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.

Woman’s March

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Hot damn the topic of politics can bring out some rippin’ and roarin’. While the majority of what people posted on social media (and by ‘social media’ I mean instagram because I’ll be damned if I have time for anything else these days) seemed to be with good flavor, I have a twinge of a bad taste left from a few of the comments on one image I posted on our shop feed as well as some of the other less-than-supportive sentiments I came across on the feeds of others. And it’s just like those bad tastes to ruin your palate all together, isn’t it? In any event, we marched the good march; not so much in protest because what’s done is done. But we marched for solidarity.

I had intentions of attending one of the larger marches but having just come back from Arizona the night before after lying Willy’s beautiful grandma to rest, the local march here – in San Clemente – was about all we could muster the energy for. And in hindsight standing amongst our local neighbors and fellow sisters was meaningful in a way that I needed.

It was fast and rather uneventful; the boys chasing their sweet friend Hazel, Sonny drifting off to sleep, and the rest of us walking amongst the honking horns in a sea of homemade signs reminiscent of so many that came before them; we shall overcome, a women’s place is in the revolution, and so on and so forth.

Prior to the march, I spent time talking to the boys about what it means to be a woman, a human, and how we can better support women and each other. For me, it’s not about bashing our new President as much as it is about talking about what’s right, what’s fair, and what equality means. We talked about respect and compassion and what those seemingly cliche words mean. We talked about embracing differences and practicing tolerance. All concepts worth introducing, regardless of the weight they carry.

And so, they carried their signs, they gave some hugs, they marched. But mostly they ran and laughed and played. Because while we’re busy working on their future, they’re busy staying in the moment.

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An addendum: I think so many of us harbor good intentions but meet road blocks when trying to transition said intentions into any sort of meaningful action. The sheer volume that turned out to the marches is great, but for many, it ended when the march ended. And not so much out of apathy but out of paralysis; paralysis stemming from just how big the issues we’re facing are. So big that it’s hard for any one individual to conceptualize what needs to be done and so, many of us end up doing nothing.  I’ve been mulling over a few ideas in my head in ways I can help and contribute on an individual level. Aside from the teaching I’m doing at home, because that goes without saying.

How about you? Any ideas of how to take action?

All images shot with my iPhone after taking my camera out only to realize I had no battery life. Ho hum. Long live the iPhone. 

Ventura

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In any event, we spent Thanksgiving in the Ventura area where we met up with my side of the family and enjoyed the company of a cousin I have not seen for 10 years. So nice to reunite and to catch up. I had a family session in the area as well because, well, two birds, one stone (with any luck I’ll find the time to share some images from it soon). Willy met up with some of his friends over the long weekend as well, while I caught up on some work (like I do) and tended to the wild beasts (like I do). And we managed to swing over to a friend’s birthday party where we learned Sonny will fight for balloons and where Van had his head buried in the lap of one little girl in particular for much of the evening. Mark my words, that kid is going to be trouble with the ladies. We swung by downtown briefly in hopes of finding some fabric we need for an upholstery project but couldn’t find a local shop that had any holidays sales, though we did hit up a used bookstore and let the boys each pick a few books (which, if you saw their room, is clearly not what we need more of — the current book situation is near the top of my tending-to-our-home-and-finally-unpacking list). And while Sonny napped in the car and the boys flipped through their new-to-them books and Willy streamed the football game, I jetted in to a few of my favorite consignment and thrift shops and came away for a few finds. Oh yes, and breakfast at the same spot each morning (homemade biscuits for the win).

Minus some rain and some chilly weather, an enjoyable holiday break.

The Speed of Life

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This year has been the busiest yet; the hands on the clock seemingly skipping numbers and yet so many blessings to count. Sonny, first and foremost. Our third boy, a boy I fought long and hard to have (not in terms of conception but rather in terms of persuading a certain someone on the addition of another. Perhaps I’ll share more of that journey in time). Said move to a home, with a yard. A home I just can’t wait to sink my teeth into as soon as I can get a grip on things (I keep fantasying about the new year bringing a slower pace as if the flip of the calendar will somehow change the current momentum). And a fun little side business that has demanded we constantly adapt to its growing needs (getting a handle on the whole world of taxes being our current demise).

And yet, just when I thought time couldn’t move any faster, that things couldn’t possibly get any hairier, December comes around. And perhaps having a school-aged kid now adds to the struggle; teachers gifts, Holiday celebrations, book exchanges, and all these other functions that have me slinging stale french fries off the floorboard of the car and calling it lunch.

