A Road Trip | Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ventura

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

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

The Speed of Life

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays, to all.

Mercy Now

From a blogging standpoint, it’s always a little precarious to carry on after major events that impact so many of us and tear me, on a personal level, away from whatever comfort I find in this little corner of the web. A place I’ve spewed tidbits of my life I’ve felt compelled and comfortable sharing with a larger audience for years now, since Hooper was a baby. But fear is not easy to discuss and so much of what happens in these tumultuous times is better written about from hindsight; the story still writing itself. Still being understood. The fear, circling, but the story, not yet written. I’d like to say that the space in-between has room enough for hope, but that sounds like a clique we say to make ourselves feel better. It feels a bit like sweeping things under the rug that are too big to fit, or sweep for that matter.

There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said about the election. And no matter what side of the fence you sit on, the times, they are a’changin’. I only hope that we can all come together and that the dust settles before anymore separation occurs; before we grow so separated we forget what it was ever like to stand together.

This song by Mary Gauthier brought me to tears. Because I let it. Because sometimes sitting with emotions and allowing them to take over feels right. In any event, I hope today – on a day we are all to reflect on gratitude – I hope it hits the same spot for you that it did for me. Here’s to hoping that the unity we need as a nation, as a world, can start today on the family level, with the spreading of love and the acknowledgment of all we have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Halloween

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This year, Hooper did not have school on Halloween. Or the day after. The school has conveniently used the week for fall conferences. And I get it; they don’t want to deal with the few who may not celebrate the day or the few that may be put off by costumes deemed ‘inappropriate’ or ‘scary’ or – let’s face it – the sugar loaded savages that are our children. I get it. In it’s place they held a school sanctioned trunk-or-treat, turning what used to be one night of candy into two. And it was fun, don’t get me wrong (minus my inability to wrangle the 5 children I had with me and being called more than once up to the center to retrieve a lost child). Guess I just miss the simplicity of having one costume, one night, one round of candy.

Maybe I’m Scrooge. I mean, the boys had a blast at all the festivities and I suppose that’s all it’s about. Yes, I’m Scrooge. I must be. I guess in the end it doesn’t matter — more candy for me to steal.

Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween, free of clowns and drenched in peanut butter cups. Unless your kid has an allergy. In that case, drenched in twix.

Thank You cards, via Artifact Uprising

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The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-13 The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-4 The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-10 The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-25Each December I utilize Artifact Uprising to make an album of all of my favorite images from the year. While I was able to finish books for several family members, I have yet to complete our own family’s album but have plans to do so in the coming days, as looking at “finish AU book” on my to-do list is beginning to haunt me. In any event, I’ll try to share a few pages once I have it in hand. Until then, I have these adorable thank you cards to send out. They have so many beautiful designs to chose from… it was hard to chose just one, but I’m so happy with my selection. Makes saying thank you even better than receiving the gift in the first place. Don’t you agree?

 

Making a list

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For all the years I’ve been a mother I’ve felt that the holidays have got the better of me. In fact, it was during my last family session (that included a 2 year old and a 5-month-old) that it dawned on me that I’m (I feel like it’s only safe to say what I’m about to say in a wee whisper) out of the, um, danger zone (side note / hashtag: not for long). Meaning, shit has been hard for the past few years. And by past I mean 5 years and by hard I mean two babies relatively back to back followed by a thirteen level spinal fusion that pretty much erased nearly an entire year of my existence. I remember the one year I never got around to baking Christmas cookies feeling like some kind of colossal defeat. Well, the other day, we made those damn cookies and it wasn’t even the center-focus of the day.

Perhaps it was the two days I had all to myself while Willy took the boys out early to Arizona the week of Thanksgiving that allowed me to get a good jump on things; the boys returned home to stockings already hung, a small tree in their room already decorated, and scented candles filling the rooms with an aroma only the holidays can bring.

