Portrait Series | February

San Clemente Family Photographer-6728 San Clemente Family Photographer-6748 San Clemente Family Photographer-6785A portrait of my family once a month in 2017

Willy: Celebrated another year of life.

Hooper: Asked why eleven isn’t called ‘one-teen’. Also lost his first tooth.

Van: Saw a Marine walk into Staples and asked if he was the president.

Sonny: Managed to open one of his dirty diapers Willy had tossed to the side and was found playing with a nug of poop.

Me: Hid a pair of Willy’s basketball shorts because they’re gross and no man should wear them only to find out he has an identical back up pair. So I hid those too. And instead of asking where they are, I’m pretty sure he just bought a new pair because they never seem to go away.

Jimmie: Politely got called ‘fat’ by our contractor who hasn’t been here for months (and by ‘hasn’t been here for months’ what I mean is hasn’t finished work he started months ago).

A Mother + Child session, with Rebecca & Hunter

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

A Family Session | The Potter Family

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There usually is no rhyme or reason to nerves before a shoot; sometimes I feel total confidence and other times I feel timid about knocking on the front door and inviting myself in to take charge in a home I’ve never been that belongs to people I’ve never met. I didn’t have nerves going into this shoot so much as I felt pressure on myself; Kelsey confiding beforehand that she’s followed my work on instagram for sometime and never imagined actually getting a session with me ::gush gush:: . Though, in hindsight, I like the challenge of living up to a perception someone may have of me (when it’s a good one, of course). In any event, any pressure quickly dissipated; the way it does when met with warmth and sincerity. This family, they’re kind and gentle and bashful and humble and yet, somehow, still natural even with a camera in their faces.

We had plans of heading to the beach for the second half of the shoot but given the unpredictability of the beach weather this time of year, the wind had other ideas and we ended up staying at their house for the full session; which I really think was best anyways. Shooting in-home being far-and-wide my favorite location.

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

Hooper @ 6 years

san clemente family photographer-5409Growth & Appearance: Your hair is blond, with some brown roots. Your eyes are light brown and your skin olive. At a checkup a few months ago you weighed 42 lbs (31st percentile) and were 46 inches tall (76th percentile). You have a natural six pack and are tall and thin.

You’ve been claiming a loose tooth for months now. It’s slightly wiggly but not about to go anywhere anytime real soon. You’re excited to lose it. Not sure why.

You’ve taken a new-found interest in your appearance and take pride in dressing yourself in the morning. It’s not uncommon to see you come out of your room with pants that are way too short and a button up shirt buttoned incorrectly. We encourage you to rock it all the same. You also like going into the bathroom and putting water in your hair as if it’s gel and slicking your hair back with my brush. This is new and you’ve done it several times a day for the last week or so. san clemente family photographer-5384

Eating: You’re a better eater now than you’ve ever been. You’re not great at trying new things but you also don’t need a lot of coaxing to eat what we put on your plate. Your favorite meal is chicken, macaroni, and peas. You say you like broccoli and will eat a few bites, but you never finish it.

Favorite foods: hamburgers, macaroni, salmon, eggs, bacon, pizza.

New foods make you gag and you spit things out that you weren’t excited to try as soon as it touches your mouth. That said, you’re much easier to have at the table and you eat well. You also seem to self-regulate well on all fronts, even on the sugar front.san clemente family photographer-5389

Sleeping: You still sleep with your blanket but not usually anything else. You love surrounding yourself with pillows. You sleep on the top bunk but aren’t opposed to sharing the bottom bunk with Van; the two of you can be found sleeping together every now and again.

We make you take a nap every now and again, but it’s rare; I’d say once or twice a month but some months not at all. You’re quick to fall asleep in the car though.

You go to bed easily and even ask to be put to bed when you’re tired. san clemente family photographer-5376

Development:

You are into girls and have a grasp on what ‘love’ means. You’re fond of one particular girl in your class and come home often and tell me about all the girls that chase you during recess. I remind you often that you can be in love with boys or girls, but thus far, you’re all about the ladies.

I’ve caught you several times outside practicing your golf swing. Your g’pa takes you to a golf class once a week and you’re into it. You swing both right and left.

You can write your name with ease and are curious about what signs say. You’re getting a hang of your ‘sight words’. Your teacher says you’re a delight to have in class, which is definitely a step-up from your reported behavior last year, where your transitional kindergarten teacher described you as ‘impulsive’. You’ve grown up a lot since then and seem to have better self-control…

…Except for when it comes to your brother. You’re incredibly impulsive when it comes to acting out and are quick to hit and slap and spit before you think. It makes for a lot of time outs and a lot of apologies and a whole lot of whining from your brother.

