The Desert

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That’s what photos do for me and I suppose that’s why I do what I do; I like to replicate feelings so that more than just the moment is captured… I seek to hold on to feelings.

I digress. This last trip to the desert was the pits in so many ways. It started with the stress of leaving and preparing the house for some showings we had scheduled (we’re planning on moving this summer). Do you know how difficult it is to turn a home kids live in into anything other than a junkyard? I must have removed at least 5 partially eaten squeezable yogurts from under the sofa. And that was just the beginning of what I found under there. In any event, thanks to friends we were able to pawn Van (aka Mister-asks-a-thousand-questions-an-hour) off for the morning and by the time we left in the afternoon, the house was in an order we’ve never been lucky enough to enjoy it in. Meaning it was clean. And organized, albeit haphazardly.

Not long after arriving, we hightailed it for the pool; the hundred degree weather leading the way. And not long after that, Hooper ate it… The sound of his head hitting the wet concrete piercing the ears of everyone who happened to witness it. I held him in my arms as he cried and cried. It wasn’t until he started throwing up that Willy and I started to really worry and so we gathered our things and decided it’d be best to get him checked out. Jimmie peed on the way out, right there on the concrete by the pool. Because – you know – that’s how shit goes down sometimes.

We spent a few hours in the ER, Willy juggling Van, Sonny, and Jimmie in the car while I waited with Hooper in the waiting room. We left after 11pm, never ate dinner, and waited another hour at a 24 hour pharmacy for a medication that cost $60 and that we only gave him one time. And then he barfed in the car, on the way back to the hotel, for good measure.

We got back to the hotel after midnight, realized the air conditioner in our room was not working and had to pack up everything we had unpacked and switch rooms to a smaller room where any sort of pathway or empty space quickly got eaten up by rollaway beds for the boys. Willy and I slept on and off because there’s nothing like worrying about a child to keep a parent up at night.

The following day we split forces; Willy stayed in the room with Hooper and Sonny to rest while I took Van to the pool. A better day when compared to the night prior which would have made many of the days in our shit-hit-the-fan parenthood capsule look more desirable.

We ventured out to The Salton Sea that evening and enjoyed dinner at our favorite dive bar in the area; also-known-as-the-only-restaurant-for-miles. We left with lifted spirits, the kind that only an adventure that didn’t end with a trip to the ER could bring.

We returned home the following day; the clean house we left unraveling faster than a ball of yarn rolling downhill. And so it goes, right?

Another trip to the desert, albeit our costliest yet, in the books.

Childhood Unplugged

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The Salton Sea, a place I can’t seem to abandon whenever we’re out in the desert; equal parts mystical and enchanting, disgusting and desolate. And different every time we go.

We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall bar / restaurant in Bombay Beach, a place you’re sure to sit shoulder to shoulder with the local crowd. It’s walls adorned with dollar bills, so many in fact that I always think should the place run into financial ruin the money on the wall is sure to pay for another months rent, at least. I’ve heard whispers that Anthony Bourdain ate here once; not that the food is to rave about, it’s really the only option for miles. In any event, the fried chicken and french fries never seem to disappoint. Unless you’re a three-year-old on the verge of the fucking fours and your goal in life is to make every step of life difficult; in-which-case, not even fried deliciousness can contend with a sour mood.

We stepped out with bellies full, minus said three-year-old, the warm on-the-verge-of-summer air wrapping around us like a blanket on a cold night. The trains passing in the distance and the sun setting beyond the horizon. We pulled off the road at a spot we’ve been several times in the past and stumbled upon an abandoned wood boat we had never seen before; the mystery of the Salton Sea proving, as always, to produce more questions than answers.

Given the day prior, which included a trip to the ER, this day was in some way payback for prior suffering. Even if for just a few moments in time; moments where that soon-to-be four-year-old let go of the fact his cowboy boots were soggy (I mean who goes into the pool with their cowboy boots on?) and explored an abandoned ‘pirate ship’ while the trains chugged on and the setting sun said goodnight.

More on our last trip to the desert to come.

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A desert escape, part II + Waiting on a baby

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

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

I digress.

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

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

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

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

Palm Springs

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I shot a wedding the other weekend out in the desert and we opted to make a family trip, with hopes that September would bring a hint of relief from the otherwise torturous desert summer heat. It did not. It was the kinda heat that makes every step you take a conscious effort, where every cell within your body feels swollen to it’s capacity. It’s one thing I’ve noticed in all three of my pregnancies now — the inability to tolerate extreme heat; or even the 80 degree days, for that matter. The desert did not hear my plea.