I suppose any of these reasons can attest to my absence from blogging this month but I think a lot of it also has to do with so many heartbreaking current events and a resounding loss of hope I think many have felt over the last few months; at least here in America, anyways. Though I think of this space as a keepsake for my boys, it’s hard to recount things from such an isolated perspective; meaning, there is so much more important things going on in the world.

I think we all could use a fresh start. Here’s to hoping that the New Year brings with it a slower pace and some much needed peace. There’s a lot of healing, for so many and on so many levels, that needs to happen. Hoping we can take the spirit from the holidays and use it to push forward in a direction we can all move together.

Happy Holidays, to all.

A Bath

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san-clemente-family-photographer-0015 san-clemente-family-photographer-0021 san-clemente-family-photographer-0024 san-clemente-family-photographer-0017 san-clemente-family-photographer-0026I haven’t been picking up my camera for the sake of purely picking up my camera lately. It’s easy to feel inspired when we travel or celebrate but the everyday gets so hectic, now more than ever, that I’m shooting less. I suppose that’s complicated by the fact we are still unpacking and getting situated and the environment I live in at the moment doesn’t lend itself to the inspiration I need to feel motivated enough to actually pick up the damn camera. It’s a work in progress though and if I’m being honest it’s more the everyday mess that makes me turn the other way as opposed to what sits unfinished or in progress.

In any event, I stuck Sonny in the sink the other day and captured these images, which proved a more  dangerous endeavor than I anticipated. And more wet than I had hoped for. But, alas, a clean baby, clean counters and floor, and these images to look back on. Dedicating myself to revitalizing my love for shooting in-home, starting with my own in my own home.

Baja

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The border crossing was our most eventful yet. Flooding the border were hundreds of Monguls, the border police scampering to herd them like cattlemen corralling sheep. Only the cattlemen had assault rifles and the sheep were anything but, well, sheep. And for whatever reason we got lumped in with them, Willy’s tattoos – perhaps – causing concern enough to subject us to a thorough search. If you saw my post on Instagram, you know Willy’s balls took a few days to recover. I asked to take Sonny out of the backseat so I could feed him and a few of the border policemen actually made a barrier to protect me while I opened the door and took Sonny out. As if there was going to be a gun battle. It was crazy. After some questioning they realized we had no affiliation and basically told us, nicely, to get lost. And we did.

We visited our regular haunts, returning to the same restaurant we frequented the last time we were in the area; the waitress as happy as ever to scoop a not-so-little Sonny back up into her arms to parade around the restaurant as if he were her own. The boys, impatiently waiting their turn for the pool table where they crash balls into each other and where we buy a round of beer for the few patrons that have to put up with such. Where the fish is fresh, the drinks strong. And where one night we forgot to bring cash (because, Mexico) and had our bill taken care of by two nice gentlemen we had seen eating there the night before.

We spent one afternoon just driving and exploring, making our way down dirt roads and pot-hole-ridden back roads, weaving in and out of the outskirts of downtown Ensenada. Trying our best to teach the boys that there are so many different ways to live. That while some are poor and live without many of the niceties they’re used to that there’s still life and love and happiness. Hoping that one day they will feel the gratitude I know Willy and I both feel for the lives we live. That they will feel and experience the same warmth from giving.

Sunsets on the beach turning the wet sand into glass, their little shell-collecting-bodies reflected so beautifully. Days spent at a pace slower than we’re used to, the door open, flies roaming in and out as if invited, and Sonny – sweet Sonny – happy as pie to be anywhere we are all together.

We’re hoping to do another trip south of the border soon, adding a few more stops and towns along the way.

You can view images from our last trip here and the family video I made by clicking here.

Finding Peace

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Most days it feels as though my entire mornings are spent feeding Sonny; breastfeed first thing in the morning, then again before breakfast, then solids for breakfast, then breastfeed again before his morning nap. Throw in the usual distractions: butts that need to be wiped, gun holsters that need to be fastened, and the gazillion relentless requests for more Halloween candy and it’s easy to see why I no longer get any real work done in the morning. No shop orders filled, no emails replied to, no dishes cleaned, no moving boxes emptied.

Trying my best these days to cram in whatever work that needs to be done, rooms that needs to be cleaned, and dare-I-say, any time for myself into the couple hour window in which Sonny is asleep and – fingers crossed – the older boys are playing nicely (or in school). The struggle is real and it’s reflected in my absence here. A guilty pleasure I yearn to indulge but typically sits at the bottom of any to-do list, if it even makes the list at all.

