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!

An Interview, with photographer Niki Boon

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

 

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

Cousins at home
Cousins at home

 

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

 

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

 

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

Life on the road, an interview with Renee

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Renee, @wandrlyrenee, and I have been friends via instagram for years now and she’s someone that has always inspired the go-see-do spirit that lives strong within me. She’s been living life on the road with her young boys for years and seeing snippets from her travels always has my wandering soul energized. Life on the road is always an interesting conversation because we all know how hard even stationary life with children can be. You may recall my interview with Kate, from @birchandpine, earlier in the year (you can read it here). In any event, I thought it’d be fun to continue the conversation with Renee. With no further adieu…

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. Where were you born and raised and how did it have an impact on how you raise your children?

I was born and raised in Michigan. My parents were boaters so that’s how we spent our summers. Maybe that’s where my love of living outside and close quarters came from. I’ve always thought it’s the same thing as camping you’re just on the water.
Tell us a bit about your husband and your boys.

My husband’s name is Nathan (@wandrly). He’s an incredible writer and artist. He’s a true dreamer and is able to make a reality of almost anything. He kicks ass. Tristan is our teenager. He came into my life with Nathan and was the most adorable eight year old I had ever laid eyes on. He’s truly the most compassionate and intelligent kid. I’m lucky to have him. Winter was my first babe. He’s five. Wild and crazy and full of life. He’s not an easy one, but he makes me a better person everyday and he changed my life when I first held him in my arms. My heart pretty much exploded when we met. Wylder is the baby. He’s three. He’s a hellion just like his bro, but he’s just too stinking cute. I had envisioned them to be best buddies, but it’s more like short bouts of love and mostly full on war. It’s crazy!!!

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The road is your home. How long have you guys been living on the go?

We’ve been living on the road around 6 years. We stopped to have our first baby on the Oregon coast and jumped right back in the bus when he was 4 months. The second guy was born in Asheville and that’s when we decided to buy an airstream, because we had outgrown our beloved bus.
Why is living on the road important to you and your family?

We really like being around each other. I had no idea how helplessly in love Id be with these boys. Traveling with them and showing them as much of this world we can is a dream. I get to teach them and watch them learn and grow. It’s amazing.
What kinds of things (if any) do you think your children are missing out on that others, in a more structured environment, have not or will not? How do you think it will affect them in the long run?

I don’t think the little guys are missing out on anything. They’re at the age where living outside and exploring is the best thing for them. Learning from each experience and growing into these rad little dudes. Their older bother is at an age where he’s starting to want a crew of friends and to stay in one spot. We’re trying to find a balance for him somewhere down the road once he hits high school. wanderly5
How do your children handle life on the road? I suppose they’re young enough to not know life any other way, just as my boys are unfamiliar with life on the road. But do they ever express a desire to stay in one place or do they embrace the adventure?

This is the only life they’ve ever known. Its a giant adventure. Moving around is part of it. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a daily routine like other kids. They do the same things everyday, but in new places.
How do you and your husband make life on the road work in a financial sense? Every time I dream of such a life, I get stuck on the financial aspect of things. 

We’re very fortunate that Nathan is able to work on the road. He’s a web designer so he works for himself. He works a regular work week. I take care of the kids and all the other things that need to get done and when he’s done we set off and explore the area we’re in. Things work out the best when we stay in national parks and state parks so we don’t even have to drive to get to the good stuff.
Describe a typical day… from how you wake up, to what you eat, all the way to bedtime.

A typical day would be wake up feed the boys and get them outside. Tristan does school and Nathan works. The boys play around the campground exploring the area, riding bikes, getting dirty with whatever they see. After lunch the guys are usually done so we’ll find some kind of activity to do as a family. Hike, climb on rocks, walk the town, check out the visiter center, find the ice cream shop. If we’re not in the woods we usually find ourselves in small towns which I love.
After dinner I give the boys showers and they’ll watch a show while I clean up. Nathan and Tristan will make a fire and go over school for the day and hang out. I’ll read the boys a couple of stories and they’re usually passed out by 7:30 or 8:00. Then Nathan and I have the rest of the night to hang out. wanderly3
Where have you been and where would you like to go?

We’ve been all through the U.S.  Right now we’re traveling through Baja with our friends and still deciding what’s next. It’s been an amazing trip down here so far. Our friends have three kids and we’re a  traveling tribe of ten. We’re meeting new people everyday and hearing their stories about how they are making life on the road work. It’s awesome how many families are out here doing this.

 

What was your favorite place yet and why? Gosh that sounds like a question my Grandma would ask. I’m sorry.

I’d say Baja has been my favorite so far. Everything is completely different. It’s refreshing and exciting to set off and have no idea where we’ll end up. The people are so nice. The food is killer and everything is super cheap. Driving down dirt roads to camp on secluded beaches. Hanging in little towns meeting and connecting with so many lovely people. It’s honestly been unreal.

 

Do you ever get time alone with your husband? What’s it like living in such close quarters? Perhaps the most memorable part of watching the documentary Surfwise was the part where the children recounted walking in on their parents having sex on a regular basis and that being something that was more or less the norm. Not that I want the details of your sex life, but I am curious about privacy and time alone with one another… If you’re willing to share… wink wink. 

We get plenty of alone time. Tristan pops in his tent and plays games with buddies online, and I put the boys to bed crazy early so we have the whole night to hang by the fire, drink some beer, and talk about life. wanderly4

We’ve been friends for a long time via social media. Have you met a lot of likeminded people on the road through things like instagram and Facebook? 

We’ve meet some really great people through Instagram. Most importantly the family we’re with now. We met years ago and always made an effort to hook up whenever we were in the same parts of the country. Now we’re traveling all through Mexico together and it’s so great. Sometimes you meet people and you’re instantly friends. This crew is like our family now.
How do you view your future? How long do you think you’ll keep on’ truckin’? Do you ever have the desire to settle in one place? And if so, where would it be (I imagine it being a difficult choice after having experienced so many rad places). 

We talk about buying land at some point. A place Tristan can hang and find himself a bunch of friends. After that I’m sure we’ll be off. Nathan and I want to see as much of this world as possible. We both get really antsy standing still. Our life isn’t always perfect but we both want the same things and that’s something that we thrive on. Living life this way is harder in many ways but it feels good to actually be living.

 

You can read more tales from different families regarding life on the road by checking out Wand’rly Magazine. I especially liked this piece on How to Travel Full-time

Before & After: Life on the road, an interview with Kate, from Birch & Pine

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Some time back I had the opportunity to meet up and photograph Kate & Ellen, from Birch & Pine. Kate had actually requested a local pickup of a Mama Bird tee given the fact that they had been living on the road and did not have a shipping address. What started as a shirt drop off turned into a tour of their home-on-wheels, some photos down at the beach, followed by some hang time between their daughter Adeleide and the boys the next day, and then, well, an entire Sunday watching football and cooking food and folding laundry. Never mind the latter, it’s better folding laundry with new friends, let me tell ya. We had a great time exchanging life stories and comparing romantic presumptuous notions about one another’s lives. When they pulled away in their airstream the next morning, Willy and I were both a bit sad (it’s been a long time since he’s had an entire day dedicated to watching football with someone who actually enjoys it). They made promises of return visits and have already made good on their word. I suppose it’s our turn to visit them next. It’s not everyday that you meet new friends that instantly feel like old friends. In any event, I thought I’d interview them here so ya’ll could have the pleasure of knowing a bit about them too. San Clemente Family Photographer-62 San Clemente Family Photographer-69

I suppose it’s best to start out with an introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourselves, what you’re doing, and something unique about each of you.

We are Kate (a photographer, writer, and stylist) and Ellen (an art teacher turned woodworker) – wives (to each other, sometimes people don’t catch that one), and mamas to a beautiful and brilliant daughter, Adelaide. We are currently in month five of a road trip around North America, and live in our renovated 1957 Airstream, on a search for a place to call home and an understanding of who we are creatively and personally.

Let’s see, something unique…I (Kate) went most of my life without understanding the beauty of bluegrass music…until moving to Kentucky to live with Ellen. Now I can’t imagine my life without it! Ellen can make just about anything she puts her mind to making…she’s a natural problem-solver and this comes into play when she is creating.San Clemente Family Photographer-9San Clemente Family Photographer-61

I always say that I prefer travel over vacation and that traveling is synonymous with some degree of difficulty. Vacation is a break in the action but when you return, you jump right back into the action. Traveling is far from a break, and often more difficult than regular life – albeit a beautiful change in scenery – but you often return with a perspective and knowledge and outlook that far exceeds the length of the actual trip. Would you agree?

We would both absolutely agree, one-thousand percent. We weren’t quite prepared for how difficult living on the road would be. The lack of comforts were one thing, but we didn’t know it would affect our marriage so negatively (goodbye date nights, adult conversation, and sex), how little we’d actually get to explore (we’re too busy homeschooling, working to generate income, or setting up and tearing down our house when we get to a location or leave one), or how our emotions could vary from day to day – one day I’ll love every second of traveling and think…I could do this forever…and the next day I’m collapsing on a curb because I’m so overwhelmed by it all.

Yet there are moments that make it all worth it, despite the hard days or circumstances – like meeting new people we’d not have otherwise met, seeing glaciers for the first time up close, when the right song comes on while driving down the road and the temperature is just right. And while we’re not clear on how we’ll feel and what we will have learned when our travels are over and we return to ‘normalcy’, we can definitely say, even now, that we’ve figured out some really vital things about ourselves and our future that we wouldn’t have discovered without this trip.San Clemente Family Photographer-25San Clemente Family Photographer-56San Clemente Family Photographer-3

You travel with a dog and a cat, which I assume many would see as an added challenge. Do you think you could travel with a fish or would you draw the line there?

The line is already drawn at the dog and cat! I knew that I (Kate) would really struggle with having two pets with us on the road, but the fact is: we love them and are responsible for their care, no matter where we are or what we decide to do in life. It’s definitely hard to manage sometimes, but they bring such warmth and love into our lives and our home. It’s just like the travel itself – it’s hard to have them with us, but they make it worth it when they cuddle up with us after a hard day.San Clemente Family Photographer-20 San Clemente Family Photographer-19 San Clemente Family Photographer-17 San Clemente Family Photographer-21 San Clemente Family Photographer-24

Downsizing from a larger home to a smaller one is never a walk in the park. It’s even harder to fathom how to downsize to a 27 foot trailer. You’ve sold or donated many of your possessions, which I think all of us – no matter the size of our living corridors – intend to do. Did you follow any rules as far as getting rid of stuff was involved? Was it difficult or freeing? Is there anything that you got rid of that you regret?

Go with your gut. Don’t hem and haw over every single item you sort through…your first instinct is usually the right one. If you know you’ve not worn that tank top all summer and it’s now autumn, you’re likely not going to wear it next summer. It’s pretty easy to get matter-of-fact about it if you don’t let yourself get to the doubting stage (like having an outbox by the back door – that’s just setting you up for keeping the contents).

