Childhood Unplugged

san-clemente-family-photographer-7153 san-clemente-family-photographer-7036 san-clemente-family-photographer-7045 san-clemente-family-photographer-7167 san-clemente-family-photographer-7054 san-clemente-family-photographer-7161 san-clemente-family-photographer-7063 san-clemente-family-photographer-7170 san-clemente-family-photographer-7070 san-clemente-family-photographer-7080 san-clemente-family-photographer-7173 san-clemente-family-photographer-7092 san-clemente-family-photographer-7119I justified living in a townhome for a long time, my parents recalling frequently the expansive land they raised my sister and I on, whispering the notions we’ve all heard about kids needing a yard. I tried to think ahead, to when the boys would be older and more independent; the freedom to ride their skateboards through our small downtown to get to the beach. I wrote off the lack of outdoor space highlighting the community surrounding us, neighbors that truly cared for us (and still do). And really, it wasn’t until the day that Hooper came up and asked if I would go outside with him so he could run that I felt as though something was in fact lacking. His little legs carrying him around in a circle formation like a hamster on a wheel. I spent the following week anticipating a letter from the HOA notifying me that children are not allowed to run in circles on the road because, well, safety hazards in overprotected America and old crotchety neighbors that live to taddle.

Our search for a home was more about meeting our needs than meeting our dreams. Sure we hope one day that the home we envision can come to fruition but until then, it’s nothing more than checking boxes on a list. And none of this is to say that the house we now call home isn’t a dream; it is. We feel incredibly grateful for all our home provides for us; not a day has gone by where we haven’t talked about how happy we are here, under this new-to-us roof.

During the reconstruction we spent many of evenings in the backyard, waiting to finally move in; sitting on chairs that were left behind and eating dinner out of a plastic bag, red letters reading ‘thank you’. The boys would ride their bikes, climb up the hill, and pee in the bushes; they were marking their territory. Point being, by the time we finally moved in, they had their holes dug, their plants – errr – watered, and their forts constructed. They knew the outside of the house better than the inside. And now, weeks after actually living here, the same is true.

They spend entire afternoons outside. I was told yard space would be a game changer, but I didn’t anticipate the playing field changing so drastically. It’s far from the vision we have for it but already it meets our needs and then some. Jimmie’s needs too. I mean having a doggy door has changed my life in areas I didn’t know I needed help. As in, I would starve him if he ever grew out of the little flip door.

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We LIVE here.

When we decided to gut our house, we put a lot of thought into the materials we would use to re-build it in terms of both textiles, flooring, and furniture. Because, you know, we have two boys and sofas get peed on and stairwells get grimy from tiny little hands that have been sweeping through the dirt like a broom sweeping the floor.
And, in the end (though it’s hardly the end, it’s actually the beginning) it didn’t matter anyway. Shit’s already damaged.
We opted for a leather sofa and we spent a pretty penny to get the one we had our eye on. We justified it because it’s leather and therefore indestructible. Only, that’s not true. Soon after it’s placement in the family room, it was covered with dump trucks, monster trucks, tractors, race cars and those little wheels on those little plastic toys started leaving tracks. Our sofa started to look like a heroin addicts arm. I cleaned it off, made a no-toys-on-the-sofa rule that has miraculously been followed, and called it a day. Until the day, that is, Van found a pen and put his good ol’ John Hancock on one of the cushions. I swear fire came out of my ears from overheating internally.
We found the perfect coffee table at the Rose Bowl flea market and purchased it from the guy who made it. We had a glass top coffee table before and swore we’d never get glass again because, um, hello dirty kid hands all over it. Somewhere between transferring the new wooden coffee table from the market to the house, a divot was made on the wood. And then we had something resting on it and I noticed several other small scratches on the wood. Then I took my finger nail and realized that my own nail could scratch the wood. Thanks a lot Mister-I-make-my-own-furniture man.
Our toilet is clogged. As I type this the plunger is sticking halfway out of the bowl, a memento of our tireless efforts to unclog it to no avail. Starting to wonder if the kids threw something down there.
There’s a roly poly in a cup by our sink that Hooper insists on keeping there. I have intentions to free it while he’s napping but I’ve forgotten for two days in a row. I’m not sure how it’s managed to survive.
Sand has taken over my life. There is sand stuck to the bottom of the bath tub. There is sand that falls out of my beach basket like a shaker of salt every time I pick it up. There is sand stuck on Van’s scalp despite washing and scrubbing. There is sand in their shoes and therefore every time it’s time to put shoes on there is a tantrum because they don’t like sand in there shoes. I won’t even bring up the sand in the car. What I will say is that if I die tomorrow, I might as well come back as a crab.
Putting the boys in the same room is a decision we’re happy with. Insert asterisk here because there’s an exception: nap time. Naps with two boys in the same room does not happen. So we set up the pack-n-play in the only available space: the bathroom. It’s a tight squeeze when you have to pee and given the fact the other toilet is clogged…
We met another furniture maker at the Long Beach Antique Market and had him make us a kitchen table. It arrived an awkward 4 inches higher than a standard table so – given the fact we have yet to buy dining room chairs – Hooper sits on an antique chair meant for decoration on top of his little toy suitcase (also known as his “tool box” from time-to-time), I sit in a rocking chair, Van is awkwardly low in his highchair, and Willy awkwardly high on a bar stool. He’s remaking us a suitable table.
And though I suppose it’s all a nuisance in some sense of the word, I also suppose that that is how a house becomes a home.