The other week was especially grueling; a week loaded with appointments / check-ups, a bad case of the barfs for Van, and then Hooper, Halloween festivities, birthday parties, a bedridden sick husband, and about a thousand loads of laundry that are collecting wrinkles and so on and so forth.

All this to say, I’m still here. Juggling. Like we do. Setting aside to-do lists and finding peace – or trying to anyway – with slower, unproductive mornings in the hurry-up-and-get-shit-done-American-way-of-life sense. Enjoying these boys; all three of them. With vinyl spinning in the background, the occasional lashing out – like siblings do – and a busy little baby that really just wants to be in the mix.

Arizona

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My heart is here, in this little corner I’ve carved out on the inter webs, always. Finding the time, however, is always a struggle. Perhaps more now than ever. But I’ve kinda just succumbed to the fact of it and get in when I fit in. Trying to find peace with a to-do list that shows no mercy. Life slows for none of us.

And so, some pictures from our last trip out to Arizona. Over a month late, but who’s counting. A trip where we tried desperately not to melt; where the only time I had any energy to capture anything through my lens was in the comfort of air-conditioning. Or a setting sun. Where the boys left with a hue of green in their hair from the pool, which truthfully did little to quench the heat.

In any event, it was a nice time spent with cousins, grandparents, great grandparents; the boys enjoying their rides on the tractor and collecting bugs in the yard. I was able to score some nice things for the house as well, including an old wooden dresser and an antique mirror.

Hoping we’ll make it back out this fall, when the weather has cooled.

The Long Beach Folk Festival

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I felt the same way leading up to the Long Beach Folk Festival… questioning, once again, if we should have bought tickets and if going to the full day event would even be enjoyable with all three hooligans in tow.

And we had the best time ever.

Kids were free, there was plenty of room for the boys to run, we caught the banjo contest, had great burgers at one of the food trucks, listened to incredible music, and even got to hang for a few with Chuck Ragan, who truthfully was the main reason we bought tickets. We’ve seen him play several times and he always proves to be approachable and down-to-earth, so it was no surprise to find him enjoying a beer before his set, by himself, watching the band before him right there along with everyone else. Willy and I made a few babbling idiot comments, “I love your fish”, stumbled its way out of my mouth (in reference to all the fishing he does). We were like dyslexic teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert.

To our surprise, the boys watched his entire set right there on top of the speaker box. It’s an incredible feeling to watch your children enjoy something you love so dearly. The way music can bring strangers together strengthened further by having the boys there and entertained. There were several moments where I felt like they were feeling exactly what I was feeling; that feeling you get when you’re in the presence of something so much larger than yourself. But who knows, maybe the volume being put out from the speakers they were sitting on was just enough to keep their (at times) incessant whining at bay. Or maybe they were daydreaming of legos. Whatever the case may be, we actually got to listen to the entire set uninterrupted; no fights to break up, no trips to the portapotty, no whining because they were hungry… just pure music bliss, compliments of Chuck Ragan and his crew. Sonny slept through much of it. The icing on the cake.

We hung out for a bit afterward, caught some of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, watched the boys flirt with two dotting older girls who enjoyed the giggles the boys antics produced, ate dessert, and then called it a night.

We’ll plan on attending next year. And I probably owe Oceanfest an apology and perhaps a second chance next year. Because sure, it ain’t ever easy with the kids but days like this one are to blame (versus credit) for the hope I hold onto for future events to run just as smoothly.

Springville

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It got me thinking about what I do value. Not that I hadn’t evaluated such prior to now, but in that moment I couldn’t think of what my equivalent to his Rolex would be. I thought about the things I own and the price tags attached and all I could come up with was camera equipment, which truthfully speaking is an avenue of income and therefore doesn’t really count.

And then I thought about what I asked for for my birthday because surely birthdays are special and gifts for such are typically heartfelt. I asked for a trip; nothing fancy, just a weekend away with all of us together. And on my birthday I unwrapped a little box that contained a folded up piece of paper with a picture of a renovated barn on it.