You love being a big brother to Sonny and are eager to help. In general, you’re happy to help with lots of things around the house. Even more so now that you’ve learned that chores can potentially earn you money. You have 16 crumpled up one dollar bills in a toy ATM machine you got for Christmas and you count your money often. Chores I’ve had you do include hanging up laundry in your closet, cleaning up toys, vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher and setting / clearing the table. I also pay you when I need you to model a new shirt for the shop, something I try not to do these days after having more incidents than I can count of having our product (and images) stolen and posted on other sites. But that’s a separate post altogether. And not one I want to write.

On the same tip, you like having your photo taken and as you’ve gotten older, I feel you really ‘get me’ as a photographer. You’re not always in the mood and I respect that, but when you are, you always quench my creative thirst.

You have a kind spirit and are sensitive to others feelings. That’s not to say you’re always perfect, you’re not, but you have a good soul, a warm heart, and an empathetic nature. Hanging an ornament with a picture of Sarah on the Christmas tree brought you to tears and you spent some time afterward talking about how much you miss her. You also cried at Nanny’s funeral. And it brings you a great sense of pride when you’re able to help me out in times that I’m clearly struggling. All things that make me so proud. And appreciative.

You’re strong and can do legit pushups with perfect technique. san clemente family photographer-5398
Favorites: You love building things; forts, legos, blocks, etc. You have lots of projects in the yard; as of late you requested some ‘carrot seeds’ to plant and made your own swing out of a dog leash, handcuffs, and a wire basket. Your backpack is always filled to the brim with your most treasured items and sometimes when you’re at school I take a little peek and have a good laugh; crumbled up pieces of paper, a magnifying glass, fortune cookies, handcuffs, legos, and other random trinkets.

You and your brother have discovered the Ernest movies and those are a hit these days. We think that’s where the slicking your hair back comes from (bad Ernest in ‘Ernest goes to jail’ has slicked back hair).

You have a ‘Ninjago’ book that you ask us to read often. You also love the Ninjago show on Netflix.

Breastfeeding Anxieties

There isn’t a lot many can say when it comes to having three children and drawing any sort of similarities out amongst them. I mean, leave it to being the mother of three to prove to you that each one, cut from the same cloth or not, is bound and determined to be their own being. And yet, there are just a few similarities I can say about all three of my boys: each of them came in the 41st week of gestation. In fact, I think damn near 41 weeks and 4 days if we’re being precise. All three waited until their 9th or 10th month to cut any teeth. All three were early walkers, Hooper and Van both in their 10th month, Sonny in his 9th. And breastfeeding; all three have followed the same path.

You would think that by the third time, I’d have it down. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. For starters, time has passed. Older people joke that they can’t remember their grown children as infants. I joke back that I can’t remember my 4 and 6 year olds as infants. And it’s only a partial joke because there is truth embedded in that statement as well. I’ve forgotten.

My experience with Sonny up until a month ago was seamless. Not without effort, but certainly without bumps in the road. He’d eat when I offered and I’d offer often. If it was before a nap or before putting him down for the night, it would put him to sleep.

I’m seeing things more clearly now from hindsight and I can pin our latest struggles down to the following: he’s far more aware of his surroundings than he once was. He’s easily distracted and half of the time I feel like I’m forcing him to eat which seems silly having always prided myself on ‘on demand’ feeding. Some days I feel like I need a basket filled to the brim with various toys and knick knacks that I can dangle in front of him to keep his attention. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I fed him without holding something on my chest. I suppose I wouldn’t care so much about him refusing feedings if I weren’t so worried about maintaining my supply.

You see what’s happening here? It’s a cocktail I’m mixing.

I wouldn’t even know about my supply if it weren’t for working so much lately. I worked three days in a row in the hospital (which is the only time I pump) and became growingly concerned seeing just how little I would get from the pump. Sure, it’s argued (and presumably true) that baby’s are more efficient than a pump but instinctively I cannot help but be concerned when I used to pump a combined 4 ounces and now, only 1, maybe 2. It’s also stressful to take time out of my day when I’m working as a nurse to only bag a mere ounce (leaving my patients, walking to another unit, pumping, cleaning, storing, walking back… Point being, it’s a process that takes time and takes me away from my patients).

And now, from the position of hindsight, it’s beginning to dawn on me that the same thing happened with both Hooper and Van, around the same age. While I’m blessed with good sleepers, the 9 or 10 hours of consecutive sleep at night causes my supply to plunge.