We left much later in the day that we had planned, which is the case when you have kids, isn’t it? I always underestimate the time it takes to fill and package orders and given the fact I had worked in the hospital the day prior, I had not had the time to pack or get organized in the way I’ve learned you must when you’re running a household with children in it. I’ve never been a planner or an organizer and while motherhood has changed that to some extend, I know too well that there are cracks in that front and that my old wait-til’-the-last-minute self often shines through. And because life likes to pay you back in ways that sometimes feel unfair, we ran into standstill traffic that was just enough to make me a bit queasy.

We stopped at a liquor store once we got into Palm Springs and picked up a few essentials, including donuts and sugary cereal, something I blame on sending Willy into the store while the boys and I waited in the air-conditioned car. Come the next morning, no one was complaining about said choices.

Because we rented a home via AirBnb, we left Jimmie back home which allowed us the freedom to check out The Living Desert; something we always wanted to check out with the boys but never got to since most of our trips to the desert are with Jimmie in tow. We paid a small fee to get in and another small fee for the tram, which picks you up and drops you off at different areas of the park. I joked that the tickets should have been $5 and the tram ride should have been $50 because there was no physical way any person could walk those grounds, in that heat, and survive. Every step, again being a conscious effort, every cell, again swelling to capacity. It felt like there were more people working there than visiting and by the end of our hour or two stent, I could see why; it was simply unbearable. We made good use of our time indoors for lunch and in the discovery center, where the kids touched just about everything they could – including a possums tail – within a few minutes but spent the next thirty climbing up and down a small carpeted hill while Willy and I waited for our body temperatures to cool to a normal level before making what I estimate to be a couple hundred feet walk to the exit. I considered waiting for the tram, which would have made the full loop back around the park, just to take us to the exit and avoid those couple hundred of feet in the sweltering heat. Did I mention that it was hot?

We also spent some time in the pool because water is more or less a necessity in conditions like these (am I being dramatic?). And later in the day we did some off-roading and happened upon Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, which had some of the most beautiful woven rugs, tapestries, and ceramics.

I woke up the next morning fretting about the wedding, cuz’ that’s what I do before just about every shoot, no matter how big or small. And as if luck were on my side, the clouds hung around most of the day and between that and my adrenaline, the heat was more or less an after thought. The wedding was terrific and the couple every bit delightful as I had imagined. I’ll be sharing some of those images soon.

We left the following morning, hitting up our favorite breakfast joint just one last time; the deal sweetened by it being “Grandparents Day” and the kids eating free… something all of us parents can appreciate because we all know how wasted half those meals are anyway. Later in the day we returned home to a house full of dust (we’re working on one of the bathrooms), bags begging to be unpacked, and a memory card full of a couple’s special day begging to be edited.

But, alas, air conditioning. And a thirty degree temperature drop.

Palm Springs

338A1372-1 338A1385-5 338A1388-6338A1408-11 338A1389-7 338A1431-18 338A1409-12338A1435-21338A1422-15 338A1439-23338A1454-29 338A1466-31338A1444-26 338A1473-32 338A1474-33 338A1495-39338A1478-35We spent one night in Palm Springs before hitting the road to Arizona so that Willy could finish up some work out there. The weather was perfectly warm and we spent much of the time poolside; the boys in the pool and Jimmie hanging poolside with me while I rested my sore neck. The night was rough, with Willy snoring, Hooper kicking, and Jimmie randomly barfing, but we packed up, hit the pool one last time, and got on the road.
I’ll be sharing a few images from Easter in Arizona tomorrow.

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The Desert

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I swore, after the last time, that we’d never join Willy on one of his business trips out in the desert again. I mean I resorted to letting the boys play with the bidet, for goodness sakes.
But, lo and behold, we tagged along and, lo and behold, we had a good time. Jimmie behaved, which was a large part of the battle last time. We splashed around in the pool, made it out to Joshua Tree despite the on again off again rain, met up with some friends who were also out there for dinner and drinks, and visited the dinosaurs on the way home (Hooper’s been obsessed with dinosaurs as of late).
All in all, a great trip. We’ll be out in the desert again this weekend; this time I’ll be working. While I’m thinking of it, if anyone wants to book a Saturday session, that could work out. Email me if you’re interested, I love shooting in the desert: ashley @