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Settling In

Technically speaking, we’ve been in our new place for a few months. Did I really just say that? Where does the time go? It still looks more or less like a disaster zone and it will still be sometime before we can actually fit a car in the garage. But mentally, we’ve settled. 
We have yet to purchase any blinds so while the boys reap the benefits of black trash bags over their windows, Willy and I are awaken each day by a soft morning light that gently fills the room. The sun slowly moves over our house and come late afternoon, the most beautiful light falls through the window, the outline of the window frames lie softly on the wall moving slowly with the setting sun until both the shadows and the sun disappear completely.  
Life feels fuller. Change is good.
I’m getting stronger everyday and the promise of a new day and a new adventure is just enough to invite in that early morning light and put off buying blinds for another day.

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Bits + Pieces, from Arizona (round II)

Our original plan was to drive to AZ, spend some time with Willy’s family while our house got worked on, and return and move in. Easy Peasy. What I’ve learned, and ultimately have come to accept, is that nothing – when moving – goes as planned. After ten days in AZ we received word that our contractor took off for Mexico. It sounds more dramatic than it ended up being, but at the time we had no clue what that meant for us. We decided to come back early from AZ so we could find out more. I’ll spare y’all the details and say that it all got figured out but things were far from done so we went to stay with my parents. We were there for another week and a half and, again, things were still not done with the new house so after returning from the weekend I spent with my sister in Ojai, the kids and I took of – again – for AZ. Hence the round II.
Janet reminded me that moving is rated number 3 on the list of most stressful events, right behind divorce and death. And now, I know why. I get it. It hasn’t always been fun and we have had our fair share of curve balls (both cars breaking down at separate inopportune times, the contractor taking off for Mexico, Sarah being hit by a car… to name a few).
I digress.
The kids and I had so much fun. We went on several day adventures and my mother-and-sister-in-laws took me around to the thrifts and they always seem to serve me better than the second-hand stores here in CA. I came away with a peacock chair for our enclosed patio, tons of planters, two kilim rugs that look as though they were made for our hallway, various knick-knacks, a huge macrame that I can’t wait to hang, an old antique chair whose price tag did not reflect it’s value, a blanket, a rug for the boys’ room, and some other odds and ends.
The boys will surely miss seeing family they so

clearly love and adore; as will they miss the cows, the goats, the garden, and riding in the back of the pick-up truck down the dusty dirt road.

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What I share on my blog is never forced; I write what – in my mind – needs to be written to either save my sanity, document for my boys, or enable me to move on with a clear head. That’s why it may come as a surprise to some that we moved. I shared little bits here and there on my instagram account, though I did refer to it often as “spring cleaning” and that’s because there were so many question marks. Would we get the house? Would we be able to sell ours? What will happen when I return to work / will

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I need to find a new job? Will Willy be able to work remote? and so on and so forth. So, you see, until each of these questions had an answer attached to it that I felt comfortable with, I kept it all to myself.