For us, it was freeing. It’s pretty fun to know that everything we own can be hauled down the highway. At this point, we don’t regret it. It’s really amazing to get a completely fresh start. Sometimes I miss this broken brass lamp I picked up at a flea market for $2…I sold it for $10, and it’s one of the things I wish I’d saved. A broken, cheap brass lamp of all things…
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Life on the road is much like life anywhere in the sense that it’s always going to have it’s highs and it’s lows. Can you take a minute to paint the picture of what a great day of life on the road looks like and then what a I-can’t-wait-to-settle-down-because-life-on-the-road-is-hard day on the road looks like?

Good day: We wake slowly in some incredible location…perhaps the rocky beach surrounded by waterfalls and glaciers in Alaska, or underneath the moss covered trees of the Hoh Rainforest…or that morning in the Badlands, watching the sunrise and a thunderstorm take place simultaneously, crazily, across the ridiculously vast sky. Coffee together, savoring it, conversation, a child playing at our feet. A hike, a day of exploration. A picnic lunch…songs on the radio as we drive. A dinner over the campfire, beers and singing and playing the guitar together.

*These have rarely happened all in one day – these are merely snippets of time and rare moments for us.

Bad day: I’m melting, purely melting in the heat…and shade and a breeze aren’t found. We’re out of coffee…I walk around to get something out of the car and smack my forehead into one of the open Airstream windows, knocking me to the dirt and I start bleeding profusely. The dog shits in the bathroom and someone steps in it…then the cat vomits on the rug…and someone steps in it. The dinner gets burnt, there isn’t wifi or cell signal and I’m behind on work. We’re driving somewhere and hoping to find a campsite…and keep on driving, because every single one we stop at is full.  Throw a few fits in there, the good and strong kind, where your kid is having a full-on breakdown, complete with hysterical crying, yelling, and gets a few blows to your face in. We stop on the side of the road and hope we don’t get a ticket or hit in the middle of the night…and get a restless night of sleep, especially when the cat has eaten something weird – one of my plants, of course, and pukes again…and then takes a shit and fills the tiny trailer with a smell that would rouse the deepest sleeper.

*This has all happened in one day.San Clemente Family Photographer-113 San Clemente Family Photographer-111

You’ve met many people on the road. I often feel that in general we’re all very disconnected, that we lack a human connection. But life on the road kind of sets you up to meet a lot of strangers and engage in a lot of conversations. I assume you’ve had to rely on others, at times, which I think can be a very beautiful and connecting experience. Has it been hard to meet people and then move on or are you simply grateful for the people you’ve come in contact with?

We set out to find community on this trip, something that we really lacked back in Kentucky…and we’ve definitely found it. I am so amazed by how deeply we can connect with others when they are open to it…I’m not a shoot-the-shit kind of person. I’m going to get in there and pry and ask you how you really are. We both desire real conversation, to linger over a messy dinner table because no one dares to rise and start cleaning up…the things happening at the table are too good. We’ve found this, from Ontario to Portland to California to Alaska. It’s all been so good, and each friendship forged looks different. Some people we keep in touch with more than others, some we feel entirely comfortable with right away, some it takes a bit more time to get to know. Some relationships have just been pure fun – drinking and talking and being silly…and each friendship is amazing in it’s own right. It’s definitely difficult to move on, especially when you have such a real and vital connection.

Our reliance on others has been hard for us, as we both take pride in our independence. We love that we renovated our Airstream ourselves entirely, that we prepared for this life without support from our families or anyone else – it was just us. We were all we had. In that way, it’s difficult to understand that there are people willing to support who we are and what we do, to accept our family as normal, all of it. Yet we’ve needed that so badly – it has moved us to tears when someone offers us a meal, a bedroom to spread out in, time alone as a couple, a shower, or leaves a bottle of wine, gift cards, and the sweetest message in a grocery bag under my seat in the car (looking at you, Ashley!), or simply speaks to us like we are normal – asks us for parenting advice, asks when we got married, celebrates us as a real couple and a real family, because we are. None of this was had before, and we have that now. We found what we were looking for in so many folks, all across the continent.San Clemente Family Photographer-116 San Clemente Family Photographer-39 San Clemente Family Photographer-60

You’re without many simple luxuries living the way you are. I figure you must either fall into the who-needed-that-stuff-anyway category or the I-can’t-wait-to-take-a-shit-in-a-bathroom-with-a-door category. Which do you each fall into? What has been surprisingly easy to do without? What has been difficult?
 
You know, I think that I fall somewhere in between – and so does my wife. We don’t regret what we did – we didn’t need all of that stuff that filled our house. We don’t miss it, and having everything we own following sort of dutifully behind us as we travel is really amazing to us. Letting go of all of those things gave us the gift of understanding what we truly need. We wouldn’t have known that otherwise. On the flip side, we’ve realized that we are people who don’t do living this simply all that well. We like ice-makers, and washers and dryers, and having a private bedroom with a door, and a flushing toilet (we compost in the Airstream). At first, I felt really guilty about missing those things…but I’m not sure why. I think it’s okay to want comfort – but yet knowing that for five months so far, I’ve gone without anyway, despite the discomfort, gives me a sense of accomplishment. I am able to push through difficult situations and live with less, but I’m looking forward to the day when we settle down again and have some luxuries…yet we plan to continue living with less, mindfully consuming, and purchasing products with intention.San Clemente Family Photographer-103 San Clemente Family Photographer-70 San Clemente Family Photographer-67

I traveled a lot in my mid-twenties and encountered a lot of friends and family that were astonished that I had “that kind of money”. The reality is that my best friend and I worked really hard, saved all of our money, and traveled very cheaply. In India, for example, we paid $2 for the room we stayed in. It had bed bugs in it, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, I think a lot of people look at your lifestyle and discount it as an option because it’s something they feel they cannot afford. Can you touch on how you’ve made it work and how you’ve opted to do without to keep it sustainable?

You’ve hit on something here – people do assume you have to be ridiculously wealthy or something close to it to travel. For us, it was about wanting it more than anything and working our asses off to make it happen. From concept to culmination, it took a year and a half to even get on the road. During that time, we gave up weekends, weeknights – we renovated our Airstream completely (everything new, from the subfloor to the electrical to the design and execution), went through the excrutiating process of selling our house, lost sleep, lost all free time, and I took some pretty weird freelance jobs to save up for our trip. We worked hard to make it happen. We weren’t wealthy – Ellen was a high school art teacher and I am a freelance photographer.

We go without a lot of amenities – we opt for free or cheap dry camping whenever possible, and often don’t have wifi for binge watching Netflix (my favorite!). We don’t eat out much, or buy clothes unless we absolutely need them (not like we have the space anyway). When designing our Airstream, we kept the interior simple so we’d have more money to travel. We live with less right now so we can experience more – it makes sense to us. So it really just depends on what you can do without – or how far you’re willing to push yourself.

Each lifestyle has it’s own trials and tribulations as well it’s beauty and perks. Some want land while others with land know the hard work involved in having land and want less. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? What do you think is the secret to happiness and deciding on a lifestyle that’s best for you? How’s that for a loaded question?

I love that I’m getting to answer this question right now, as we have been having these types of discussions lately. It’s a constant push and pull of emotions (I love this, I hate this), especially for me. I long for the comforts of home (you might catch me listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s song, Homeward Bound, on repeat one day…then America the next), yet I know when we are done and settled and have sold our Airstream, we’re going to miss the road like crazy. I feel we all tend to romanticize what we don’t have. I’ll be the first to admit that while I understood that living on the road would be rough, I also romanticized it greatly. Currently, I’m neck-deep in fantasizing about a stationary existence…Saturday markets, Sunday football on the sofa, the ability to sprawl out and have a moment to myself in my own shower, et cetera.

I say…you do what you want. Do it wisely, do it because you truly want it – not because someone else has it and you are jealous, but because in your heart, you know it’s absolutely right for you (and your family, if you have one). Life is short. We all know this…if you are looking around at your life and it’s not what you thought it would be, if it’s not as you imagined it, if it makes you sad…change it. Don’t waste a second. Start working toward change, one step at a time. Find what works for you. This may look different in a few months, a few years. That, I think, is the secret. Be open to change, be aware of who you are and what you need, and work for what you want in life.San Clemente Family Photographer-150 San Clemente Family Photographer-58

I imagine you’ve traveled to many different places and I know some are more welcoming and forward thinking than others. Have you felt accepted as a gay couple? 

Surprisingly, we’ve not had too many issues out on the road. One of the biggest reasons we left Kentucky was intolerance and prejudice, and no matter where we’ve gone, we’ve felt comfortable and accepted for the most part. It feels, at times, that we are constantly coming out over and over. We are always meeting new people and gauging their reactions as we introduce one another as each other’s wives.

There are a few key moments that stand out, two of which that occurred on the same evening – we were watching the sunset on the Redwood coast, and a woman nearby was scrutinizing us, sizing Ellen up (sometimes people try to figure out if she’s male or female – since short hair, tall height, and small breasts somehow equates masculinity, never mind the lack of stubble or Adam’s apple or frontal junk), which just, for the record, is completely unnecessary – why does anyone care whether or not she’s male or female? No one needs to stare that hard to figure it out, unless they want to somehow feel more comfortable if they can assume she’s male and not female and we’re you know, normal. She was so uncomfortable…we were in this beautiful setting, on a cliff over looking the ocean, and she couldn’t relax into me the way that woman was able to relax into her male partner. It didn’t seem fair…our evening was interrupted and tainted. That same evening, another woman had seen this happen – and took the time to compliment us on being (and I quote), a “neat family unit”, and went on to congratulate us on being so brave. What we remember about that evening wasn’t the incredible scenery, the crashing waves, the feeling of watching the sun dip below the water, what we remember is how two people made us feel like shit for just being us.

I tell this story for a few reasons – one, Ashley asked me this question, and two, she specifically asked me to share the ‘neat family unit’ story, and three…we don’t deserve comments or scrutiny such as those I shared above. We are good people, good parents, and love one another deeply. These are the only things that matter. San Clemente Family Photographer-86 San Clemente Family Photographer-74

I think people are quick to assume that road life is synonymous with cheap food and drive throughs. I know you guys eat pretty clean. Can you give us an idea of what typical staples are in your diet for the following:

Breakfast: Sugar-free organic bacon, lacinato kale, and fried eggs with coffee and water. This is such an easy and filling healthy breakfast.

Lunch: If I could, I’d eat a turkey-and-cheese sandwich and potato chips every day for lunch…but that doesn’t work when you’ve cut out processed foods, sugar, gluten, or dairy. So instead, we make salads or lettuce wraps, and we have a lot of hummus and veggies. Soups are great in the cooler months.