We’ve baked cookies (and even have plans to bake more so that Santa can have ‘fresh’ cookies), I’ve ordered all the gifts that I needed to allow enough time to receive, I’ve addressed the holiday cards and even thought ahead to pick up some Christmas stamps the last time I was at the post office (I take no responsibility for the fact they were all out), and I’ve even managed to pull the handful of children’s Christmas books from their bookshelf to have on hand to actually, well, read (what a concept, I know). I have some eucalyptus that I bought at the local florists in a vase, for goodness sakes. Who am I?

There’s no doubt I’ll be bit in the ass at some point. There’s still plenty that needs to be done and plenty that I know I’m forgetting all together. But the fact anything is done or remembered at all has me feeling a little jollier this season; it’s a nice breath of fresher air before things start spinning out of control once again (side note / hashtag: baby on the way).

A reminder that the boys are getting older (and easier-ish) and that while there is plenty that makes you want to turn back the clock, there is also plenty in the here-and-now to celebrate.

Happy Thanksgiving

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“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Wishing everyone out there a wonderful Thanksgiving. May we all pause and take a moment to give thanks.

With love, from my family to yours.

Images found on Pinterest

Trick-or-Treat

San Clemente family Photographer-74 San Clemente family Photographer-80I feel like a broken record when I admit that Halloween got the best of me because it seems to have the ability to sneak right up on me every year. I start thinking about it early enough to assure myself I have plenty of time and before-I-know-it I’ve done nothing. This year, perhaps, being the worst yet. As in we never even made it to the pumpkin patch. The un-carved pumpkins outside our door are from Vons, for goodness sake.

Though in my defense, both boys decided early on that they wanted to be cowboys and, well, for Hooper it’s the third year in a row he’s opted to be a cowboy (last year, the year before). The third year in a row, mind you, of wearing the same exact cowboy boots that my mother-in-law thankfully must have bought a few sizes up some years ago. And Van, well, he ultimately wanted to be whatever Hooper wanted to be.

The week before Halloween I found myself sifting through their closet to see how I could pull two cowboy costumes out of one. Hooper got the chaps, Van got the vest. Van got the hat, Hooper got the bolo tie and the straw sheriffs hat that my mom happened to have. My sweet friend Shella, from Sweet Threads, came through by sending me the vintage plaid button up Van’s wearing. One pair of cowboy boots resulted in quite a few tantrums until we took a trip over to payless shoes and invested in a second pair. And that was that.

We opted to go trick-or-treating a mile or so from our home down a street that’s notorious for their Halloween festivities; quite the change from last year when we still considered ourselves new-to-the-area and settled for being the lone rangers collecting handfuls of candy from neighbors who were eagerly awaiting trick-or-treaters but got very few. And still I think we came home with more candy last year, from fewer homes, simply based on the fact that the street we went to this year was so jammed backed with lines-out-the-doors trick-or-treaters that the actual handouts were quite small in comparison to the generous handfuls that characterized last Halloween. And yet, the boys know no difference, had no complaints. Less candy for Willy and I to steal, I suppose.

I’m not sure the infamous cowboy costume will survive yet another year, with pieces falling off due not to poor quality but instead to rowdy boys who have insisted on wearing their costumes for several days in a row. Time will tell. But next year I’m determined to carve those damn pumpkins.

Happy Mother’s Day

mothersday“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” -Debra Ginsberg

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A Christmas Tree

It’s never exactly how I envision it to be. I have delusions of grandeur; of us trekking out into the woods and actually finding and cutting down a tree — much like the Griswold’s. Then I’m reminded, immediately, upon entering the lot that we live in California; where we wear t-shirts in December and deck our trees out in some fake white shit we desperately try to pass off as snow.  
Nonetheless, the wood chips under our feet, the complimentary popcorn and hot chocolate, and the smiles from all the kind workers made – more or less – for a festive and successful outing. And with that, I’ve added “vacuuming pine needles” to my daily weekly to-do list.