Experiences, memories, and even the hard, trying times that come with traveling with littles are what make my heart pitter patter. And so, over summer (man I’m reminded of how behind I am on sharing stuff here), in celebration of my birthday, we loaded up the van and headed up to Springville, at the base of the Sequoias, with no plans in particular because, well, itineraries – and the people who make them – scare me.
We stopped at Walmart once we got into town, stocking up on breakfast items, a few snacks, and some fishing rods for the boys. Fishing rods we’d grow to detest in due time. I met Willy and the boys in the store after having fed Sonny in the car and upon walking into the ginormous store, I heard Willy screaming for Van. A few seconds after that I heard the announcement that a blond boy, in a black shirt, was lost and to keep an eye out. There is no feeling that can adequately describe the feeling of potentially having lost your child or, worse yet, having your child taken from you. I made a dash for the exit and frantically scoured the parking lot. I came back into the store, heard “code Adam canceled”, and found the boys; my heart trying hard to settle back to it’s ordinary position in my chest.

Down a dirt road, past a field of cows, we came up on the barn; the outside adorned with cobwebs and scorpions, the inside eclectic and kitchy.

We ate that night at a roadside dive bar; the kind of place you have to poke your head in and ask if kids are even allowed and when they tell you they are you’re directed to a table, the only table, in the corner of the bar. A bar filled only with locals. A bar we entered knowing no one and left knowing everyone, thanks really and truly to Willy, who is always the social butterfly of our clan. Not to mention the parting gifts we received, including fresh grapes from someones local vineyard and a tip on the trees the neighboring llamas enjoy most. We fed the llamas before heading down to the lake, the sun setting just behind the mountain as we got there.

We returned to the lake the next day, the 110 degree weather causing us to want to turn around nearly as soon as we got there. We settled in anyway, a few cold beers and some good tunes allowing us to sink our feet into the mud and forget, momentarily anyway, about how miserable triple digit weather can be. Unphased by the weather or the muggy water, the boys broke out their fishing poles, played with the worms, and practiced their casting. A thousand tangled lines and hundreds of lost bait later had us questioning Walmart’s return policies. And truthfully I thought it was all fun and games until Hooper came running up from the shoreline, a small fish dangling from the end of his line. Pride beaming from every orafice of his being and jaw dropping bewilderment on the faces of Willy and I. And tears, oh the jealous tears, streaming from Van’s eyes. Willy has the best picture on his phone of Hooper holding his treasured fish and Van, in the background, crying a cry that would lead one to believe a shark bit his hand off. Classic moments in brotherhood.

We returned to the lake later in the evening; the boys with a new found excitement about fishing and a new found determination to catch another. Chasing the dragon, if you will. Which, as life would have it, didn’t work out a second time. But there were frogs and they proved to be a welcomed distraction.

The following day we had intentions of making the short drive up the mountain and into the Sequoias as, truthfully, being amongst the trees is more what I had envisioned when we initially planned our trip. The road up the mountain, however, looked more like the way a drunk man would draw a straight line if blindfolded and using his non-dominant hand. Point being, it was a super winding road and given Hooper’s history with yacking – the latest culprit being the mere turnabouts in downtown Tijuana – we opted to skip the trees and head for another body of water instead.

We’re not the best planners and by the time we got out the door the following morning, it was verging on nap time, aka our-saving-grace, and so leaving when we did truly was a gamble. There were more tangled lines, this time accompanied with more tears and whining from Van (who needs a nap like a banker needs money). Not even a small catfish found on the end of his line, that Willy caught in an attempt to level the I-caught-my-first-fish playing field (and much to my dismay because hey, you win some and you lose some / life lessons) could brighten his day. We hung on for as long as we could before packing up and keeping our fingers crossed that we’d make it back in time to at least get an hour of downtime. And we did. Actually I found Hooper (who thankfully agreed to a nap despite it not being a part of his regular routine these days) curled up in the pack-n-play we brought for Sonny. Oh my mama heart…

That evening we returned to the same bar we had fell in love with prior; the food nothing to write home about but the faces familiar, the welcome warm, the beer cold, and the tunes spot on. We got to talking to two young cowboys and the boys were all kinds of impressed to see the videos of them riding bulls. Hooper requested a picture with them and of course I obliged. We hung with the locals, mostly transplants from other areas of California, while the boys flung the pool balls about and attempted to befriend the llamas out back.

We left in the morning. Our last adventure before the dreaded, though not-so-dreaded, start of school. But more dreaded than not dreaded because summer has our hearts.