It’s also right around this time, with all three, that my body begins regulating itself once again and my period returns. I mean all three, at or damn near the 10 month mark. And I know menstruation has ill effects on milk supply. Or can, anyways.

Combine all this – working more and therefore pumping more, the return of my period, and a baby who is distracted by everything and loves solids (and is eating those like a champ) and who is sleeping through the night and then some – and it’s clear to see why my supply is suffering.

I was beginning to talk myself into the idea that maybe he’s just weaning and while, sure, he probably is to a certain extent (definitely transitioning into the world of solid foods) he’s not done with breastfeeding. And nor am I. It’s my goal to make it to a year and now that I’ve gotten over this hump, I know we will.

So how did I get over the hump, you ask?

Well, I reached out and heard back from so many of you via instagram. Sometimes you just have to talk yourself through something to be able to understand the issues.

The consensus was this: the distraction at the breast is normal for this age. Several suggested feeding in a low lit room. While I find this to be helpful during feedings he needs/wants, the reality is that we’ve simply had to cut out some of the feedings we once had… which is fine. I try to cram in as many daytime feedings as I can because I know not feeding at all throughout the night has had an effect on my supply. I’ve also given up on multitasking, gone are the days I could send a quick email or scroll through instagram while breastfeeding. And I’m fine with that, it’s nice to give him my full attention.

My next realization is that we all have limits. At least one person that responded mentioned getting up in the middle of the night to pump which, I agree, would be helpful in breaking the 10 hour hiatus I take from feedings while he sleeps. But, with working two (sometimes three) jobs and wrangling three kids, I need a full nights rest. And I feel very fortunate that I get it. I do, however, wake Sonny a couple hours after I put him down for the night, before I go bed myself (around 10pm or 11pm) and feed him one last time. And I will continue to do so to alleviate the long lapse in not feeding him. That particular session is my favorite; it’s the only one that doesn’t require the extra effort. Very rarely does he even open his eyes. It’s sweet, the kind of feed breastfeeding cliches are made of.

I’ve also increased my water intake. Or at least most days I try to. The amount of water we should all be getting each day is kind of baffling and I firmly believe so many of us – breastfeeding or not – are walking around partially dehydrated. On the days I work in the hospital, I make it a point to down two glasses of water every time I walk into the patient nourishment room. At home, it’s a little harder to come up with something similar because I’m distracted and multitasking with no organization about 90% of my day when I’m at home. I could probably stand to eat more greens too, but hey, we all have limits. I’m trying.

I’ve also started taking calcium + magnesium as well as fenugreek. I tried putting it off for as long as I could because I don’t necessarily care for walking around and smelling like a pancake house. Please tell me there are others who agree that fenugreek makes you smell like maple syrup? I was sitting in a class and thinking that someone near by smelled weird only to get home and have Willy point out that that somebody was, indeed, me.

I’m back to my regular work schedule for the most part and in the past few days I’ve had ‘off’, I’ve found comfort in the fact that he is still taking a significant number of feedings. And while it’s hard to ignore the pump, he does seem to be more efficient and able to draw out more than the pump.

And at the end of the day, he’s healthy. And there’s loads of comfort in that. I worried so much when Hooper was little and his weight percentile dropped all the way down to the 10th percentile. But not the case with Sonny. He’s chunky enough, with thighs that demand to be pinched. All in all, if it weren’t for pumping and attaching a number to the issue at hand, I wouldn’t even second guess anything. And the realization that I’m not alone, not in my worries or in my hatred of pumping, is something too (I’ve enjoyed reading some other breastfeeding stories, here, which have made for a nice late-at-night-oh-hey-look-at-that-I’m-not-alone time suck).

The breastfeeding relationship changes so much in the course of a year and it’s as if you’re constantly having to adjust and re-assess. From the early days where it felt like I was a slave to feeding him to the current days where the anguish derives from just how little time he’s willing to sacrifice to eat. It’s enough to make my head spin. In any event, wish me luck this week as I’m scheduled for a couple 12 hour shifts and will be returning to the dreaded pump to learn my fate as if the pump is some magic 8 ball determined to tear my confidence down. Trying not to let it.

Would love to hear from others in regards to the changes in the breastfeeding relationship and how feeding your 9, 10, or 11 month old and so on is different than when they were younger.

