Dear Boys,

Untitled-1I debated telling you the news that truthfully ran on in the background the entire day while you were at school; it’s always a debate as to whether to shelter or share. Complexities of a world that’s ever-changing. And not always in a direction we want it to.

Initially you had a lot of questions, most logical like “how could he carry that many guns?” and “did he have a car?” and others that offered matter-of-fact answers, like “how many people did he kill?”. It’s the questions of why that I cannot answer; your helpless eyes looking to me, always, for all the answers.

We talked about good and evil before going to bed and I asked that you hold the victims in your heart. We joked about being hearts for Halloween because we’re all on the same page that the world needs more love. You asked about gun laws and, on your own, came up with the novel suggestion that only the police should have guns.

I agree boys, I agree. You are my light, my life. The good in a sometimes evil world.

I beg you, grow to be good.

Love,

Mom

Image by Walter Chappell, words in response to the Las Vegas massacre. 

An Anniversary

IMG_4341

 

For our first date, he took me to a fancy Hawaiian fusion restaurant. We sat at the bar and ordered fancy drinks that only adults order; partly because we were both a bit nervous and awkward and partly because we wanted to own the title of adult all 20-somethings yearn to claim. We talked, we laughed, he drove me home afterward – to my parents house, where I was living at the time – you know, when you’re in-between here and there. I had just returned from life on the road with Janet and though my physical belongings sat in the room I grew up in, my spirit still felt fiery and restless. It’s the first time in life I felt complete ownership of and confidence in my self-awareness. It wasn’t lacking before, just still being molded.

He kissed me in the driveway, the oak tree hanging overhead. It sounds cliche to say I knew he was the one, but I knew he was the one. That night was only the beginning.
We have reservations tonight at a nice restaurant on the beach. A treat to one another. We laugh thinking back to that night, to that $100 dinner that was so out-of-form all those years back. And how I confided them the same confession that I confess tonight; that I’d be just as happy going to Denny’s.
Happy Anniversary to my one true love.

A day late & a dollar short | Spring

ashley jennett
ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

ashley jennett

You know when you’re so busy that you have to intentionally carve out time to do things that you want to do (as opposed to need to do) so that by the time you actually clear space to do so you realize you don’t enjoy it quite as much because the burden of having to carve time out to do it has just become another weight on an already full plate? That’s how I’ve felt as of late. With my heart being drawn to this space but other areas in my life proving more demanding; especially this time of year, Mother’s Day being our shop’s busiest time, the culmination of the school year (Hooper’s a kindergarten graduate!), and summer vacations (all good stuff, but still, rat-on-the-wheel vibes).

In any event, time has been moving faster than ever and at this rate and I’m ashamed to admit that it’s already summer and I have yet to blog about spring. Or do about 50 other things on my I-wish-I-had-more-time list. Part of the issue being a cluttered desk which, for me, always brings with it a form of writer’s block; or an inability to figuratively clear my mind when my area is literally, well, cluttered. I’m surrounded this very moment by an office covered with cardboard boxes of varying shapes and sizes, crafting supplies, trash, and a wall hanging that I’ve been meaning to hang but that Jimmie has made his pseudo bed so I can’t bring myself to pull it out from under him cuz, well, he’s my office buddy.

In any event, we spent some time out in the desert. First with friends and then, just days later, back again for a family photoshoot (that’s my reminder to self to start sharing some of my latest sessions, ugh, see, the weight?… it gets heavier). When we went back, we brought just Sonny (my parents kept the older boys) and it was a nice reminder to just how easy we had it when the ratio was two to one. Not that we knew that then because, well, fucking hindsight is a bitch like that. It was calm and quiet and slow. Not to mention more baby safe than our house, which we’ve never been good at baby-proofing; the stairs, in particular, being the thorn in our site (they’re late 70’s and not baby gate friendly). So it was nice to not have to get up off our butts every two seconds. We drove around and looked at land (it’s always been our dream to build a house out in the desert) and came across a desert tortoise, which, of course we took for a sign that we should buy land that we can’t afford and built the house of dreams that we also can’t afford. Because, you know, the tortoise.