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The Bee & The Fox | One day only sale

I’m a last minute person, I know how it goes. So here’s your last chance before Christmas. All orders placed today will be shipped via USPS tomorrow. Use coupon code holidaybustle over on The Bee & The Fox to receive 20% off your order today only. Here’s what’s in stock: 
Happy Camper – sizes 2,4,6
Homegrown – sizes 2,4,6
Boys will be boys – sizes 2,4,6
Free as a bird – sizes 2,4,6,8,10,12
Keep on truckin’ – sizes 2,4,6,8,10,12
Mama bird – sizes S,M,L 
Are you on instagram? Follow along, @thebeeandthefox / #thebeeandthefox. And, as always, thanks for your support.

Christmas Cookies

Two years ago (wow, where does the time go?) I wrote a post about baking Christmas cookies. Well, not actually baking them… because we never ::cough cough:: got around to actually making them. They sat on my counter and taunted me, “hey you piece of shit mom, why don’t you forget about those dirty dishes and bake me already”. I swear they gave me a complex; so-much-so that it’s been two years and I can still remember writing that post and the feeling I felt by never getting around to baking those cookies. 
I giggled to myself with the thought of that post in the back of my head as we went into the store, once again, to buy cookie-making ingredients. I tried to move through the aisles as quickly as possible for fear that Van would forget he didn’t have a diaper on. I was imagining the stream of urine falling off the cart like a waterfall. We made it through with only a few items torn from the shelves from happy little grimmy hands that don’t like to keep to themselves. We bought two packages of sugar cookie mix (ya, that’s right — I’m a-good-for-nothing-mom-that-makes-nothing-from-scratch-and-I-don’t-care), some icing, sprinkles, a couple cookie cutters, and some butter. 
The boys were a bit disappointed when we got home and they asked for the cookies and I revealed we had to actually make them before we ate them. Next thing you know, the counter that I had just cleaned that morning was filled with flower and small globs of cookie dough and the happy-to-help (oh he’s so happy to “help” these days) hands of a two year old would not stay out of the raw egg batter. There were tears and, obviously, a mess.  
I had to ask a neighbor to borrow a rolling pin. Mom fail. Then I couldn’t get the batter not to stick to the rolling pin despite the amount of flour I used. Mom fail times two. 
The boys were over it at this point anyway, so I made the executive decision and said screw the cookie cutters and opted instead for little round balls because let’s face it — shit tastes the same. When the cookies were done, there were more tears because they could only have one. Then there were spilled sprinkles. 
And the moral of the story is this: Buy Christmas cookies from the bakery for $5 and go home and eat them. Making those damn cookies was the only thing I’ve ever had on a list that didn’t feel so good to scratch off.

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Halloween

I’ve been a mom now for nearly four years and have yet to be on the ball of Halloween (and other things, like birthday parties but let’s just take things one step at a time, k?). It seems to sneak up on me every year. I have major delusions of all of us dressing up or of turning the entryway into a mini haunted house for the neighborhood kids, which, in hindsight would have been a bad idea anyway given the fact we only got two sets of trick-or-treaters. What happened to neighborhood trick-or-treating anyway? Guess it depends where you live. If it was hoppin’ where you are, invite us next year, ok? 
Hooper requested to be a cowboy, which was the same thing he was last year. Last year, however, he didn’t care and dressing him as a cowboy was our choice. This year it was his, so ya know, it didn’t really feel like a repeat. Plus his cowboy costume was something my in-laws splurged on and given the cost, I was happy to use it again. If it still fits, Van will be a cowboy next year. Ha.  
I put Van in a Fred Flinestone costume I had made for Hoop a few years back. He got it so dirty at lunch that I opted to turn him into a firemen for neighborhood trick-or-treating. It was cute and simple and he was pretty stoked about it. 
What did you guys do for Halloween? What’d your kids dress up as?

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Van's Birthday Weekend

Every year, when our birthdays roll around, Willy and I discuss not what we want but what we would like to do. Sure there’s been years when we’ve exchanged little things here and there, but we tend to value experiences over anything else. Call me a lazy mother, but for Van’s second birthday I didn’t send out invitations, pick a theme, or stop at the store to pick out decorations. It always seems silly to me because my boys are still young and I’m pretty sure a simple cupcake is enough to put a smile on their face. So with a weekend spent with family and friends and numerous trips to the beach, we celebrated Van’s second year of life. And it was a blast.
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Two.