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Desert or Bust

Janet signed up for Designer Vaca back in the beginning of the year and I assured her I would go – for moral support, ya know – when the time came. The time came and it also happened to be her birthday, so it was nice to celebrate together. The boys tagged along and we joked about how no matter when we get together, there’s some conglomerate of kids around – be it hers or mine or some mix of the both (all of hers stayed back in Utah this time around). The event was held at the Ace, so the boys and I hung out by the pool while Janet attended conferences n’ whatnot. And I’ll tell ya what, Palm Springs with two boys is a lot easier than Palm Springs with two boys and a dog. Just sayin’. And the weather has finally cooled just a bit, the high 90’s being a welcomed retreat from the triple digits. Looking forward to more trips to the desert now that the weather has cooled. Who wants to watch Jimmie? Ha.
And as a side note, what do you do with kids once they’re too big for the pack-n-plays? Hoop is far too big to be sleeping in one of those and despite his insistence on doing so when we travel, it just ain’t gonna work much longer. Even as is he looks like a drunken man who fell asleep while leaning on a wall and kinda haphazardly slid down the wall into a hunched over sitting position. It’s horrible. I’m considering a blow up mattress or just getting a room with two beds. What do y’all do?

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The final straw

You know when you get to the point where you declare no more taking our crazy kids out to eat anymore? Well, we’re not there yet; mostly because we’re lazy and we like good food. But I think we’ve reached the point were we can say, with certainty, no more making Willy’s work trips into family trips. Because, dammit, it’s hard. 
It always starts out by sounding good in theory; a few days away as a family, promises of exploring the desert, spontaneous trips to the Salton Sea. It’s been fun, it really has. But allow me to speak the truth: it’s fucking hard.  
For one, we only have one car. So when Willy takes off for meetings (I mean let’s not forget that this is the primary reason we’re there), it leaves us stranded. In the past we’ve hung out at the pool and it’s been fine. But now… Now we have Jimmie. And, well, only the legally insane can handle two dependent kids in the pool and a high pitched barking pup who hates to be separated (aka tied up) even a few feet away from his people. Walking around downtown – in 112 degree heat – is the other alternative and Jimmie sucks on a leash and the heat eats all of my patience before I can even say hold hands to cross the street, please.
This time around, we got asked to leave the pool by the management who had received “complaints” about the “barking” dog. I wanted to cry. The amount of time it took me to hold my children against their will and slap sunscreen on them and go to the bathroom and put their swim trunks and shoes on far exceeded the 5 to 10 minutes they splashed around in the water. If only I would have had someone to complain to because dammit, I swear it was worse for me than it was for whoever had to hear it.
And that’s not even the half of it. Sometimes I feel like the little lone home wife who gets repeatedly told by her husband to keep their kids (their TWO and THREE) year old kids quiet while he fields important work calls. In a hotel room with an 8 month old energized pup? Willy looks at me with that pleading face and I want to look at him like he’s fucking insane if he thinks I have superpowers. There aren’t enough lollipops in the world to shove in those kids mouths to keep them quiet for the amount of time necessary. And it puts us all on edge.
This was our first trip with Jimmie and I voted him whatever the opposite of MVP is; perhaps there should be a LVP (least valuable player). He refused to pee on the nice balcony area we had and instead peed on the carpet at least three times.
I’m starting to feel like I’m whining so I’ll stop this rant here and end by saying we will no longer be joining Willy on his work trips. Not for a while, anyway. And by “for a while”, I mean until we can forget how hard and horrible it can be.
And yes, I let the kids play with the bidet because I had had it. Playing with dirty toilet water is now my new low. Make note of it.

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Childhood Unplugged

I have no doubt that one of the hardest parts of raising children, specifically toddlers, is getting them out of the house. Sometimes Willy and I will have extravagant plans to clean a room (not the house, just A room) and it proves to be a nightmare because it’s all based on the assumption that the boys will entertain themselves and not fight and not require our assistance with, well, anything. Reality is much different. 
But when we’re out, it’s much easier. Something about the combination of fresh air and the lack of toys to fight over creates a rather peaceful environment. Not to mention we too are pulled away from all the things that distract us from parenting; even real things like dirty dishes and laundry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at Willy and said, “See, we just needed to get them out”, but what I really meant is we all just needed to get out.
These photos were taken just off the highway in Palm Springs. And it looks like it had been well enjoyed well before we got there 😉
Please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement (it’s our one year anniversary — wow) by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.