But, lo and behold, we got the new house, our old house sold very quickly, I decided I would commute to my same job so my parents can still take care of the boys on those days, and Willy got the a-okay to work from home.
Settling in has barely begun and is moving slow as molasses due to my physical limitations and those little leaches I sometimes admit to as being my children. I kid. They’ve been incredibly ::cough cough:: helpful. Okay, so they are pretty much as helpful as a drummer who bangs his drums while you’re trying to go to sleep. But what they are is easy going and adaptable. There have been some outbursts that I correlate more with the move than their ages, but all in all they seem to be better at this whole moving thing than I am.
It’s been a long road. We’re tired emotionally and physically from all we’ve been through over the past six months. And so, today we leave for a much needed vacation. I have loads of catching up to do on here, so while I’m gone I’ll be sharing some of our Arizona adventures as well as some photo sessions. I have portraits for this weeks portrait series, but will not be sharing for the following couple of weeks until we are back and settled, again. If you want to follow along on IG, you can find me @thestorkandthebeanstalk. Feeling grateful.

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The New Digs

Our new home was built in the 1970’s and given the fact that it’s a condo, with shared walls and a homeowner’s association, we have some limitations and restrictions. What we had in our first home wouldn’t fit, style-wise, with our new home. So, as they say, out with the old and in with the new.
I’ll share some of the renovations we’re doing here and there but given the fact that the boys and I have not been staying in the house during the renovations, I’m not able to see much of it myself.
Above are some glimpses of inspiration, via my pinterest. From top to bottom, left to right: one | two | three (would you believe that I thrifted an awesome hanging plant macrame nearly identical to the one pictured?! All I need to do is find a glass or mirror base for it) | four | five| six | seven
Here’s a little glimpse I shared on instagram of a little corner in our bedroom that I snapped on the first night I slept here. Can’t wait to dive right in to making this house a home.

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Bits + Pieces, from my Parents' house

There are some things that go on at my parents’ house that I hope the boys always remember; like the fact that my dad gets up everyday before them to hide two strawberries in their strawberry plant, one for Hooper and one for Van. And there is amazement every time they search that plant and find that ripe, red little berry. As if it were planted there just for them (::cough cough::, it was). Or the fact that my mom hides little plastic Easter eggs, well before Easter, with a piece or two of candy so the boys can hunt around the living room to find their treats. Or the way Hooper stands at the kitchen sink to watch the birds eat from the bird feeder he fills with the help of my mom; asking what each bird’s name is (my mom actually educates him about the different types of birds, whereas I just give each one a human name for him to call it, “Oh yes, that bird, Hooper?… It’s name is ‘Spencer’…”).  
Oh yes, and they have their very own playroom at my parents’ house…. which is something they had at our old house for the blink of an eye (just before we put our home up for sale) and will not have at our new pad. In fact, they will be sharing a room and it will double as a playroom. So, ya know, the list of perks at g’mas and g’pas house is long.
These days, it takes a village and each member of the village has something to give; a new way to show love, new traditions to add, patience to give when mine is exhausted. Being between homes has not been easy, but I’m grateful for everyone in our lives who have worked so hard to make it as easy as possible.

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It's so hard to say goodbye

Our first home was built in the 1950’s and we did all we could to keep it to that era. We put in parquet floors, hunted down an authentic eichler door handle, painted our front door bright orange, ordered vintage concrete blocks for the fence we put up in the side yard, and filled our home with as much mid-century furniture as we could. 
Having put so much of our blood, sweat, tears, and style into it makes leaving it hard. Not to mention that I can’t return to the place without Sarah’s accident invading my every thought; a horror movie that just won’t quit.  
But alas, we’re moving on; pouring more blood, sweat, and tears into a new place we will soon call home.
I’ll share what I can of the renovations and, if you’re interested, some style inspiration as well.

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Bits + Pieces, from Arizona

We arrived at Willy’s parent’s house in Arizona beaten down from the physical and emotional stress of moving and saddened after losing Sarah just a few days prior. We always brought her along on our trips to AZ, so there was that sobering reminder when we didn’t have to push her off my lap and into the back seat like we usually do.
To make matters worse, our truck broke down early on and as if luck were teasing us by slapping us one minute and then kissing us the next, we happened to be a few miles from my sister’s house where our second car sat until we returned. So we swapped cars, repacked all our stuff, switched the car seats out for the umpteenth time, and made it to Joshua Tree just in time for a family session I had booked prior. So ya know, the take home message is that it all works out. One way or another.
With no further bumps in the road, we arrived in AZ. We enjoyed warm days and cool nights, Lucky and Moocher (the new pet goats), the Renaissance festival, a wild cat that just gave birth to kittens, an Irish band that did a Bob Dylan cover that felt like it was just for me, a trip to an old gold mining ghost town, some thrifting that landed an old peacock chair in the back

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of our car and some other treasures for the new home, and enough laughter with family and friends to fill our empty tanks.