Another year, another reminder that I have not finished your baby book. And in looking at your baby book, a reminder that you are far from the baby I held for the first time in my arms two years ago.
You are charismatic, almost always happy. Tantrums never last long despite their fierce and seemingly ominous presence. Though you’ve grown a little more finicky over the last month, you still love your food; so-much-so that I must give you a snack while I’m making your breakfast to stop you from whining. Usually it’s a banana and you like for me to leave the peel on the bottom and cut off any brown areas. Balls are your jam, you find them, borrow them, or steal them no matter where we go. Your favorite birthday gift was a helmet. You spent the rest of the afternoon on Hooper’s bike with your helmet on. You have not yet figured out how to pedal. Hooper is your idol and mentor, your best friend and worst enemy.  
You changed our lives the second you entered this world. And today, because of you, we are happier, more fulfilled, and devoted wholeheartedly to raise you with intention, humor, and a love only a parent can give.
Happy birthday, Boots.
Also, you ate part of your birthday candle.

A birthday recap

I spent my birthday more or less in a funk. Willy and I were awoken several times throughout the night by Van, who threw up multiple times and required several diaper changes. Willy took care of all of it and come morning, I felt like no having to care for and clean up after Van was my birthday present. That and the half finished list of things I wanted done around the house. Yes, you read that correctly. For my birthday I gave Willy a list of things to do around the house; things like “clean out the garage”, “add shelf to closet”, and “put toilet paper holder in downstairs bathroom”. And when I woke up in the morning to a sick baby and a garage we still can’t fit a car into, I was a little… I dunno… funkdafied. Oh snap, did I just quote Da Brat? I did. Whatever, it is / was my birthday.  
With no real plans, we spent the morning into the afternoon waiting to see what Van had in store for us. I got some terrific massages from Willy (my back, and body for that matter, has been sorer than usual since I started physical therapy a few weeks ago, which makes me grouchy and on edge and is really a whole other blog post in itself), my sister brought me a grilled cheese and fries from Denny’s (cuz’ I eat like a child), and since Van appeared to be back to normal we headed to Crystal Cove beach for dinner. We waited an hour and a half for a table at the Beachcomber, but waiting for a table with the great big Pacific Ocean in front of you really isn’t waiting at all. In fact, it was perfect. I got to shoot a couple of my favorite little people in the most perfect lighting and when I met Willy at the table barefoot and complaining of my last sandals, he miraculously went out and found them sitting by there lonesome in the sand. It was as if the day had said, “don’t judge me so soon”. And then we saw dolphins. I know, I know, it was cray. Shoot me now for saying “cray”.  
The garage can wait until Christmas, I suppose.

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Scenes from the 4th

I had so many nice and beautiful things to say about our 4th of July until someone delicately pointed out that Van has probably been throwing up and poopin’ over the past two days because of playing with (and drinking) the reclaimed water from the showers. Without thinking, I even went so far as to wash off his sandy watermelon under the faucet. Total mom fail. Nothing can make you feel two feet tall quite like motherhood. Well, motherhood and those silly mirrors in the fun houses at the county fairs. In any event, I wasn’t going to include that photo of Van under the shower in this bunch, but it’s clearly part of the story. As is the Oreo that seems to be in his hand in just about every photo. You know what they say about shit water and shit food…  
That disastrous can-we-move-forward-now moment aside, it was a wonderful day. It had been overcast in the days preceding but the sun was out in full force and the boys’ bums are now whiter than ever. Good company, cold drinks, and more-or-less happy kids (albeit a few rock and sand throwing moments I later had to apologize for on Hooper’s behalf and that time Van tried to pee on Anne’s leg… but such is life. Life with these two anyway). 
Hope y’all had a fabulous holiday for those of you in the good ol’ USA and thank you to all the men and women who fight (or have fought) for our independence.

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