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A few days away…

Before I had my surgery, we used to go to Palm Springs a lot. Willy works out in the desert often, so we’ve always tagged along when we could. It hasn’t been until recently that we’ve had the opportunity to go and that I’ve been able to care for the kiddos on my own, which is typically the case when we go out to the desert and Willy works. It’s been nice to revisit my life that once was and now is, again.  
We spent the mornings at the pool while Willy went to meetings, Hooper insistent on keeping his inner-tube on, Van jumping into the pool only to sink like a stone and trust that someone will be there to scoop him up. They can be so different and yet so similar at times.
We added an extra day onto the trip and went out to Joshua Tree and The Salton Sea. I’ve been to The Salton Sea many times in the past and something always brings me back. It’s hot, it’s sticky, it smells like crud, and there’s a thousand flies, but I can never get enough. And so, we drove the hour and a half from Palm Springs to have lunch at my favorite rundown dive bar / restaurant. It’s the only place to get a bite to eat in Bombay Beach and, for me, it never disappoints.
We took a new way home, through mountains and towns we had never seen, and it was beautiful. Life, albeit busy and chaotic, is more-or-less back on track. Can’t believe it’s almost been a year since my surgery.

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The Salton Sea

Some places are just so wonderfully odd that they keep yanking at your soul to return again. And so, I did.
*You can read my post from my last visit

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We got this

The kids and I tagged along on another one of Willy’s business trips out in Palm Springs a few weeks ago. Being a mother to two young children is not easy even on seemingly quiet and easy days at home. So anytime we travel, we know, shit can hit the fan.
Lately, however, life with the boys has been a breeze. And for the first time, on our drive out to the desert, I looked over at Willy and said, “We got this”.
Van is at that age where he is no longer a baby and not yet a tyrant toddler. He’s so enjoyable and easy. I’m done breastfeeding and now that I’ve gotten past all that hormonal bullshit, I’m throwing myself high fives left and right. Breastfeeding is great, I’ll be the first and last one to defend it, but being done is so freeing. It’s easier to look at my family as one unit as opposed to Van and I off in the corner keeping to our own private schedule of neurotic feedings.
Life is running at a less chaotic pace and we’re all enjoying the tranquility. Perhaps it was the calm before what is soon-to-be the storm. Be it what it may, we had a fabulous time and life has been treating us good. Today, I’m counting my blessings and feeling grateful.
More photos from our time in Palm Springs and our return to the Salton Sea to follow.

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New Friends

The internet is a funny thing, isn’t it? Well, I guess social media in general. I swear I could have a philosophical conversation with you about how instagram has made a better photographer. But I guess that’s a separate post.
I started this blog nearly two years ago and it amazes me how many connections I’ve made because of it. The fact that anyone other than my family even takes the time to read what I write still makes me scratch my head. It’s been an incredibly humbling experience thus far.
Back to the connections.
We met up with Sisilia and her adorable family a little while back (I’m always behind on posting, grrrrr) and to say we all hit it off would be a gross understatement. We had plans to hang out for an evening, take some family photos, and maybe grab a bite to eat. Instead we hung out, took some photos, hung out at the restaurant until the waitress actually left for the evening before us and then the bartender kicked us out so we moved the party to the parking lot where it too got broken up by four sets of tired eyes looking at us wondering why it was nearly 11pm and they weren’t in bed. How’s that for a run on sentence? Willy and I drove away ranting and raving about Sisilia and Joshua and got a text a few minutes later that they decided to book a room at the Ace as well and wanted to hang out again the next day.
So we met up again, swam in the pool, met for dinner, and had breakfast the next morning before we said our goodbyes and reluctantly went our separate ways.
The desert heat, the cicadas buzzing all around, the cold beer, the endless flow of conversation, the boys and their cars, the quietest little baby girl, the occassional click of a camera… it was magical.
There’s a lot to be said about new friendships. I’ll be sharing some of the family shots I took of them tomorrow.
*The pool photo was taken by Sisilia and several of these are from my instagram feed. You can check out more of Sisilia’s work by clicking here.
Side note: I’ll be announcing the winner to the Broken Tricycle giveaway on Wednesday. There’s still a couple of days left to enter!!