Dinner: Since we only have one stove burner, I try to plan a lot of one-pan meals – soup with a big salad, risottos, rice pasta and homemade garlic sauce, chicken and veggies. We keep it really simple right now, although when we had a full-sized kitchen, our meals were much more involved!

Where do you see yourself and Ellen in 5 years? How about Birch & Pine?

I don’t have any idea – still married, still in love, still mamas. Professionally, geographically – I have no clue. That scares me a little, but to be quite honest – I love how wide open our future looks. I know that if we’d stayed in Kentucky, we’d not be in this position of beautiful possibility. We would have accepted our misery, our pain, and the life we didn’t want…instead, we’ve experienced this insanely beautiful, crazy hard, often ridiculous, amazing, eye-opening, soul-cleansing journey. All I can know right now is the love of my wife, the love of my child, and the love I have for them. The rest will come – we have plans, goals, and we’re working toward those goals…but we never expected this journey, so who knows where all of this will lead us?San Clemente Family Photographer-96

And a few more questions more relative to your life now, in Indiana…

 

You’re no longer living life on the road and though I know you’re still settling in, what are the immediate pros and cons to settling back in that might have taken you by surprise/that you didn’t expect?
Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting to feel so trapped. I thought I was ready. Ready to stop traveling, ready to settle in. I was craving so much, and now that I’m here, I miss the road desperately. A lot of this has more to do with circumstance than being stationary, as we are currently back in the Midwest and muddling through a pretty messy and emotional transition with our daughter’s biological father, who hasn’t been in her life much up until now. So not only are we figuring out life post-travel, readjusting to “normalcy” (over the holidays, no less!), we are learning to accept a new presence in our lives that is changing our family dynamic considerably, and it’s not necessarily for the better, at least not yet. We are in a completely new normal, and it feels foreign, sad, and scary – and daily I wish that things were different.
Outside of all of those things, I was surprised to see how quickly the people in our lives diminished our six-month journey – it’s as if we never left. We came back so changed…in many ways completely different people…and I find that friends and family expect us to be exactly the same as they remember us. We aren’t asked about the trip or how it affected us on a heart level, or even if we’d share some images or highlights. We are just back, and now that we’re here and not these elusive beings sharing snippets from afar, it’s business as usual. It’s the strangest feeling and one that I’m having difficulty putting into words, but it’s just awful to know you’ve been completely, irrevocably changed and no one seems to notice or care. It makes you wonder if you aren’t, and I don’t think I should question that based on what others do or say, but there it is.
The one pro in all of this emotional mess is we’ve realized how traveling is part of us now…that staying still for the rest of our lives just won’t work for us. My friend Su was talking me through a particularly difficult night and said, “once it’s (travel, the road) in your blood, you’re ruined” and that resonated so profoundly and loudly in my soul that it gave me, us, the very obvious answer that we needed – we aren’t done traveling and exploring and experiencing and learning what life on the road can teach us – not even close. With just five short months to go, we’ve set a goal to travel for a couple months this summer and keep adding to our map. Knowing that we can have the best of both worlds – be stationary and travel – was everything to us, the answer to so many questions.San Clemente Family Photographer-91 San Clemente Family Photographer-110
How has your version of the story of your life on the road changed since you’ve settled into your new home? In other words, is it easier now to forget the hardships and simply reminisce on the more meaningful and beautiful parts of what was life on the road? I always think that the view of the past is seen best through rose colored lenses…which is how I justify all of the elderly people urging us young moms to enjoy every moment with young kids.
I haven’t forgotten the difficulties at all…because those were completely present and real and really fucking stressful. When my wife and I talk about our months living on the road in our Airstream, we are using those hard experiences as teaching moments for ourselves. Now that we’ve decided to continue traveling in the summers, we are using those hardships to determine what needs to change for our next go round – such as a newer and smaller Airstream with more amenities (heat, A/C, a hot shower, a real toilet), no cat on board (we’d leave him with a trusted friend or family member so there wouldn’t be a constant worry of him escaping or dealing with the stink of his shit in a tiny space), and a shorter stint out on the road (two months instead of six) with a well-mapped plan that has room for adaptation, as opposed to the vague “plan” we had for the last six months with very concrete commitments to people that were hard to keep when we found ourselves further away from the place we needed to be.

We were completely unprepared in so many ways our first time out, and while it’s hard to admit that, it’s just fact. There were things we did right, sure – but many things we did just didn’t work. It’s such a shift, living on the road in tight quarters, constantly on the move – and how can you ever be fully prepared for that? It’s one of those things that you have to get hands-on with, no how-to guide or advice or research is going to prepare you for it. We learned as we went and came out much wiser. We will learn even more this summer.

With all of that said, however, I know that those beautiful moments happened. I haven’t been able to think about them much; the beauty of them is so absolutely incredible that it hurts to relive them in just memory form. I can’t scroll back in my Instagram feed to see the images I took while out on the road, and my computer houses thousands of images from the incredible places we visited (Alaska, Oregon, Wyoming, the Yukon…the list goes on) that I’ve not had the strength to go through. Certain songs make me break down and cry, others bring back visuals and feelings so strong that I have to turn the song off. Those beautiful things happened and they were so unbelievable, even amidst the stress of road life…and one day I’m going to be able to sift through the photographs and listen to those songs and feel all of the things – but it may be a long while. Right now, I think it’s going to take being out on the road again to be able to begin to truly process all of the things felt and seen and experienced and learned, the awe, the times of feeling tiny yet strong and brave, all of those moments of our breath being taken away by the beauty of everything out there that waits for us to come notice it, to take it in.

I’m sure tons of people may have questions about your airstream, which you guys have renovated entirely on your own and have recently sold… Where can people find more information? 

You can find us at www.birchandpine.co, where I am sorely behind on posting anything about our travels – or find us on Instagram, where I post far more regularly – our main account is @birchandpine, and we also have an account entirely dedicated to our Airstream renovation, where you can see the process from start to finish, @birchandpineairstream.
Writer & Photographer
B I R C H & P I N E
www.birchandpine.co
Instagram: @birchandpine & @birchandpineairstream
Pinterest: Birch & Pine

An interview with Dori Varga, builder of Tribe de Mama

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Some time ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Dori Varga, the beauty behind Tribe de Mama. I have been meaning to interview her here every since. Sometimes I get bored with the monotony that seems to have claimed much of social media and the blog world today; but there’s always a silver lining and Tribe de Mama, for me, is part of that silver lining. I love the sense of community and support that flows from Dori’s personal feed as well as from the Tribe de Mama feed; a place where women, all women, can go and feel united and invited. In any event, I thought some of you might be interested in learning more about Tribe de Mama. I’m also stoked to be able to share some more images from our shoot way back when because, well, it’s one of my all time favorites. With no further adieu, here’s Dori…TheStork&TheBeanstalkPhotography-4 TheStork&TheBeanstalkPhotography-6

What prompted you to start TRIBE de MAMA and how did it come about?

The creation and birth of Noah inspired me to get deeper, to dig deeper. Inside me, and outside me. Not a shock as I was doing all I could to prepare for an unmedicated birth, I had to tear all the walls and bullshit down that I had built up ever since childhood.

When the idea came to me I was already in the transition from an art blog to a blog which features artist women, with a specific focus on interviewing mothers who create art. I was, and am still, fascinated by the transformation of the feminine creativity when the mind and soul goes from maiden to mother. Such a special exploration!

Once Noah was born it was clear that I was on a mission, and that is to help to empower women, to inspire women, to help those looking for sisterhood, and to be a bridge between healers and those who seek healing. The rest organically flowed, and is still evolving.

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I’ve noticed gatherings taking place all around the world. Do you have a hand in organizing each of these gatherings? Where have you held gatherings thus far?

Yes, we indeed have events around the world; we have had women come together as TRIBE de MAMA in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Hungary, but our main playground still remains within the US.
Anyone can become an organizer, once they agree to follow our core values; creating a judgment free, safe space, where a loving and empathic sisterhood is gathered.

We make a difference between three types of events an organizer is able to create: gatherings, workshops, and women’s circles. For the latter we are currently creating the protocol.

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What are the gatherings like? What takes place at each gathering?

It depends on what kind of event we are talking about. A gathering can be a picnic, an organized hike, a class or lecture, a movie screening; really the list is infinite. What defines them all is that these events are free for anyone to attend and that they are all infused with our core values.

Can you speak to the power of women coming together? I think it’s such a beautiful thing, something our society really needs more of.

I absolutely agree.

I first felt the undeniable “girl power” while becoming a big Spice Girls fan when I was a young girl. My main attraction to this group was the way they celebrated unity in diversity. Five ladies, all very different, yet equal, best friends, creating sisterhood. Each of them representing an aspect of the woman, the goddess. I always thought whoever created that idea was a fucking genius! They must have had very similar ideas about women and ‘the future is feminine’ movement, as so many of us today.

Since then just the representation has changed, the main feelings stayed in me. I am obsessed with the empowerment and connecting of women. I believe that when we come together to celebrate life, to support one another, to inspire and uplift each other, we are raising the vibration of humanity and the entire planet. Through putting our hearts and minds together in a circle of trust and consciousness, we are creating a better future for our children. All you have to do is focus on your closest connections; your mother, your sister, your daughter, your daughter’s friends, your neighbor, her sister and friends, and so on. Your local village is the most important place for the work. Truly living the love, and fully embracing mindfulness and a generally peaceful lifestyle while nurturing our local, conscious, sisterhood is first. A sisterhood of equality and free of judgment.
I understand that not everyone has the opportunity to connect with likeminded women in real life, and for those sisters we created TRIBE de MAMA. To be all that I mentioned already: support, encouragement, inspiration, a safe place to turn to.

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Are most of the participants in TRIBE de MAMA mothers?

Mmm… Good question. I know that the word ‘mama’ confuses some, but we are not only for mothers. This expression is a hint for the nurturing aspect of the woman. This community is a place for anyone who identifies as a woman.

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Where do you see TRIBE de MAMA headed in the next 5 years?

You are not the first one to ask me this… I have no idea. Truly. Just in the first year we have built so much! But things seem to be slowing down a bit. I like to let the community lead the way, and organically set us up for what is to come. Let the ladies decide what they need most, and serve them. I am here to serve.

I look at TRIBE de MAMA as community first, then as a magazine. The community building part is what stands closer to my heart. I have been dreaming of working together with women on a global level for a long time.

Currently we are putting together the protocol needed to initiate official facilitators to hold space for TRIBE de MAMA. I am just starting to work together with Alison Love, shamanic healer, artist, and practiced women’s circle facilitator. She is one of my main co-creators who is helping me create a fresh system, proper guidelines, and a badass marketing and action plan to reach and help as many sisters as we can through our events.