Arizona

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We typically try to avoid Arizona in the summer months, the desert heat being the obvious deterrent. But with Sonny relatively new, it only made sense to get out there while we can. With Hooper starting Kindergarten, our days of picking up and leaving for a week at a time are more-or-less a thing of the past; a hard pill to swallow considering that we’ve worked so hard to avoid the 9 to 5 only to be imprisoned by a different kind of normalcy. In any event, luck was on our side and in place of the standard summer heat we were greeted by storms that left the sky overcast and the air moist enough to only flirt with being uncomfortable.

We spent much of the mornings in the pool, where the older boys are finally getting more comfortable and where sweet Sonny floated as though he was born with the notion of what it means to relax engrained in his bones. I used to dread having to travel with a little one in tow, but he’s proven to be adaptable and thus far has skipped that whole 4 month sleep regression thing that I remember experiencing all too well with Hooper and Van.

The boys caught some spiders, rode around on the tractor, and spent some time with their cousins. Zoe, who is just about a year younger than Van; close enough in age that the competition – in Van’s mind anyway – is fierce.

We ventured into the Tonto Forsest, one of my favorite places to visit when in town, where we came across a dead dog (it looked as though it were a fighting dog that someone ditched on the side of the road) and wild horses; the wild horses, of course, being the highlight. We also made the drive up to Prescott for a rodeo which, for me, was more successful in terms of people watching than in terms of barrel racing. In fact, the whole event had me scratching my head as to why animal rights activists aren’t all over this shit. My mother-in-law and I dodged at least half of it, opting instead for the 50% off sale at the thrift shop across the street, where I scored a pencil sketch drawing of a Boxer I’m still salivating over.

Trying, already, to plan a few ditch days so we can head out to Arizona again. Summer has come and gone too fast; the start of school seemingly bringing an end to a season – my favorite season – despite the heat and orange sunsets that have all of our minds still in a summer trance. Because, really, it is still summer. Damn education.

Baja

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In any event, we nearly opted not to go two hours into our drive when we realized we left our passports at home. Passports, that in all fairness, were not needed years ago when trips down to Baja were our summer norm. Before, you know, you heard stories of families being carjacked at gunpoint, the mother raped in front of her children, and the family left roadside with no means of getting home.

Willy and I gave each other pep talks on the way back home to retrieve our passports, taking turns calming one another down and promoting all that good attitude shit that’s really the last thing you want to hear when you’re sulking in your own despair and watching minutes turn to hours all the while questioning the safety in Tijuana after dark. Especially when one member of our gang whines a whine that makes even a desert lizard’s skin crawl about having to pee. Roadside piss stops in Tijuana after dark? Let’s just say we were happy to have crossed the border and made it through Tijuana while it was still light. Never mind the other member of ours that hurled all over himself and his carseat, the mere turnabouts in Tijuana causing whatever food we had thrown back at them to quiet them on a drive that turned out to be double the amount of time we had anticipated (all because of said passports) making its way back up. And out. And all over.

It was only after cleaning up the barf that we could begin to tackle how to get to where we were going. There was added frustration having had no address for our destination provided and instructions that included “turn left at the Cali-Mart”, only there were several Cali-Marts, and “turn right after the first speed bump”. Fortunately we were able to laugh about most of it because, well, Mexico. It’s all part of the experience, verdad?

The next day was a bit of a debacle. With the loan on our new house (we’re moving at some point this summer) closing, there were documents that had to be signed. Time sensitive documents. We spent the day with broken cellular connections trying our best to figure out a plan with our loan officer who ultimately, bless him, met us – well after dark – on a secluded road outside closed businesses, halfway between where we were and the border. We signed those papers in the back of his car with nothing other than a lone street light making the dotted line visible. We turned down a street vendor selling some stale shrimp on a questionable wood platter (because, Mexico), took a picture with our loan officer (because, memories), and headed back on the road in search of that damn Cali-Mart we missed the first time we passed it.

And from there, it was smooth sailing. We ate dinner at the same roadside restaurant, nestled amongst dilapidated homes and stale stagnant run-off outlets from the ocean, each night. It was the kind of place where everyone learned your name and our waitress, Brenda, traded me a margarita for Sonny as soon as I stepped foot in the door each night. The boys hung out in the room adjacent to the bar, crashing balls on the pool table into each other. And no one even gave us stink eye. Because, well, Mexico.

We had hoped to ride some horses along the beach but Willy veto’d that idea, questioning the safety of the boys on horses we didn’t know in a country with a less-than-desirable reputation. And truthfully, when I saw the state of the horses available for riding, I too agreed — more for the horses sake than for the safety of our kids. It seemed abusive riding horses so weakened and dismal appearing.

