlier. I feel this newfound pressure to pull out the calendar to schedule adventures for the sole purpose of assuring at least a few get snuck in there and that the entire summer doesn’t pass without any of the quintessential memories only summer can deliver. And yet scheduling anything seems to steal the spontaneity that summer alone seems to promise. It’s a catch 22, isn’t it?

Throw in a scheduled move and, well, I’m feeling kinda robbed of this summer already. Screw that, throw in the speed of life these days and I’m feeling a bit robbed of life in general. Who’s with me? I hold no answers to the slowing of time but hoping that with this summer freedom we can schedule some time to be bored. And maybe an adventure, or two, that don’t break the bank because dammit, moving is a money suck.

On loving a third…

San Clemente Family Photographer-6708Years ago, when we welcomed Van into our world, I wrote this post about how loving a second was a different experience than loving a first. When I gave birth to Hooper, the love was instant and felt limitless. In true ignorance-is-bliss fashion, I had no idea just how much more my heart would grow, my love evolve. And so, when Van was born I was anxious for him to grow, too… Knowing what I knew after giving birth and raising Hooper, that whatever love I felt on day one would piddle in comparison to the love I’d feel on day 500, I had more of a hurry-up-and-grow-up-and-become-more-fun mentality.

Loving a third, it seems, lends itself to completing the full circle. Hooper and Van are all kinds of wild and have fully outgrown toddlerhood; they have minds of their own and actions, too… actions that land themselves in corners and send fumes bursting out of every orifice Willy and I have. They talk back. Just this morning Van spit at me because I told him he couldn’t have his damn vitamin (which the jury is still out on in terms of it not being just a gummy bear because, puh-lease, even I find it hard not to eat more than two) until after breakfast. Point being, they have every capability of being dick wods.

Then there’s Sonny… sweet Sonny. The only thing coming out of his mouth is the occasional milk he lets spill out as he falls asleep at the bar. No spit. Rarely even any spit up. And talking back? Nope, none of that either; only the accidental coo that slips out unintentionally. So innocent.

And so, loving him has been a natural transition; a change from hurry-up-and-grow to take-all-the-time-you-need. Because I know now what’s around the corner.

Soon enough, he’ll be spitting at me too.

Dear Sonny, take your time. And be kind.

Bits + Pieces

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A little slice of summer

Early mornings

Family meeting Sonny for the first time

The only part worth sharing of my work space

Van getting a hair cut

Dangerous Women, a part of my collection

Van in the garage when the garage had space to actually be in

A few shots from trips to the desert past

Legos, legos, and more legos

Willy and Sonny, who is quite content to cuddle with anyone, anytime

A visit from my most favorite friend and her family

And the result of ignoring quiet children during a playdate

Visual Supplement: Sally Mann

sallymann“I struggle with enormous discrepancies: between the reality of motherhood and the image of it, between my love for my home and the need to travel, between the varied and seductive paths of the heart. The lessons of impermanance, the occasional despair and the muse, so tenuously moored, all visit their needs upon me and I dig deeply for the spiritual utilities that restore me: my love for the place, for the one man left, for my children and friends and the great green pulse of spring.” – Sally Mann

Brothers

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Hooper, you’re becoming the master manipulator, like when you knew you weren’t allowed to watch TV so you had Van bring the remote control to Papa and had him ask instead. When questioned about it you replied, “I have Van do my jobs for me”.

 

Me: “If you don’t want Hooper to pull your hair, we can cut it”
Van: “Nooooo, I want to keep my hair on”

 

“Let me help him get on that booby”, said by you, Hooper, when Sonny was pecking like a wood pecker looking for my nipple. You also asked if we could call Sonny ‘drinker’ because he ‘drinks’ a lot.
“We better get out of here, Mom’s got serious face” – Van
We were at the beach when Hooper, you came running up to me while I was nursing Sonny, tears streaming down your face as you said, “My brother! My brother! He’s hurt”. Turns out that Van, you had stepped on a cactus, it’s thorn stuck a solid inch into your foot. You two may fight like cats and dogs, but you’re very protective of one another as well.

 

Van, whenever you have a friend over to play, you protect Hooper’s toys saying, “Don’t play with that, it’s my brothers”.

 

While cleaning out under the sofa:
Me: “Why is there so much garbage under the sofa?”
Van: “Well, sometimes we forget where the garbage is” (master of excuses)
Van to Hooper: “Hahahaha, look at Mom’s butt up in the air” (said as I’m crouched down like the bitch that I am picking up their trash)

 

Hooper & Van, I caught you both upstairs with your baseball gloves on using one of Sonny’s rolled up poop filled diapers as a ball.

 

I found you both in the downstairs bathroom with the door shut. Van, you were taking a dump and Hooper, you were dispensing candy that you had stashed away and hidden under the bathroom sink. I didn’t stop it nor confiscate the candy because it seemed as if hiding from your mom in the bathroom, taking a dump together, and eating stolen candy is like a right of passage.

 

“Let’s chase her and put peanuts in her butt” – Van to Hooper in regards to Hooper’s on-again-off-again girlfriend at school.