A big part of our community building is the TRIBE FAMILY GATHERING, which we held for the first time in Joshua Tree last Halloween weekend. It was a powerful three days of about 60 men, women, and children. We held workshops, different healing circles, had the most talented holistic chef cook for us, built bonfires, played music, created art. Involving the partners of the TRIBE de MAMA girls was epic. From what I heard, saw, and felt, these men were changed and have been ever since. The brother circle and its work is just as important as the women’s; there is a deep need coming from men to gather and connect on the soul level at this time of life. My lover, Adam, heard this calling, and said yes to it. I am so proud of him for creating such magic for others to heal and grow. The entire weekend was just an amazing and profound experience for all of us that we decided to gather the tribe twice a year. Our next TRIBE FAMILY GATHERING will be in late September. This time we will open the doors for up to 120 sisters and brothers, and from now on we will be keeping to this number. Our aim is to keep the intimacy of the gathering, to truly recreate the feeling of the village.

On the other end, there is our magazine.  We are currently moving from a monthly to a seasonal format, as well as a professional online magazine layout. The website is being renewed as well; so we will be back online with our first seasonal issue, REBIRTH, being released at the end of January.
Since the start I have been aiming for a platform where the movers and makers of the feminine power can join forces and spread their wisdom and message. After a year, I finally feel like we have the team we have been looking for to make this dream come true.
My main assistants are Kristen Coleford, as Production Manager and Creative Co-Creator and Alison Love as Creative Co-Creator. Vanessa Perger as Editor in Chief is an amazing expert of written words, while Erin Erickson is helping her as Editor, and has been one of the main tribe girls ever since the beginning.
We are creating a lifestyle magazine for women of all ages, colors, cultures, and sexual orientations. Our mission is to bring a mindful, holistic, and spiritual approach into the everyday life through these pages, offering suggestions for our rituals in all aspects of life. You will find health and wellness pieces, as well as travel, fiction, interviews, photo journals, storytelling, empowering, informative, and other narrative articles. Our contributor group is also growing; currently we are working with about 60 women globally on the written content. There are another 30 women internationally who create art for us, to make the magazine an artistically valuable platform as well. Alexa Pique is my Art Curator with an amazing taste and voice, which keeps the creative juice flowing. We are co creating TRIBE de MAMA’s side project Kunstblitz together where we explore “Consciously Curated Art to Inspire the Feminine Heart”. Art is still a passion of mine, and I wouldn’t be able to give it up for a second. Connecting with people through paintings and photographs is such a deep way of learning of one another’s soul. I found some of the closest sisters around me through connecting through sharing art with each other.

Besides these parts, we have opened our own BooKlub as well on Facebook, led by beautiful sister KC Brezina, and which will be holding virtual meetings over the phone starting in the new year. The books KC has in mind for our community are truly beautiful readings to inspire the feminine mind and soul.

Lastly, we are also about to launch the TRIBE de MAMA Fundraising Collective with the lead of Ines Tucakovic and Stepha Lawson. Our mission is to support different organizations helping women, mothers, expecting women, or young girls in need, and to raise awareness within our community of the difficult situations of the woman living on our planet. My longterm plan is to build our TdM Fundraising Collective into a legit fundraiser organization, which will be able to co create with volunteer workers and serve the women in need. My biggest dream will come true when this happens.

My hope is that in the upcoming years we will truly be able to create a more diverse community, not only for ourselves but for the world. Each part of TRIBE de MAMA is serving this idea. My continuous aim is for us to clearly communicate that we are open to anyone, and to create an inviting and comforting space for women to join us from all around the globe.

Thank you, Dori, for your time. Again, you can find Dori & Tribe de Mama on instagram @dorideer | @tribedemama and on the web here.tribedemama

Dara Scully, on Childhood Unplugged

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A while back I featured an image of Dara Scully’s on the @childhoodunplugged instagram feed and immediately it drew a lot of attention; a few were disgusted by her work while others defended it. I’ve loved her work ever since I first laid eyes on it and I embrace the fact that some of the images make the viewer a bit uncomfortable. With all due respect to the artist, I wanted to give Dara an opportunity to discuss her vision and her philosophy of childhood. I think her thoughts on it all are very beautiful and raw. You can head over to the Childhood Unplugged blog to check it out. Please show her your love and respect.

An Interview

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In June, you may remember that we stayed with Willy’s Aunt Kathie in Montana. We spent a lot of time in the car and a lot of time cooking and drinking and watching the changes of weather and I knew in that time that I’d want to interview her here on my blog because much of what we discussed, I wanted to remember. And to share. Kathie has lived an interesting life, some may even say a life against the grain. Much of it has been in Montana, hundreds of miles from where she was raised. She’s worked on Indian reservations and has a story to match any crazy story I could manifest off the top of my head. She wears one earring because she believes in the beauty of asymmetry and she grows garlic partly for a living and partly because she enjoys it. She raised her son Joseph for much of his life as a single mom, but all of this is really just the bullet points. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy her point of view and learning a little about her as much as I did.

 

You raised your son in a very small town. Can you discuss your decision to do so and the factors that contributed to your decision?

I moved to Montana in 1983 and after moving around a bit, settled in to teaching social studies at Sweet Grass County High School in Big Timber after getting married in August of 1991. We moved to our home on the Yellowstone the fall of 1992 and I discarded the worn boxes I had been packing and unpacking since about 1980. When I found out I was pregnant in 1994, it seemed like a good idea to continue setting down roots and having grown up mostly in Phoenix, I was thrilled to think of raising my child in a rural place!
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Some say small town, small mind. What are your feelings on more progressive topics like the legalization of marijuana and gay marriages? Would your son agree? Do you opinions isolate you at all from the community you are a part of?

Ahhhhh, we do reflect our locale and the geography of place is real. I support the legalization of marijuana and jumped for joy this summer when the US Supreme Court decided in favor of protecting the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation! (Aside:  Jeannette Rankin was elected to US Congress in Montana in 1916, before women had the right to vote in US.) Montana is an interesting mix of “small” and “wide open” – haha!

I believe Joseph supports both, although he is personally opposed to indulging in alcohol and drugs.

Sweet Grass County is one of the most conservative in the State… Yes, my opinions could isolate me from the community. I taught US Government, History, and Geography.  All seniors are required to take a year of US Government and I did compromise my politics in an effort to teach students to think, analyze, and learn about democracy. Most everyone knew at some level that I am liberal but I kept my politics to myself…mostly.  Education is really a liberal idea.  Souther California Photographer-204

Speaking from hindsight, are you glad you raised your son in a small town? What do you think were the pros and cons?

Without a doubt, I am happy and grateful to have raised my son in rural Sweet Grass County.  

Cons:  lots of driving, limited exposure to diversity, not  “street smart”

Pros: great network of people who care and taught him firsthand about “community” and the ups and downs of everyone knowing everyone… (ie lots of eyes and genuine interest and concern for each individual, also gossiping nature of a small town where everyone knows your business, sometimes before you do – haha); living in the country, he had lots of room to roam in the natural world; he spent most of his free time at home… he learned basic skills of rural life, like tasks involved in heating with wood, fencing, irrigating, winter survival Souther California Photographer-28

You mentioned that you’re glad your son has left Montana for California. You’ve always encouraged your son to travel and live and explore. In a way I feel like you raised him in a small town, but ingrained in him big world ideas, which is really noteworthy. Please elaborate. 

The natural world is just that and we are a part of it– although our modern world tends to make us apart from it.  (We are animals you know.) Seeing the Milky Way Galaxy spread across the sky most nights helps remind us where we may fit into the picture of the universe. We are a small part of a tiny light in this great universe and yet each of our lives is a miracle and we are present for a short time, graced with life and gifts to cultivate and share. I wish for my son a full and beautiful life where he may grow and blossom and become one with the earth, not fighting with it always.  Knowledge is power and tends to bring light to the darkness. We need light and hope and love in our world, always, and my goal has been to raise Joseph with this in mind, well, in his heart, too.

We spoke about how technology allows us to be very individualistic; you no longer have to listen to music you don’t like or watch commercials you don’t want to because of things like playlists and DVRs. Can you discuss this further and the implications you feel it has had on society? 

Yes, we have become most individualistic and yet tethered mightily to electronic devices that allow us to forget that we are all connected in a very basic, cellular way (no pun intended, really!)  Even our language has duality… We must remember that we all are human beings who basically want to have enough food, shelter, and clothing to survive, we want to be loved and accepted, and we want our children to grow and thrive. Technology can be used to make our worlds more connected through communication and transportation; it can also separate us by spreading misinformation and fear. It is our choice and our responsibility to use it wisely.Souther California Photographer-301

You worked for years as an educator. I’d like to ask a few questions specific to this topic:

-What do you think the goals are of early education?

Education begins in the family unit – and “parents” and their immediate network start the process. Brain research suggests that years 1-5 are critical for developing healthy patterns, there are two more times when the brain establishes fairly critical patterns that tend to become lifetime habits! (I can look this up to confirm the two later age spans) Teaching values is a big part of this first period – like honesty, “good” and “bad” as defined by individuals and the culture in which one lives, most of this is taught simply by lifestyle habits of the family. Socialization occurs here, too, how to get along with others. Of course, reading, interacting, and playing are the ways that young children learn. Have fun with them and teach them along the way.  Everything counts and from the beginning until our kids are grown, they are always watching us and learning from our examples!  (great book – “Our Children Are Watching”) 

-Can you discuss your observations and experiences of/with children that were homeschooled? What are your general feelings on a homeschooled education?

Ha, trick question for a public school teacher who enthusiastically supports free, quality, public education for everyone.  Numerous homeschooled students I’ve met in high school are nowhere near their publicly educated peers, academically and/or socially.  That said, I can name some individuals whose families actively and consistently educated their sons/ daughters at home AND with the “outside” world – not simply their like-minded, homeschooling group (remember the playlists and DVR’s that let us block out what we don’t want to hear and see???)-and these young people have been terrifically successful as they move into adulthood. Life is full of adversity and I believe that it is at home that our children are best-able to process their early experiences with adversity if we allow them to experience life and if we communicate openly, honestly, and age-appropriately with them. Souther California Photographer-354

We talked briefly about ‘unschooling’, where children are kept out of school and are free to learn on their own at home, in the absence of any curriculum. What are your thoughts on this?

Well, if the individual is motivated to learn and the family has the means to support them if they choose to continue a life in this manner, I suppose it can work. I am skeptical of these individuals finding a satisfying life in society as we know it. Maybe this will change if there are more people who are “unschooled.” Remember, knowledge is power and if your kids don’t have knowledge, those that do will end up making the decisions for them. I do believe this and if you look at history, this has been the pattern…

-What do you think is the best way combine the freedom of homeschooling, the autonomy of unschooling, and the structure of standard schooling? 

Can you have your cake and eat it, too?  