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A Girls Long Weekend, Palm Springs

Those who follow me on Instagram know I was recently in Palm Springs for some much needed girl time. I returned back just a few days later with Willy and the boys’ and had an awesome time hanging out with this beautiful family, but there will be more on that later.
I had been feeling so down and out after weaning, wondering when the funk would pass. I knew it was hormonal, but having the knowledge of the culprit did absolutely nothing in terms of digging myself out of the hole. I cried for two days. And I napped, which sounds dreamy – I know – but it was more of the depressed I-don’t-have-energy-to-do-anything kinda nap as opposed to the physically drained I-earned-a-nap kinda nap.
It lasted two days and even though those two days felt like marathon days, in hindsight it passed pretty quickly. Like having a newborn, when you’re in the trenches, not only do you not see the light but you don’t even know if you’re walking in the right direction. For all I knew, life was getting darker. Looking up depression after weaning, like everything else, was both a blessing and a curse; cool, I’m not alone… Ho hum, sometimes this lasts months?!
We had that nice weekend I spoke of here and a few days after that, I hit the road with my best friend.
And there’s nothing like the open road with your best friend. There just isn’t.
Sometimes when I’m away from the kids it feels like all I do is talk about them. But while our children came up in passing, we talked about so many other things: memories, work, dreams, travel, our husbands, things we are working on around the home, design, photography. We threw around quotes we had come across that made something clear that was a bit fuzzy before and we talked about some of the new documentaries we had watched. We listened to music, pulled over often to stretch our legs, and threw stuff in the back of the truck as if we had assistants back there to sort it all out for us.
It was just what I need and right when I needed it.
So please excuse the next few posts as I get caught up on sharing some photos from our adventure. There were no kids, so – ya know – we stopped a lot and drove a lot and photographed a lot.
Take that, you evil mom guilt. I’m not even feeling guilty about a

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few days away. I’m not. I said I’m not. And if I say it three times, I must be true.

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Spring/Summer 2013 from The Stork & The Beanstalk on Vimeo.
A true family photo, Sarah included. And a video from

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our trip to Palm Springs / Arizona a few weeks back.

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Bits + Pieces, The Ace Hotel {part one}

Traveling with kids is never like traveling, well, without kids. I remember our first trip with Hooper to Hawaii. He was just a few months and we left scratching our heads wondering if it was worth it but knowing, deep down, that it was not. I’m frugal in the sense that I hate to admit something that I spent money on was not enjoyable, but that trip to Hawaii simply felt like a different set of four walls. And the walls felt cold. Like concrete. I’m hinting that it felt like prison, but allow me to be blunt for a moment and actually say it felt like prison. It felt like prison.
I digress.
Since then, we’ve gotten better at traveling. We’re more experienced, we have more confidence, and we have a better perspective. The perspective part is invaluable. While we have yet to take the plunge and do a big trip, we have been doing a lot of small ones.
Willy’s still working out in Palm Springs every now and again, so we join him when we can. We brought Sarah along this time and voted her least valuable player after a night spent listening to her shake and lick and howl only to put her out on the patio to find her ripping apart the outdoor furniture. That was a hoot. But, it’s all about perspective people; so I won’t spend the whole time telling you about how Hooper would not leave his hands off Van or how the neighbors must have thought we were murdering our son when in actuality all we were doing was trying to give him a shower he was clearly not on board with because there was no bathtub. I won’t complain about the nuisances because the memory of the trip is a good one, all in all.
And that’s the thing about perspective. It’s easy to peek in on someone’s life, scroll through their photos, and think they don’t have the same day to day struggles that you do. I promise, everyone (especially those with young kids) has shitty days… or shitty parts of their day. When you travel with little ones, you have to expect this. Attitude is everything. The trip was a success, for me, because I managed to get some sun, I ate greasy food, and I didn’t kill my kids, my husband, or our dog.
And yes, I too am dying over that last photo. Maybe he’s finally starting to catch on to when I tell him to keep the peace. Part 2, coming your way tomorrow, I hope.

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Palm Springs, Part 1

I always imagined Palm Springs to be a ridiculously hip desert hideaway with sprawling mid-century homes and wall after wall begging to have you stand in front of it for a picture. Not to say I was wrong, the mid-century homes are definitely there; hiding beneath the surface like the pocket of your pants. But Palm Springs is also… weird, for lack of better words. I told Willy it reminded me of the wheelers from the Wizard of Oz; partly abandoned with an eerie mix of dessert wanderers, tourists, retired old folk, homeless, and prostitutes.
Willy’s been having to go often for work and we tag along when we can. Translation: We spend a lot of time in random hotels jumping on furniture.
Part 2 is coming your way tomorrow.

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