 

Hooper: “Mama, how come Sonny’s balls are bigger than mine?” (said while watching me change Sonny’s diaper while simultaneously pulling his underwear down to compare)

Me: “Because when you’re cold your balls get smaller”

Van: “Ya, his are bigger than mine too!!” (also pulls down his underwear to compare)

Hooper: (pointing at Van’s penis) “Look Van, your peep is big!”

Van: (proceeds to flex his “peep”, making it go up and down)

 

“Mama, he’s copying my words” – said by either of you depending on who’s being the copycat asshole in the present moment.

 

Then there was the sword fight in the bathroom that ended in a real fight and resulted on a fair amount of urine on the wall. At least you guys didn’t make fun of my butt while I cleaned it up.

 

Hooper: “Mama, I know why Sonny is crying”
Me: “Why?”
Hooper: “I pinched him because he pulled my hair”

The Desert

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That’s what photos do for me and I suppose that’s why I do what I do; I like to replicate feelings so that more than just the moment is captured… I seek to hold on to feelings.

I digress. This last trip to the desert was the pits in so many ways. It started with the stress of leaving and preparing the house for some showings we had scheduled (we’re planning on moving this summer). Do you know how difficult it is to turn a home kids live in into anything other than a junkyard? I must have removed at least 5 partially eaten squeezable yogurts from under the sofa. And that was just the beginning of what I found under there. In any event, thanks to friends we were able to pawn Van (aka Mister-asks-a-thousand-questions-an-hour) off for the morning and by the time we left in the afternoon, the house was in an order we’ve never been lucky enough to enjoy it in. Meaning it was clean. And organized, albeit haphazardly.

Not long after arriving, we hightailed it for the pool; the hundred degree weather leading the way. And not long after that, Hooper ate it… The sound of his head hitting the wet concrete piercing the ears of everyone who happened to witness it. I held him in my arms as he cried and cried. It wasn’t until he started throwing up that Willy and I started to really worry and so we gathered our things and decided it’d be best to get him checked out. Jimmie peed on the way out, right there on the concrete by the pool. Because – you know – that’s how shit goes down sometimes.

We spent a few hours in the ER, Willy juggling Van, Sonny, and Jimmie in the car while I waited with Hooper in the waiting room. We left after 11pm, never ate dinner, and waited another hour at a 24 hour pharmacy for a medication that cost $60 and that we only gave him one time. And then he barfed in the car, on the way back to the hotel, for good measure.

We got back to the hotel after midnight, realized the air conditioner in our room was not working and had to pack up everything we had unpacked and switch rooms to a smaller room where any sort of pathway or empty space quickly got eaten up by rollaway beds for the boys. Willy and I slept on and off because there’s nothing like worrying about a child to keep a parent up at night.

The following day we split forces; Willy stayed in the room with Hooper and Sonny to rest while I took Van to the pool. A better day when compared to the night prior which would have made many of the days in our shit-hit-the-fan parenthood capsule look more desirable.

We ventured out to The Salton Sea that evening and enjoyed dinner at our favorite dive bar in the area; also-known-as-the-only-restaurant-for-miles. We left with lifted spirits, the kind that only an adventure that didn’t end with a trip to the ER could bring.

We returned home the following day; the clean house we left unraveling faster than a ball of yarn rolling downhill. And so it goes, right?

Another trip to the desert, albeit our costliest yet, in the books.

A Book Release | People Who Knew Me

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My sister is having a reading tomorrow, at Laguna Beach Books, for anyone interested in attending. She’ll be doing a reading from her first novel “People Who Knew Me“, published by St. Martin’s Press, answering questions, and signing books. Oh ya, free wine, too. Event starts at 4pm. Would love to see any of you there!

My Boys

San Clemente Family Photographer-4621 San Clemente Family Photographer-4640“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding he is exactly the person he’s supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, he might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.” -The Water Giver

Childhood Unplugged

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The Salton Sea, a place I can’t seem to abandon whenever we’re out in the desert; equal parts mystical and enchanting, disgusting and desolate. And different every time we go.

We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall bar / restaurant in Bombay Beach, a place you’re sure to sit shoulder to shoulder with the local crowd. It’s walls adorned with dollar bills, so many in fact that I always think should the place run into financial ruin the money on the wall is sure to pay for another months rent, at least. I’ve heard whispers that Anthony Bourdain ate here once; not that the food is to rave about, it’s really the only option for miles. In any event, the fried chicken and french fries never seem to disappoint. Unless you’re a three-year-old on the verge of the fucking fours and your goal in life is to make every step of life difficult; in-which-case, not even fried deliciousness can contend with a sour mood.

We stepped out with bellies full, minus said three-year-old, the warm on-the-verge-of-summer air wrapping around us like a blanket on a cold night. The trains passing in the distance and the sun setting beyond the horizon. We pulled off the road at a spot we’ve been several times in the past and stumbled upon an abandoned wood boat we had never seen before; the mystery of the Salton Sea proving, as always, to produce more questions than answers.

Given the day prior, which included a trip to the ER, this day was in some way payback for prior suffering. Even if for just a few moments in time; moments where that soon-to-be four-year-old let go of the fact his cowboy boots were soggy (I mean who goes into the pool with their cowboy boots on?) and explored an abandoned ‘pirate ship’ while the trains chugged on and the setting sun said goodnight.

More on our last trip to the desert to come.

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.