Have your kids go to a neighborhood school. Actively support the school and/or work to make it better! If you take off for a long weekend or whatever, have the kids learn along the way.   Teach your kids when they are home or let them learn on their own, the unschooling part. My son played a lot on his own. We had a list of “bored chores” just in case he wasn’t able to figure out something to do on his own. As he got older, he had chores that were important to the household. He learned along the way. 

Parenting was the most important, challenging, and rewarding work I have ever done.  It is a short and fleeting time-savor this time with your children.  My Dad said that when there is a challenge or obstacle in my life to try to make a game out of it and figure out how to win the game… I think parenting may be a bit like this, if all else fails, make it a game and do your best to win! Of course, remember that you are the adult and it really isn’t you against the child, it is you and the child winning the “game” of life together☺
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You can view more pictures of our time in Montana by clicking here.

Van’s birth story, from a different perspective

A few months ago my sister and I had a conversation about having babies and Van’s (pseudo) home birth story came up. It’s come up before, but as time has passed, I’ve been more open to seeing it through someone else’s eyes. I still have my own opinions on the day, but I do think that should a third be in our future it would not be born at home. That’s partly because Willy has already downright insisted that it cannot be born at home; but it’s also because I partly agree. Been there, tried that. Twice.
Anyway, here’s Van’s big day, as told from the perspective of my sister, who was there to witness it.
My beef with home birth
Before my sister (the writer of this lovely blog, the stork herself) got pregnant with her first, Hooper, I didn’t really think much about home birth. I kind of associated it with yesteryear—women in log cabins on prairies and shit. I mean, why would sane people have babies at home when they can take a car ride to a hospital?
But, my sister explained it to me and, with her nurse background, she was rather convincing. I get it. Women want to be in the comfort of their own home. They want it to be peaceful. They don’t want machines and drugs and interventions pushed on them by a medical team that is concerned only with not getting sued, insurance coverage, and turning beds as fast as possible. Home birth sounds very romantic. That’s all fine and dandy, but keep in mind that I once thought it was romantic to be 23, eating beans out of a can for dinner with my broke-ass boyfriend.
With Hooper, my sister ended up in the hospital, against her wishes. She was overdue and they had to induce her. Then she couldn’t get the baby out, so they wheeled her to the OR. Using every stubborn ounce of strength in her body, she had the baby naturally in the OR room. The whole thing was rather touch-and-go, as they say. Willy couldn’t talk about it for weeks.
The second time, I was there. I didn’t think I would be. Her due date passed and my husband and I left on a 7-day backpacking trip in the Sierras, planned months in advance. We didn’t have cell coverage. I thought for sure we’d come back to hear she’d had the baby, but no. She was overdue again. The morning after we got back—I like to think Van was waiting for us—we got a very calm call saying she was in labor. They were deploying the big tub at home, the midwife was on her way. I was in tears driving up through Los Angeles traffic. I was convinced I’d miss the delivery because of all those a-holes on their way to work. Little did I know that births aren’t as fast and simple as they look on TV.
When I got there, she was just starting to push. She was in and out of the tub. She was on the floor. She was moaning, screaming. home birth pic 4
My dad and I tried our best to distract Hooper, who was obviously worried. He insisted on wearing his toy stethoscope.home birth pic 1
After what seemed like hours, the midwife started whispering to her assistant and we all started to wonder what was happening. Once again, my sister was having trouble getting the baby out. In hindsight, the difficulty probably had something to do with the crazy curve in her spine, which shifted all of her insides. She’d mentioned the scoliosis to her midwife, but didn’t really stress the severity of it (after all, she’d lived with it for years—was it that big of a deal? Um, yes, probably). I was terrified that she would get the head out and the body would be stuck. I’d heard horror stories. Willy was terrified that his wife was going to die. Sure, he thinks in extremes, but I understood his fear.home birth pic 2
The midwife made the decision to call the ambulance. A couple guys showed up, put her on a stretcher, and she was gone. We followed behind in a car—my mom, Willy, and me (my dad stayed back at the house with Hooper). The three of us were shaking, terrified.
When we got to the hospital, we rushed to her room. The screaming was intense. I had a moment of feeling bad for any other moms delivering. It sounded like a horror movie in there. Willy was by her side, my mom and I in the hallway. We were crying at that point—scared for my sister and scared for the baby. I told my mom to try to smile, for Ashley. It was my job to document the day.home birth pic 7
We heard a big POP—the doctor pushing on my sister’s belly—and then the baby wailing. We started crying more tears, of the relieved variety. We rushed in and saw the baby—he was a big 9-pounder—and quickly understood that things were okay. Willy asked the nurse how scary it was, on a scale from 1 to 10. She looked at us, with almost as much shock in her face as was in ours, and said, “That was a 9.”
My sister hates when people pose for the camera. She likes real emotion. But I think we were all afraid to show the real emotion in our faces that day. We wanted to be strong for her. So we smiled. After all, things turned out okay (even though I thought Van looked like Golem from Lord of the Rings).home birth pic 8home birth pic 9
My sister wants a third. I’ve told her that if they decide to have that baby, it better be in a hospital. I don’t care if her spine is fixed now. I don’t care that she would love to have the home birth she always wanted. She can go drug-free in a hospital, around professionals who can help her if anything goes awry. My good friend is married to an OBGYN and he says, “Look, most births go totally great. But when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong.” I’m sure lots of mothers have beautiful stories of their births, but for me, as a loved one, my sister’s births were scary. When I got home the day Van was born, I climbed in bed with my husband and I sobbed. I didn’t feel back to normal for days.
I wouldn’t say I’d discourage anyone from doing a home birth. I think it depends on your medical history and all that. I would say to know the risks, and consider the emotional impact on the people around you on that special day. And, make sure to educate those people about what to expect. My sister didn’t seem disturbed by what was going on and that was probably because she had watched lots of gory videos and had talks with her midwife and knew what the hell was happening. I wasn’t prepared, period. I was very fooled by the easy births you see in movies. Even in real life, most women have epidurals and drugs so there is no screaming (seriously, the screaming was the worst part). I watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians occasionally (#sorrynotsorry) and there was an episode when Kourtney Kardashian gives birth. The room was, like, silent. Her family was in there chatting with her. Chatting. She may as well have been getting a pedicure. So, yeah, maybe don’t go into a birth scenario with the Kardashians as your reference point. And if you have romantic notions about home birth, just think it through. Consider all the things you previously thought were romantic that really aren’t—like eating beans out of cans with your broke-ass boyfriend.

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A Guest Post: Thoughts of the soon-to-be-married

I’m getting married at the end of May. And, as I’ve told my sister and my mom, what I want most for my wedding is an ongoing gift of advice for how to be a good, loving, respectful wife. I know, that sounds boring. It sounds like I’m asking for casserole recipes and blow job tutorials. But, no. Mostly, I want to know how to start thinking as a duo, instead of just thinking for and of myself (as I have for the previous three decades of my life). I want to know how to be less selfish, more compassionate; less stubborn, more patient.
Here are my mental notes so far:
Divvy up duties: Tackle life as a team. Apply the “you make dinner, I do the dishes” philosophy to as many aspects of life as possible. Because life is complicated and it helps to high-five someone at the end of the day.
Touch: In the midst of “the grind,” give each other a quick hug, a kiss, a hand-hold, whatever. It makes all the difference—at least for me.
Admit your weaknesses: I think about this as being similar to claiming a fart when you’ve smelled up the room. Everyone knows it was you, so just own it. My soon-to-be-husband knows my weaknesses (I can be really rigid, I don’t like disruptions to “the plan,” I’m impatient, I’m almost too organized), so when I’m being particularly annoying, I can at least say, “Sorry, I’m being inflexible, huh?” (or whatever).
Praise your spouse’s strengths: I don’t really believe that one person “completes” another, but I do appreciate how someone can fill in gaps. My fiancé is much more easygoing than me (usually) and he is a quintessential good sport. He never complains. He’s very clean and does almost all the chores (I know, I’m lucky). It’s important for me to verbalize my gratitude for that to him so he knows—all the time—why I love him.
Make plans together: My fiancé and I bond over plan-making. We are calendar nerds. It not only gets us excited for whatever event is upcoming, but it gets us excited for doing that event together. I don’t want to slack off with this. I hope we still have full calendars twenty years from now.
Be nice: I know that sounds simple, but I can be guilty of taking love for granted and bypassing politeness and respect when I’m tired or hungry or cranky. It’s like I think, “he loves me, he’ll forgive my attitude,” but that’s not fair. I should treat him better than anyone else. I should always try to impress him as much as I did in the early days of dating. 
Treat each other better than you treat your pets. I heard this advice given by the Reverend at a friend’s wedding. I laughed at the time, but then realized how wise those words are. My fiancé and I have 3 cats and a dog. We talk to them with so much gooey, ridiculous, unconditional love. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to share that kind of love with each other too. Not like we’re going to give each other treats and wrestle on the floor with a tennis ball, but you know what I mean.
If he’s quiet, leave him alone. My fiancé, like most men, is not the most verbal when he’s upset. Out of my own insecurities (I tend to think his mood is related to me, which is really self-absorbed as I type this), I ask him if he’s okay, what’s on his mind, etc. This just bothers him more. I have to trust that if he’s bothered with me, he’ll tell me. Otherwise, he’s just sorting through something and he’ll get over it in his own way.
See beyond “your way.” This has been one of the most difficult relationship lessons for me. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to comprehend how someone could feel or act different than me in relation to a particular issue. But, my fiancé and I have known each other for 3 years; we didn’t know each other for 30 years before that. Obviously, we have our own ways of doing things, our own reactions, our own opinions. Instead of getting defensive when we don’t see eye to eye, I can ask more questions about his point of view. It should be more exploration, less argument.
Laugh. Almost anything is funny, especially with a little perspective. Usually within 24-hours of an argument, my fiancé and I will laugh about the dramatic thing one of us said. For example, on a now infamous hiking trip, I yelled, “This is way beyond my interest or ability!” We joke about that statement all the time now.
Go to bed angry. I mean, come on? We’re supposed to stay up until 2 a.m. hashing out things? That will just make things worse, as my fiancé and I are at our worst when tired. We don’t do well without proper sleep (and by “proper,” I mean 9 hours). It’s best for us to just go to bed perturbed. More often than not, we’re over it by the next day, or at least rested enough to discuss the issue calmly and resolve it.
Support each other. My fiancé is not a reader. At all. But when I finished writing my latest novel, he sat down and read the thing in, like, 3 days. Since then, he has helped me talk through edits. He refers to it as “our book.” My mission is his. I hope we always do our best to encourage each other’s passions and hobbies—from writing novels to hiking mountains to watching NFL on Sunday.
What advice would you give to the about-to-be-married?
Kim Hooper | Copywriter & Novelist | Also, my sister

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A Guest Post: A letter to my future possible child