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Longing to be settled

Long before we actually moved we started preparing. The story of how we transitioned from one sleeping arrangement to another is enough to either make your head spin or make you believe we’re a family of goldilocks’, or both. We listed our bedroom set on craigslist and when we sold that we moved Van’s full size mattress into our room and moved Van to the bottom bunk in Hooper’s room. The full mattress was too small for the both of us, so Willy slept on the sofa. Then we sold the sofa so we added a blow up mattress in our bedroom for Willy to sleep on. And then the bunk beds sold, leaving Hooper bed-less and Van in a pack-n-play. So I made a rash decision and went to a chinsy little place in the more ghetto area of the Valley and bought them each a twin bed that came with a twin mattress and they slept on the mattress, on the floor. 
What I’m trying to say is that it’s been a while since we’ve felt settled. And truthfully, it will be a while before we are settled again. We ordered a sofa online that is on backorder and have plans on building our own kitchen table even though I know we don’t have time to do so anytime soon, at least. We have a trip planned at the end of this month and another one just two days after we get back. Fun stuff and much to look forward to, but no real help in our quest to be settled. But, ya know, I hear settling in with a base tan is much easier anyway. 
I digress. 
I long for days like this day; no cares in the world, jumping on blow-up beds together as a family. Soon enough, I suppose.
And also, I miss Sarah. These photos were taken the day before we moved, the day before Sarah left us and it pains my heart to know that this is, I believe, the last picture I have of her -and us- together. Insert lump-in-throat-here.

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The longest way home

Oh the joys of moving. From hotels, to staying with family in Arizona, to separating from Willy (he was in Orange County staying with my sister and her fiancé so he

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could work on the new place while the boys and I were back in the Valley staying with my parents), to a move-in weekend that happened to land on the weekend I was in Ojai for my sister’s bachelorette party, to one night (one night, people!) in our new digs, and now, back in Arizona while some foundation issues and flooring and all that other miss-mosh gets handled at the new place. Life just doesn’t slow, does it? Moving is the pits.

It’s the long way home, indeed.

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Oh it all started with smiles, it did. Doesn’t it always? Smiles spread from ear to ear created by thoughts of a welcomed change and a promise, to ourselves, of new beginnings. 
It’s been rough since my surgery. To this day, my recovery impacts all of us on a daily basis. The thought of starting anew brought with it the same aura that accompanies the start of Spring; an awakening, new birth, calm skies. And we needed that, I think.   
They say beginnings are messy but this beginning started like a new season, seamless in it’s transition and without break in routine. We laughed, giggling about how easy it was all happening. After all, it was the first home we looked at and we knew instantly that it was the right fit; the perfect space for our family. And as if one good stroke of luck gives way to another, the first day our home went on the market, an offer – we later accepted – came in.
Like I said, it was an easy beginning. 
Slowly, we started preparing. I had our nanny help me clean out each of the closets and we made several trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. I listed most of our furniture on Instagram and Craigslist and one by one, as things started leaving our home, the idea of moving became more real. 
I’ll spare y’all the lets-not-hire-a-moving-company-because-we-don’t-have-that-much-to-move bologna coupled with losing Sarah on our very last day at the house and say this: hire a moving company. Just do it and don’t ask any questions.
Slowly beds disappeared and were replaced by blow-up mattresses, big boxes took the place of dressers, outdoor toys welcomed the new open space and quickly became indoor toys, and things got – well- messy.
By the time all was said and done, Willy walked over to our neighbor’s house and found her sitting in a chair we had left out in front of our house with a sign that read “free” in scribbled permanent marker; her cigarettes on a little side table that at one time housed our records but ultimately landed in the same pile as the free chair. He handed her $50 to clean up the left behind garbage, mostly wood from neglected projects we had started but not finished. She took the $50 with a grin that would even make the Grinch suspicious and concluded that she’d use the wood during their next camping trip. In the five years we lived there, I’ve never seen the RV leave the driveway.
And just like that, we said goodbye to our first home with a rejected full-sized mattress on the side of the curb visible in the rear view mirror and the scene of Sarah’s accident behind us.
Sometimes it’s the endings that are messy. Here’s to new beginnings…

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