We stopped to get gas one evening, however, and adjacent to the gas station were some horses that I told the boys we could go look at. Next thing ya know some sweet Mexican man is lifting Hooper up on a horse and giving him a tour of the questionable surroundings. I posted a picture of him on the horse on instagram and practically spit out my margarita when someone commented saying that they too were offered a ride on a horse in Mexico and when the woman asked the man the name of the horse, the man replied, “I don’t know. It’s not my horse”. Oh, Mexico.

Thinking back, I can’t even recall the boys fighting much. I’m sure it happened, but it’s amazing how something that can downright ruin your mood in the moment it’s occurring can all be but forgotten some weeks later… after the stiff margaritas have worn off, I suppose.

In any event, we made it back – albeit a two hour wait at the border (during which I took Van to pee three times) – sans barf, with some homemade tortillas, some salt still on our lips, and plans to return again. Hashtag: poor man’s Big Sur.

Seattle

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Posting anything after all the tragedies that have taken place as of late feels inherently wrong. I get stuck in a sulking rut, feeling a bit down, burdened by the lack of motivation to move onward and trying to balance moving onward with making sense of all that has occurred in our troubled world. Thinking hard about the future and the children I’ve brought into this world who hopefully will shape it to be better than it is today. My heart goes out to all the families who are suffering because they’ve lost someone dear to them. Trying hard to hold onto hope.

——————–

I spent a few days visiting Janet in the beginning of June. In so many ways, it feels like yesterday when it was just the two of us, kicking cans on the side of the road in a town we didn’t know; when adventures of the like were’t so well documented and, well, cool. Fast forward a few years and six kids (between the two of us) later, not to mention moves beyond state lines and, well, it’s hard to get any sort of quality time these days. And by quality time, I mean slowness that allows for silence only the closest of friendships can feel comfortable with. With her husband and kids back in Utah for the week, it was just us girls (and Sonny), working side by side (so many new shop updates to come), mostly, drinking beer and ordering take out and catching up on all things big and small. Just what I needed, just when I needed it. A thirst only a best friend can quench.

Hoping to make it back before Summer is over and the rain rolls in; If you’re in the Seattle area, I’ll be offering a few sessions during my next visit. You can read the details here.

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.

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

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.

Arizona

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Everything feels like it’s being crunched in before this baby comes — one last business trip to the desert, one last trip to see Willy’s family in Arizona, etc, etc. And while the phrase “crunched in” kind of insinuates that there’s not room for it, it’s quite the contrary; a welcomed reprieve from the ever-present “how many weeks pregnant am I” google search from home. I used to google it because I didn’t know; now I know how many weeks I am (due to the ease of simple subtraction from my due date, which is – good golly – today or tomorrow or yesterday…) but had been taking advantage of the countdown they also provide in terms of days… I swear they’re determined to pull you in one way or another.

So in February we took a final trip out to Arizona to visit with family. We spent lots of time relaxing, I hit up a few thrift stores, the boys discovered a dead hawk (we came back with a few tail feathers), Willy shot his guns, and we all enjoyed Superbowl Sunday just as we did last year, in the backyard with family friends; the boys and I more entertained by the horses than the game and the horses more entertained by the carrots we had to offer.

I had a photoshoot that I’m in love with and will soon be sharing, the icing on the cake to an already great trip.

Wondering how that 6-7 hour drive will fair with a newbie in tow… the times, they are (soon-to-be) a’changin’…

Childhood Unplugged | The Salton Sea

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Before we dropped Willy off at his meeting he told me, “Just don’t let the boys touch the fish or go in the water”. But within minutes, fish were touched and there wasn’t any winning that battle; pieces of fish bone crunching beneath their sledge covered shoes and falling through the crevices between their fingers. Holding up varying degrees of rotting carcasses, “Mama, is this one okay to pick up?”, proving needless to answer given the fact whatever fish they were inquiring about was already in their little grubby hands. “Van, keep your thumb out of your mouth” the only request I could muster at that point.

The Salton Sea; so beautiful on the eyes, so hard on the nose. This trip, however, proving not so bad on the ol’ sniffer. Not one complaint from the boys, actually, who – in the past – have been turned off by the stench of those rotting carcasses.