I love you, already, but I’m afraid of you. As in, terrified.
It’s not that I worry about being a good parent to you. I know I’ll be a good mother. What worries me is the immensity of what I’ll feel for you. It will consume me, overwhelm me, swallow me whole. It’s threatening, the power you’ll have over me. The meaning you’ll have to me. How will I stand it?
The existence of you means that something–the loss of you–could destroy me. Obliterate me. There has never been something in my life with that capacity. I have always prided myself on strength, but you could bring me to my knees. And I’m not sure I’d ever be able to stand up again.
I will want to protect you with a fierceness that will shock me. Every possible catastrophe will go through my head in the moments you’re away from me–from the time you take your first steps and wander into the other room, to the day you go off to college with only your own thoughts and plans to keep you warm at night. It’s crippling, really, the worry. The love. It must be a thousand times what I feel for my dog, for my cats, and I come to tears leaving them alone for a long weekend.
How will I function with what I’ll feel for you? How will I be anything when you are everything? I don’t worry about losing sleep due to those predictable fits in the first months of life. I worry about all the other nights, when you are resting soundly but I am up wondering what will become of you, if the world will be kind to you, if your heart will withstand inevitable heartbreaks.
If I give you life, know that it’s the most courageous choice I will ever make. If I don’t give you life, know that part of me will always wonder who you could have been and, also, who I would have been.
With love,
Your tentative mother
Kim Hooper | Copywriter & Novelist | Also, my sister

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A Guest Post: 5 things I've learned from being an aunt

1.    I am really cool.  If you need a confidence boost, encourage a sibling to have a kid. That kid will adore you for reasons you will not really understand. You will be the recipient of unsolicited hugs and tugs-on-the-sleeve that indicate a request to play. Never again in life will you be so popular.
2.    I am f-ing hilarious. Also for reasons you will not really understand, your niece/nephew will make you feel like Chris Rock killing it in a club on Saturday night. All it takes is funny faces and inane games like, “Let’s run in circles for a half hour until we get kind of dizzy and want to barf.” After you send him/her home for the night, you will briefly consider a career in comedy. Your loving significant other will steer you away from this, but it’s nice while it lasts.
3.    I’m never the bad guy. Though you may care about your nieces and nephews learning right from wrong and all that good stuff, you don’t have to care about being the one to teach them right from wrong. They can slap each other like two hormonal girls in middle school, get ice cream all over themselves and their nearby surroundings, and throw rocks in the pool until the filter stops working. You don’t have to scold them. In fact, when they get put in the corner for a timeout, you can be in the background giving them a pouty face of solidarity, whispering that you’ll have a lollipop waiting when the punishment is over.
4.    I am inspiring. This will blow your mind, so get ready: Your nieces and nephews will aspire to be you. They will look up to you as if you actually know what the hell you’re doing in life. They will want to go where you go, see what you see. They will ask you questions and expect you to have the answers. They will hold your hand when they are scared. They will look to you for guidance, for reaching things on high shelves, for assurances that their scraped-up knees will be OK. They will trust you because, in their eyes, you are all-knowing.
5.    I am inspired. Somehow, even though you’re aware you know much more than the children before you, you also realize you know nothing at all. You  may have been around children before, but until they are of your own blood, you don’t really engage with them. There is no investment until they bear striking resemblance to the kid brother or sister you grew up with all those years. Only then do you embrace their little bodies with true emotion. Only then do you see the world as they see it—this magical, mystical place of discovery and optimism and possibility. Only then do you really forget yourself—even just for the minutes or hours you spend together—and learn what it’s like to be consumed by another human. That—that overwhelming love and wonder that trumps petty stresses and distractions—is inspiring.
A few weeks ago, my sister and Willy brought the boys down for a visit and when they left, I said to my fiancé, “I can’t even remember what was on my to-do list today.” It’s perspective, I guess. A reminder of what’s truly important. That’s what they give you.
Kim Hooper | Copywriter & Novelist | Also, my sister

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A Guest Post: To be (a mom) or not to be (a mom)

This is the first in what will be a few guest posts written by my lovely sister. Hey look, there we are… (I’m on the left)
A while back, I did a guest post, anonymously, for my sister’s blog. You can read it here if you so desire.
The gist was this: I’m afraid to have kids. My fears include:
·         What if something is wrong with the kid, physically or mentally?
·         What if the world we live in isn’t kid-friendly (think pollution, global warming, wars, financial collapse)?
·         What if I’m too selfish and impatient to be a good mother?
·         What if my kid is an asshole?
·         What if having a child makes my soon-to-be-husband and I forget about each other?
·         What if pets are enough?
·         What if the thought of helping a kid with homework gives me chills?
·         What if I don’t have time to write or read or hike or cook or do all the other things I love?
·         What if we struggle financially with a kid?
·         What if I go crazy due to sleep deprivation?
·         What if there are adventures and travels I still want to have?
All those fears aside, I know there are pros to having kids. Duh. I’ve met my nephews. They’re pretty awesome. I can imagine how amazing it is to create a life with someone I love. I can imagine the fulfillment of that, the love, the lessons. I just don’t think it’s for me.
Before you encourage me to change my mind, rest assured I have thought about this long and hard. I have played Devil’s Advocate with myself. My fiancé and I have discussed this at length. We even went to a preconception counseling appointment (who knew they had such a thing?), just to get some information. The doctor said that I would be considered “high risk” (according to the insurance companies) when I’m 35 (which is now less than a year away). I know that’s just a silly policy, but the words still threaten me—high risk. I am a person who prefers very little risk. As in, no risk.
But even if I was 25, I don’t think I’d want a child. I’ve never wanted to be a mom. I’m an introvert who needs A LOT of alone time. I worry that being a mom wouldn’t allow me that. I’ve struggled with depression in my life. I worry that I’d pass that on to my child, or that my depression would flare up as a parent. I’m a chronic worrier. I worry about that.
The reason my first post was anonymous was because I’m a little embarrassed that I don’t want a kid. Most women want children. Most describe an ache, a craving, for a child. I’ve never had this. Most women either ignore any possible risks, or embrace them because their desire for a child far outweighs any fear. I’ve never had anything close to such a desire. My sister, for one, always wanted kids. When we were little, she toted around baby dolls, “feeding” them from toy plastic bottles. I played with my Barbies. These days, my sister says she feels a little sad for me and all that I’ll miss by being childless. The thing is, though, I’ll never experience having a child myself so I won’t know what I’m missing. I’m happy as I am, and I’ll just go on as that person.
I used to think there was something wrong with me. I’m in a minority, after all. Now, though, I’m proud of myself for realizing my limitations and making a decision for the life I want for myself (and my partner). Plus, like I said, my nephews are awesome. I  plan to love them with all my might.
Did any of you share my fears? Did you always know you wanted to be a mom?
Kim Hooper / Copywriter & Novelist / Also, my sister

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An Interview with Jessica Kraus, from House Inhabit