A Letter to My Boys

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Dear Hooper, Van, & Sonny,

You lost one of your Great Grandmothers, Norma Jean (aka Nanny), on the 14th. We drove out to Arizona two days later to attend the funeral. Hooper, my sweet firstborn, you cried; water welled up behind those innocent eyes. You couldn’t stand seeing anyone hurt and saying goodbye made you sad. Van, you stayed close to me for most of the ceremony and, picking up on the emotion in the room, whispered that you loved me. And Sonny, you sat still for about 20 minutes (which truthfully is 20 minutes longer than I anticipated) until you could wave no more to the people behind you and had to be removed; the back of the church, your playground. You crawled wildly, filled with an energy only sugar could fuel. Though you had none.

We drove home through a storm, the rain falling harder than I’d venture to say you guys have seen before; a testament not solely to your limited life experience but more so to the weight of the water falling. Visibility bad enough to necessitate driving with our hazard lights on only to give way to a break in the storm. A part in the clouds. A sliver of blue skies. And a rainbow, fully visible, end to end.

May you hold tight onto memories. Of loved ones, of laughter, of storms, and, of rainbows.

I love you boys,

Mom

A Road Trip | Arizona

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Even three kids deep, I feel like we are still learning so many of the basics of parenthood; like the freedom in forging our own paths and molding new traditions. For the last few years it’s felt like the holidays have brought a lot of fumbles, like they creep up so fast and take over before a plan ever gets formulated. Throw in the unpredictability of my hospital work schedule (I’m required to work one major holiday but do not get the official schedule until the being of December) and it’s easy to let the season grab us by the proverbial balls. So it felt nice this year to try something new and combine a bit of family with a bit of adventure. And so, we hit up a few towns in Arizona before making our way to Willy’s parent’s house outside of Phoenix.

We were able to take off a few days earlier than expected due to a last minute change in my hospital work schedule. So we got the last of our shop orders out, threw the final things in the truck, and headed to the town of Prescott to visit Willy’s old boss who has retired there. We watched the temperature drop from the 60s here in California (which to-be-fair is freezing by California standards) all the way to the low 30s as we made our way into Prescott. We spent time exploring the downtown and stayed at the historic St. Michael hotel, right on the corner at the end of Whiskey Row. If only you could safely leave sleeping children in a hotel room. Despite the cold temperatures, we walked quite a bit; I could feel my jeans get cold each time I took a step as they separated from my body only to return with a cold bite. The boys rocked jackets over t-shirts, refusing to wear any of the adorable knit sweaters I brought for them (luckily I hadn’t removed any tags. Ho hum.) and Sonny stayed bundled up in one of those zip up fleece onesies that had him looking – and I’m sure feeling – like the kid from A Christmas Story. And poor Van, sporting two left shoes for the entirety of our trip. At least they matched.

The trees in the center of downtown were all lit, a scarf wrapped around the base of most with the sweetest handwritten notes reading sentiments like, “take me, if you’re cold”. A town filled with lovely people, beautiful turquoise, and so much Christmas cheer it was hard to not stay and enjoy what ended up being 6 inches of snow on Christmas Eve.

But alas, we headed through the mountains to the town of Jerome. A super small mining town that boasts having once been the fourth largest city in Arizona but nowadays is more well known for its ghost tours; The Grand Hotel having once been a hospital that served as the end of the line for many of the miners that contracted TB.

We stayed at a historic home that arguably has a more captivating history than the town itself. Built in 1898 to house mining executives, then sold to a family of five who survived the mudslide in the 1950s that completely destroyed the majority of the home. The floor rolled up and tangled with heaps of mud until 2013, when the home was completely renovated back to it’s original glory. And when I say original glory, I’m talking original wood burning stove glory. Complete with the added battle-wound-markers, like the plaques that are found throughout the home to show just how high the mud reached. And heaps of framed photos documenting the restoration process. A process that had to be none other than a labor of love seeing just how difficult it was to drive our pickup truck up its windy steep path, let alone the machinery needed for that kind of construction.

It wasn’t a bad place to be stuck when a stomach bug took a few of us down. The tree swing proving a peaceful retreat during the breaks in the storm that came sweeping through and made staying in, despite illness, somewhat enjoyable. A break in the travel go-see-do mentality.

We spent the better part of a day driving through Sedona and stopped at Arcosanti on the way to Chandler, where Willy’s family lives. And from that point on it’s kind of a blur, with too many Christmas shenanigans to count and the mound of new toys making my head spin. The best kind of blur, I suppose.

We made it back just before the New Year and were greeted with rain, which for those in California is so coveted these days. The perfect way to ease back into the whirlwind that is everyday life. Unpacking, laundry, sorting, donating, regrouping. And, just like that, the calendar flips, one year ends, another begins, and life goes on.

Childhood Unplugged

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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.