They climbed rocks, fell on rocks, made footprints in contaminated mud that made me cringe about the thought of those shoes later having to come off and me, invariably, having to touch them to do so. But as the sun fell and the water turned to glass I opted to rely on a faint hope that I would find some hand sanitizer in the car and with that hope I let go of whatever reservations I had. I suppose that’s what happens when in the presence of beauty. We watched the birds fly overhead, a line of other photographers slowly lining the shoreline and mimicking the arrangement of the flying birds themselves; one evenly spaced, straight line. Reflections of wood posts that used to anchor yachts that have since left for other waters, cleaner waters, mirroring the reflection of the mountains and making it all look like a Salvador Dali painting leaving one to question which end is up. Fish carcasses tossed back into the waters that have discarded them – killed them – breaking the glass-like appearance and sending ripples outward, stillness turned to movement; the silence broken. The color palette of the sky subtly changing.

We made our way back, the nights sky illuminated by what appeared to be a full-moon. The water turned back to glass, silence reigning once again in the wake of the exit of two little boys who did their damnest to return those dead fish to their home in the sea, the Salton Sea; ever beautiful, ever polluted. One of life’s most interesting conundrums. One of my favorite places.

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A desert escape, part II + Waiting on a baby

San Clemente Family Photographer-1374

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Being overdue with both boys was one of the most torturous times for me, emotionally. In hindsight I’m sure a lot of it had to do with hormones, but there was also a mix of lack of control and fielding the questions from loved ones who seemed to think I had this control that I’m well aware of lacking. I felt this weird pressure to have some sort of hidden communication with my baby inside me; as if it would be giving me hints as to when it was going to come. And really, I did’t feel anything until I felt the buildup of what soon became everything.

This time around I’m in this weird balance of fretting being overdue again and yet, really savoring the last bit of all the magic that is pregnancy and, well, not really wanting (or being ready) for it to end. In no way am I trying to romanticize pregnancy… this shit is definitely hard. I mean it’s completely unfair how uncomfortable sleep has become; at a time when I really feel I should be storing up whatever extra couple of minutes I can I just can’t seem to escape a backache or a cramp in my leg that sends me literally shooting out of bed or a foot in my rib that makes it feel as if my uterine lining is literally tearing away at the seam. Hooper got up last night and showed up discretely next to my side of the bed requesting to be tucked back in. It was 3 am and I had already been up twice to pee and once to request that Willy give Van cough medicine because his incessant coughing was keeping me – and surely him – up.

I digress.

I remember a loved one telling me when I was pregnant with Hooper to stay busy. It sounded like sound advice; I mean waiting for water to boil while watching it takes forever. But I also remember it being it out of realm of abilities… I couldn’t wait for the transition from couple to family to begin and I literally passed each day with it consuming my thoughts and doing everything in my power – eating pineapple, walking the dog, bouncing on the ball, etc – to make it happen.

Just as I don’t feel the urge to know this baby’s gender this time around, I also don’t feel the urge to rush this baby’s arrival. I’m treading carefully when saying such because I still remember how torturous it can be; “it” being the wait and, really, the wonder if your body is going to do what it’s expected to do in the absence of dare-I-say having to be induced, again. And while I’m still in a good place, today, in terms of trusting my body and believing it will indeed start the ball rolling on it’s own, I know that as the days go on, that hope – that trust – tends to be brought more into question and self-doubt starts to whisper some pretty nasty things in your ear.

So I’m going back to that advice I received long ago: stay busy. And it’s much easier this time around, with two to tend to and a house that because of those two is constantly giving me something to do; something to wash, something to sort, something to organize or reorganize for that matter. For example, we had the nursery all set up… everything in place. Then we decided to photograph some rugs to add to our etsy shop and just like that, the crib is not where it needs to be, there are numerous rugs strewn about the room, and a bed covered in tapestries. And so, organize the nursery is back on the to-do list after having been scratched off weeks ago. And so it goes.

We’ve also opted to join Willy on some business trips out to the desert. I knew they were coming and I figured when the time actually came, I’d see how I felt. And having been feeling good – or good enough – I trekked my 38 week ass out to the desert, spending some one-on-one time with my boys while Willy attended his meetings. And watching those little loves of mine run and explore and even comfort one another when the other got hurt reminded me that staying busy, that getting out, and living – as opposed to waiting – is what feels right at this stage in the game. The asterisk being that all of this is subject to change. I know the raging lunatic is within me. I’m just hoping the baby comes before she has the time to show herself.