Please, introduce yourself to my readers. 
Hi there. My name is Jessica Kraus, I am a stay at home mom chasing after three (soon-to-be-four) incredible (endlessly energetic) little boys. A proud Scorpio and a hard core Bod Dylan / Woody Allen fan. Like every one else now days’s I keep up a personal blog documenting some of our little life highlights, as well as run a side business alongside my husband making / selling canvas teepees for children.
Using one adjective for each, describe each member of your gaggle.
Alright.
Mike: Practical
Arlo: Determined
Leon: Dreamy
Rex:  Fearless  
I’m such a fan of the You Are My Wild series. Tell me what your experience has been like with the project thus far. 
Oh gosh, It’s been far more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. Not only because the other members involved happen to be top notch photographers (many of whom I have respected from afar for years prior) but also because we have all become fairly close in our real life communications, developing a relationship outside of “wild” and Instagram, which is where our connection was initially rooted. A fun littler chat group that’s developed via facebook, where we all check in through the week, bounce ideas, concerns, day to day frustrations, ect. off one another. And we laugh. Lots. They are a great, incredibly funny, super talented group of people and I am so grateful to have been included in the project. I would never refer to myself as a photographer, but the project has definitely forced me to push myself and the raw skills I do have so that I don’t completely embarrass myself on a weekly basis.
Of the images you’ve submitted for You Are My Wild, which one is your favorite thus far?
I don’t know that I have a favorite. Only because from week to week they are slightly different, growing always and forever inspiring me to embrace the present and enjoy every second of their ever fleeting journey as children. 
Don’t lie. Were you hoping Rex was a girl?
Oh Absolutely. I was pretty positive he was going to be a girl. We had kept it a surprise until the end so when I saw a third penis I was in complete shock. I couldn’t stop laughing. The state of shock I have yet to fully recover from – not because of the fact that we have another boy – but because that boy, is more BOY, than any boy I’ve ever met. That kid is taking years off my life, I can feel it.
I want to have a third. Willy says yes, jokingly, some days and absolutely no, not jokingly, other days. You have three. What do you think? Do you regret your decision. Ha! Of course you don’t. That’s a silly way to ask the question. Allow me to rephrase: Tell me how wonderful it is to have three boys (I know my third will be a boy and, truthfully speaking, I’m not sure I’d even know what to do with a girl).
I always say: having three kids is not hard. Having two kids, AND Rex, is beyond exhausting. But in all honesty, they are so darn hilarious it makes up for every single plight they put me through. Even in the wreck & chaos that engulfs us daily, they make me laugh constantly. The three of them are so entirely different in every way imaginable, that sometimes they feel like characters out of a comic strip. Also, the natural notion of a brother’s bond is the best. Seeing them engaged in a fist fight one second and then falling asleep piled into each other, bodies entwined, in a tiny bed, is pretty much the sweetest sight I can possibly fathom. I say have a third! Makes you feel like you’re really working.  
Your husband makes stuff. How do you keep your hands off a man like that? Rhetorical question. Really though, how nice and useful is that? 
Haha! Right? Obviously one of his most admirable qualities. And really the very reason I fell in love with him in the first place. I liked his old school work ethic and the fact that he can literally fix or build anything he sets his mind to. Be it plumbing, landscape, guitar, carpentry, electric, or restoring all those debunked automobiles. He knows a lot about a lot that I don’t, so it keeps me intrigued. Not to mention he also has some kind of superhuman energy, unlike anybody else I’ve ever known that enables him to wake at 4am, work a laborious 8 hour job, drive home in God awful traffic and still find time to build the teepees, tinker with an engine, play in a band and spend time with the boys, in addition to all the regular stuff it takes to keep up an active household like ours. He’s incredible. The only thing I’ve ever seen him fail at is wallpapering. And, well, he wasn’t much help with diapers either, but I let that one slide.
If I could have any talent in the world, I’d love to sing. Instead, I’m good at preventing cavities. I’ve never had one despite the fact that I didn’t even floss until I met my husband. How about you?… What talent do you wish you had… or if you want to share your cavity prevention strategies, that’s fine too.
I really wish I could cook. Like gourment meals built on exotic ingredients that everybody really loved. I am a bare essentials woman in the kitchen. Typically clinging to super simple meals. I could use some lessons.
I’m dying to read your upcoming post on public schools, sum up your thoughts in one sentence. 
Thank you for reminding me that I need to write that! In short, I think it gets a pretty bad rap. I have quite a bit to offer in it’s defense. If in fact I ever get around to actually writing a post longer than a single paragraph.  
Have you ever considered home school? I don’t think I have it in me. And I love Heather Rome’s whole thing she has going with her husband during the school year: #wedatewhileourkidseducate. I think I could get on board with that. Hashtag: makes me look forward to preschool.
I think homeschooling can be a great. A rewarding experience for certain mothers, and their children. But I think it depends on the kid, and how they respond to the parent in the teacher role. I did briefly consider the home schooling route just before Arlo entered kindergarten, but came to the conclusion that I really truly do not have the patience in me to provide a well rounded, focused education. Plus my math skills literally stopped at second grade, so it just wasn’t a  practical option for me. And really, I feel very fortunate for the lessons I took aways from my own experiences at a public school and hope they will experience some of the same.
One more school question. I hate schedule. How hard is it, with three kids, to mix in some spontaneity? I dread starting my boys in school. I hate when everyday starts to look the same. Tell me it’s wonderful, even if you have to lie.
It’s defiantly hard on a spontaneous sprit, but we make the most of it and are pretty lenient when it comes to missing days here and there for special occasions. We let Arlo miss some times to go to Disneyland with his grandparents, or like last week – stay an extra day with them in a vacation cabin in the snow. I’ve also been known to keep them home when I see they are overly exhausted and maybe need a day to rest and recharge. In other words, we aren’t sticklers for attendance and I think the boys will hopefully look back on those special days outside of school with the same fondness I had for my own childhood “ditch days.”
You’re such a beautiful writer. Tell me more.
Hey, thank you! I do have a degree in English and was thoroughly enthralled by fiction workshops most of my later college years. Somewhere in the back of my head I fantasized about writing fiction for a living but decided to have babies back to back right out of graduating instead. I gave up the planned high school teaching gig and found my way as a mother, writer, creative whatever, as I went along. The blog is the only place I share my writing (brief as most of my postings may be) for now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to expanding that little “hobby” at some point down the line. 
You and Denise have such a beautiful friendship. How did it start? How long have you been friends? Tell me what you value most about your relationship with her. Go ahead, make me miss my best friend more than I already do.
Aww, my best friend since preschool moved across the country for a few years awhile back and it broke my heart not to have her around for that period of my life. I know how you feel *Hugs*
As for Denise. It’s a friendship that sprung from Instagram (as modern day connections tend to go these days, eh?) We realized early on – through our shared photographs – that we had quite a bit in common with lifestyle in general. The first time I met her I knew instantly that we would be fast friends and it’s been the case ever since. We just get each other, the way people that have been friends for ages do, we get along easily and both have similar outlooks on the arts, plus we laugh like teenagers when we’re together. It’s an easy, fun, and very close knit connection. And, she is one of the funniest gals I know. Always keeps me on my toes, which I admire a lot in anyone in my life.
I know you’re a huge Dylan fan. I am too. I’ve seen him three times. The first was back in the 90’s (Oh Lord, that’s long enough ago to refer to the time by it’s decade… it just got all awkward up in here) and the last time was just a few years ago. He was great way back when but the last time I saw him was a bit rough. Do you still go see him live? Willie Nelson, on the other hand, now there’s an 80 year old that I’ll still throw my panties at.
I’ve heard Willie Nelson is killer live. I’ve got to see him one of these days. Dylan I’ve watched a handful of times starting when I was 16 and ending somewhere in my twenties. For me, each experience has been more painful than the last. I refuse to put myself through it again. He is what I consider to be one of my greatest loves – his songs, the soundtrack of life – cheesy as it sounds – so I can’t bear to see him reduced to a frail man waling through unrecognizable songs that I hold so dear to my heart. One concert he simply disappeared off stage for more than 20 minutes. The band was utterly baffled, the audience worried. I couldn’t stop thinking he walked off and just keeled over backstage. Ruined me for good as far as live shows go. And therefore the end of my “gotta see Dylan when he’s in town!” train of thought.
While we’re on the topic of music, here’s a taste of how random my music library is: I listen to old country, some folk, some Spanish (I love Buena Vista Social Club), oldschool hip hop like Grandmaster Flash, even some old R&B like Chaka Khan, and lots of other stuff. Gimme a glimpse into the variety in your music library.
Ooh, you’ve got a flavorfull mix there, lady. B.V.S.Club I’ll need to look into. I like mostly everything too. Folk and old blues are my favorite. But we are also stocked with a ton of old country and classic rock. I adore early Elton John and Stevie Wonder, was really in awe of Amy Winehouse’s untethered talent (miss her still) will forever love  Lauren Hill and Fiona Apple, and will admit to having a huge (and lasting) crush on Jay Z. I’m not good at keeping up on newer music. But I don’t make much of an effort because I tend to depend on a couple younger (hipper) friends to keep me posted on that stuff. Just a few of the “newer” artists around I’m digging are: Edward Sharpe, Shovels and Rope, Father John Misty and Cat Power aways.
Wanna trade mixed tapes? Ya, I said tapes. Whatever.
Sure! Mine just might take a loooooong time to get to you. I’m awful with mail, or any kind.
How many bruises do you have on your legs right now? I have one huge purple on on my right thigh. The joys of having boys, I suppose.
I live in long skirts so I don’t count anymore. Please don’t make me count?
How many cars have you guys owned? And given the fact you like to buy and sell so many, how ’bout sending one my way :: wink wink :: 
We have owned a LOT of cars. We could care less about having a fancy daily driver. We both vow to drive our real cars to the ground. BUT, we do enjoy a cool old set of wheels as our weekend backup. We’ve had everything from mustangs, to falcons, to novas, to VW buses to big old RV boats and now the beloved old land rover and busted bronco sitting in our driveway currently. I told Mike he needs to pick one of the two. I’m still waiting on his decision. I’ll send you the outcast?
Your favorite qualities in a women. 
Humility, loyalty, sense of humor, and open mindedness.
Your favorite qualities in a man.
Humility, diligence, creativity and looking good in beards and white tee shirts.
If not yourself, who would you be?
TIna Turner. Everybody who knows me knows the fact of it. I’ll explain another time.
Where would you like to live? Where would you like to travel?
I’d like to live closer to the ocean. With a bit more land. As for travel, it’s not my strong suit, I’m comfortable near home or at home. And I’ve come to accept that in myself rather than trying to force a seeking spirit where there is not.
Advice you would have given your 20 year old self.
Don’t waste so much time and energy on trying to be so “good.” Your 30s will take care of that real quick. 
Advice you would have given your first-time pregnant self.
Each child is different. They all flourish on their own time. Don’t compare!
You strike me as a woman who always has a trick up her sleeve. What’s next?
Hmm, let’s see  . . .
If I can get organized and stay focused we will be launching our children’s line this Winter. A project we’ve been working on that is so long overdue. As well as a creative venture I hope might evolve and allow us to put our stamp on various products we care about down the line. I’d love to write a children’s book. And there is talk of setting up a mobile shop in a vintage trailer to house our Little Folk merchandise, but it all comes back to organization and focus. It’s easy to sit around with all these brilliant ideas. It takes a real determination to see them through. Balancing our time will always be our greatest struggle. But I have faith in us.
JESSICA KRAUS | Blog | Etsy | Instagram

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A Guest Post: Oh Dear Drea

Hey guys! Ashley left the guest post up to me, so I figured I would throw a rainbow in your face! I mean, that makes sense right? A bright colorful, recovery well-wishing rainbow :) This is a group of some of my favorite homefood, and travel photos taken throughout the past few years of blogging.
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Thanks for stopping by Drea and thanks for the well-wishes. Stop by and say “hi” to Drea by clicking on her button below.

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A Guest Post, from Sash @ Inked In Colour

Sash is one of those bloggers that pulls on my heart strings. I can read the first two sentences of any of her posts and always relate, instantly. She’s adventerous and raw, wild and free, loving and real. I wish Australia weren’t so far away because she’s a mother I’d like to cheers my glass to over and over again. Long live the blog world for making the whole world seem like a smaller place, a? I only wish it were…
I have heard one thing over and over again throughout my parenting journey. Children thrive on consistency. There are a thousand articles all over the internet shoving those words down the throats of unsuspecting parents: children thrive on consistency. In fact, they need it, according to many experts.
So if this is the way to raise children in our fast paced, consumer driven, western society… I have something that I must admit…
My name is Sash and I am… Inconsistent.
I am happily inconsistent. In fact, I thrive on inconsistency. I love nothing more than the thrill of change. The light and bright air of the open road. The breakfast for dinner. The pyjama days. The late nights under the covers watching movies when I know we “should” both be in bed.
I’ve tried to be consistent. I really have. I’ve tried to serve meals at the same time. I’ve tried to work “real” jobs and fold my laundry and wash my dishes and be organised. But I’m not any of those things. It feels like playing house, and whilst at first (after a glass or two of wine) it might feel novel… like all of a sudden I’m all grown up (am I alone in my late 20’s where I
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still feel like I’m light-years from being a grown up? surely not!)… but soon enough the novelty wears off and I throw the clothes in a heap and the dishes in the sink and I grab the paint and the chalk and the dinosaur tails and we escape real life into a world of make believe… or better… we escape to far off lands where we are surrounded by wonder and language and culture and the great unknown.

I’m a terribly inconsistent person. I’m an inconsistent blogger. I’m flighty and I get caught up in my own imagination and find myself easily tempted down the path less travelled. I spent months in India when I should have been studying… I went and lived in a bungalow on the side of a rice field and drank beer and played hookey from real life when the rest of my friends were climbing the corporate ladder. I have tried and tested a thousand and one lives and in the end found that none of them quite fit… I’m a single mother to a beautifully well adjusted, happy and joyful toddler who eats curry and dances to the symphony and laughs and licks and bites and drives me bat shit crazy and I love her to the end of the earth and back again… to infinity. And just a little bit more.
I’ve had people tell me that children crave stability. They like to sleep in their own fancy bedroom, that their own bedrooms and own beds and own space make them well adjusted human beings. I’ve been told that there are a hundred and one gadgets that will help us parent, that will allow us to be consistent right down to the sounds our children hear when they go to sleep. Children like to do the same things day in and day out because it makes them feel safe… say the articles. Inconsistency breeds unknowing which breeds fear which breeds instability which breeds… well, unhappiness. I call bullshit. I called it loud into the air off a Balinese volcano as we perch on the top, my baby and I… it was way past nap time and we were eating sticky rice and laughing at the wind. And you know what? We probably didn’t have a bath that day and I can guarantee we didn’t even care. I’m sure children do thrive on stability. I’m positive of it. These child psychologists and parenting experts and baby whispering guru’s are probably
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all right… but you know what they aren’t right about? The other side to the story. The side that says that kids thrive in all sorts
of lives in all sorts of ways all around the world. There is no one right way to raise a child. There are hundreds of right ways that are wrong ways from time to time. There is no one right way to do anything, ever. Kids thrive when surrounded by love. Be consistent with rules and routines or don’t be consistent, whatever. Just be yourself! Why don’t parenting articles say that? Screw the rules! Just be the parent you are with all of your heart because that’s all your kid really wants. They just want you…

I’m consistently inconsistent in so many areas of my life… but I consistently love her, my Bo. I consistently hold her when she cries and whisper stories to her and kiss her face and hold her hands and laugh with her and dance with her and take her on wild adventures and find her with arms wide open and sparkling eyes. She consistently licks my face and drives me to the edge and back again. She consistently laughs and reads and sings and locks me out of the bathroom.
I’m consistently in awe of this child that came from my body. This child I created. This child I grew and then nursed and held and nurtured from the comfort of chairs and beds and bungalows all around the world. She is me and she is not me all at once. She has my heart and she walks around with it, in her hands. Motherhood, man, it’s a wild ride. There is so much to see and so much to experience and so much joy and life and love right there… I just don’t have time to be watching the clock waiting for bedtime or snack time. Life’s too short… childhood too fleeting… Moments too blissful. Sometimes things work out just the way they should when you just stop trying so hard to do it right… and sometimes they don’t.
But that’s what tomorrow is for, right?
Thank you, Sash, for stopping by! Check out Inked in Colour by clicking here // Instagram // facebook

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A day in the life, Sarah Dyer

I tell ya, sometimes things like oceans and continents can kiss my ass. What I wouldn’t give to meet up with the lovely Miss Sarah Dyer for a day. I’d even drink coffee, just to appease the woman. And then I’d come up with a liquor drinking game while our kids ate… something like “every time one of them gets out of their chair, we drink” or “whosever kid takes the longest, the other has to drink”, and so on and so forth until we would both be rolling on the floor laughing and the hubs’ would have to take over child duties. In any event, here’s a day in the life… And, please pop over to Sarah’s blog to check out a day in my life…

8am – breakfast in the early morning sunshine

9 & 10 am – typical reaction when I have chores to do and he wants me to play trains
11 am
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– a walk by the lagoon and time in the play park12 noon – my noodle date1 & 2 pm – he is the slowest eater EVER! so we take the noodles to go and then stop in the supermarket for supplies – the lift being the most fun part, of course.3pm – asleep in the car clutching the aubergine he insisted on carrying4pm – still asleep so I drink a cuppa in peace and look through recipes and catch up on instagram! (find me @sarahillustrator)5pm – start making dinner while Stan is happy playing6pm – eat together as my husband is coming home late7pm – choose bedtime reading books and clean teeth before bed

8pm – time now to squeeze in a bit of work, it is great and terrible being freelance sometimes9pm – still working but made easier with a drink my husband home from work has just made me, well it is friday night after all!10pm – bed for me, we have an early riser so I NEED my sleep!
Thank you Ashely for having me over on your blog. I hope you are getting all the rest you need and wish you a speedy recovery. I’m sorry I am not nearer to take out Hooper and Van on a play date with Stan. With love, Sarah x

A Guest Post, from Diapers & Skinny Jeans

Today’s guest post is from Kate over at Diapers & Skinny Jeans. Kate is a beautiful mama to two and a freelance photographer. So, ya know, same same but different. She’s here today to talk about breastfeeding. Many thanks, Kate, for sharing.
If I could have just told myself, had a sit-down conversation and taken my own hand, I’d have said, “Listen up.” Gentle, yet stern. I would tell myself all the things I’d learned through this breastfeeding experience.  I’d talk about the pressures, the struggles, how from the moment I started that it was ok to be a little embarrassed.  That it would be hard going back to work full time and trying to pump, and that I should go easy and rest often.  I’d remind myself to drop the “you-know-everything” act, and let the lactation consultants do their job.  To ask for help when you needed it.  To be okay with feelings of failure, doubt, sadness; they happen to everyone.  To remind myself that I was doing the most important job, the very best job, of being a mother.
After beginning the breastfeeding journey with the birth of my second child, Alba, it put a lot of things into perspective for me.  There’s a certain confidence that comes with experience.  There were many things that I had to make peace with first, like weaning my first daughter before I was ready.  I never expected it to resonate so deeply inside of me, all of my past memories both good and bad, but they did.  I remembered how absolutely clueless I was the first time around, though I had tried my damnedest to read every instructional how-to ever made.  It’s funny how that works.  You can never really prepare yourself for it. I plan on breastfeeding my new daughter up until she chooses it’s time to quit.  Definitely over a year, maybe even two.  Do I know I can get there for sure?  Absolutely not.  But I’m okay with that now.  The experience itself goes by so quickly, and really, all I’m trying to do is enjoy every second that I have.  It’s so hard to quiet the chatter of what society thinks, what the stranger sitting next to you thinks, your mom, your in-laws, that ever opinionated friend you have – I know.  I’ve been there.  And for what it’s worth, the most important advice you can ever get is to not take any of it and go with your own gut instincts.  You just gave birth to your child, the most powerful thing that I’m sure you’ve ever experienced.  You are a mother.  You are learning, and your child is growing and thriving and completely your own.  You are perfect.  This whole breastfeeding thing is more intuitive than we give it credit for, and babies are the most masterful of teachers.I look at the two of them and everything they’ve taught me and how they continue to be the greatest blessings I’ve ever known.  My eldest and her fierce independence, my baby and her cautious, careful gaze.  My opposites, yet perfectly complimentary to one another. Ying and yang.  So much in motherhood has become all about balance.
If I want to breastfeed in public, I do.  If I need to call in sick because I miss spending time with my kids, I will.  If your body starts to make less milk before you’re ready to quit, it’s okay.  If you chose not to breastfeed, or were unable to, you’re supported.  This is the hardest, most rewarding job on the planet, and no matter how you do it, we are all just feeding our children with love.
Thank you so much to Ashley for having me over on The Stork & The Beanstalk. I’m tickled to be among who I consider to be one of the most inspiring mothers and writers I’ve ever met.  This lady right here?  I swear.  She tells it like it is and I love that about her.
 You can find Kate here: Blog // Instagram // Facebook

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A Guest Post, from LaTonya Yvette

Today we have a lovely guest post from super-hip mama LaTonya from the Old, New, and the Wee one too (Pop over to her blog to read my guest post). You may also know her as one half of the team behind Welkin NYC. She’s as sweet as she is stylish and I’m just dying to get to New York so we could hang.
Hi guys! While Ashley is home recovering from a massive surgery (girl, I hope you’re getting lots of hugs, kisses, and sweet cuddles) I am here to bring a quick little style post. When Ashley asked me to do this, I was all kinds of excited. I am such a little fan girl of her sweet blog. I have often spent nights trying to figuire out how to get her here to New York and teach me some photography things. One day.
Let’s get to style shall we?
Well, I’ve been a stylist for a quite a few years now. I would say 7 years on and off. I have always loved the fashion world as a kid, but didn’t quite grow to know it until I started working in it. As the years went on, I went from a partying teenager, to a young mama with a few extra lbs (you know how that is), that were so stubborn… I just gave up. With that, I switched a lot of my style “expertise” if you will, to also help other mamas out. Even if the extra lbs aren’t my client’s problem, the basic ground of new mama drama is usually one in the same. The whole balance of looking cute, comfortable, and chic is quite hard isn’t it?
Anyway, here’s a little something about a skirt that has a stereotype that proceeds itself.
When I was younger and skinnier a full skirt felt like something that would swallow me up. I wanted to hold onto any shape I had (wasn’t much) and the wide skirt did not allow for that. So I thought.
Years later, I gained weight, but more importantly two beautiful pregnancies and one beautiful baby. My hips tell the story. They were made for birthing I tell you. I embrace my new found curves, but at the same time, things don’t fit the same. Also, walking miles and miles and miles a day throughout the city also made my calves much larger-another story. So once again, a wide skirt did not seem like it was for me. Instead of swallowing me up, I felt it would hug me completely wrong. Again, I thought wrong.
I gave my vintage full skirt a try. With confidence, without reservations.
It worked. I loved it.
I think a full skirt is one of those pieces that just comes with a stigma. And some of us aren’t willing to risk it and maybe-possiblly kick that stigma’s ass!
DO IT!
If you decided to give the full skirt a try, a basic top goes well and is super easy styling wise. Also, a button up with a pair of heals work just as well. Or for a comfy look, throw on a pair of sneakers and a basic t-shirt!
Good luck, and next time you see that full skirt at the thrift store-get it!
You can visit LaTonya’s blog by clicking here // Welkin NYC // Instagram // Pinterest
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A Guest Post: Michelle Gardella

Today is the first guest post of a few I have planned while I’m in the hospital and recovering from my surgeryMichelle is a constant source of inspiration and courage for me. Her talent is one thing, but her soul will absolutely blow you away. She inspired this postI wrote back in June and I’m so thrilled to have her here on The Stork today. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Asking for help when you’re an artist is a hard thing. When you make something, it becomes an extension of yourself and every time you put that something out into the world, there’s a part of you that becomes vulnerable.
With no further adieu…
I teach a class online, and at the core of the curriculum it’s all about telling the truth. With our photographs, with our words, to the world, and most importantly, to ourselves.
Each week I’d show up and share. And each week, I felt like the biggest coward ever. Here I was, preaching and praying for the reclamation of everyone’s creative fires, but deep inside I was completely ignoring my own. I was encouraging everyone else to fight down their resistance, while completely bowing down to mine. I was waiting for the day when I wasn’t so terrified.
A book.
It has always been my one giant dream. The scary kind of dream that makes you want to run away forever. The kind that keeps you awake at night. The kind that resurrects your biggest inner demons: self-doubt, fear, denial.
A book.
I launched my kickstarter campaign. And it might seem so romantic and beautiful and poetic. And it is! Don’t get me wrong. But it is also in the face of the accumulation of countless inner fights with myself. “What are you thinking?! Why would ANYONE want to see your images or words printed?! If you fail your children will think so little of you!” Yup. My resistance doesn’t mess around, and this whole process has taught me this:
It’s never going to feel easy. It’s never going to feel fearless. Your palms will sweat, and your adrenaline will charge, and your mind will totally keep playing tricks on you. But, you HAVE to do it anyways.
My son shared a quote with me this morning, “Can you be brave when you are totally afraid? In fact, that is the ONLY time it can be called bravery.”

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