Came home for a few days so Hooper could show his face at school and then headed out to Arizona to celebrate the Easter holiday with family. The boys spent time in the pool, which was freezing by my born-and-raised-in-Southern-California standards, spent time with their cousins, and hiked the hills; the Sonoran Desert in full bloom, too, and proving as beautiful as ever.

And, just like that, summer. Or, has been summer… and by the time I actually hit publish on this post, it may very well be fall.

A Letter to My Boys

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Dear Hooper, Van, & Sonny,

You lost one of your Great Grandmothers, Norma Jean (aka Nanny), on the 14th. We drove out to Arizona two days later to attend the funeral. Hooper, my sweet firstborn, you cried; water welled up behind those innocent eyes. You couldn’t stand seeing anyone hurt and saying goodbye made you sad. Van, you stayed close to me for most of the ceremony and, picking up on the emotion in the room, whispered that you loved me. And Sonny, you sat still for about 20 minutes (which truthfully is 20 minutes longer than I anticipated) until you could wave no more to the people behind you and had to be removed; the back of the church, your playground. You crawled wildly, filled with an energy only sugar could fuel. Though you had none.

We drove home through a storm, the rain falling harder than I’d venture to say you guys have seen before; a testament not solely to your limited life experience but more so to the weight of the water falling. Visibility bad enough to necessitate driving with our hazard lights on only to give way to a break in the storm. A part in the clouds. A sliver of blue skies. And a rainbow, fully visible, end to end.

May you hold tight onto memories. Of loved ones, of laughter, of storms, and, of rainbows.

I love you boys,

Mom

Woman’s March

Processed with VSCO with b6 preset

Processed with VSCO with b5 preset

Processed with VSCO with b4 preset

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Processed with VSCO with b4 preset

Processed with VSCO with 3 preset

Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

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

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

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

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

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

—–

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

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

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

The Speed of Life

san-clemente-family-photographer-3489

san-clemente-family-photographer-3365 san-clemente-family-photographer-3369 san-clemente-family-photographer-3371 san-clemente-family-photographer-3379 san-clemente-family-photographer-3404 san-clemente-family-photographer-3387 san-clemente-family-photographer-3416 san-clemente-family-photographer-3388 san-clemente-family-photographer-3409 san-clemente-family-photographer-3435 san-clemente-family-photographer-3393 san-clemente-family-photographer-3428 san-clemente-family-photographer-3467 san-clemente-family-photographer-3483 san-clemente-family-photographer-3496 san-clemente-family-photographer-3507 san-clemente-family-photographer-3517 san-clemente-family-photographer-3523 san-clemente-family-photographer-3525All I seem drawn to write about lately is how fast time is passing. I guess that’s because the entire month of December seems to have flown before I even had a chance to come up for a breath. When we were in the process of moving homes, Willy and I told one another that when we were done and settled, we’d celebrate; because, well, at the time everything was so stressful (selling a home, buying a home – and Lord-have-mercy-with-all-the-extra-shit-that-comes-up-in-that-process – and so on and so forth). We have yet to celebrate and I can attribute that to two reasons: 1. we don’t really consider ourselves done or settled (I mean we still are living amongst boxes and bare walls) and 2. time never slows for us to even consider planning any sort of celebration.

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.

Children, dogs, & perspective

338A6202-11

I remember a philosophy class in college where the professor presented the option of living as we are now; with all the realities that encompass life as a human, or trading it all for the simplicity of life as a dog. I mean it is tantalizing to think of being fed and cared for and loved unconditionally. I think one stoner kid in the back raised his hand, willing to make the switch. The professor proclaimed that he found it odd because typically when we have insight into what an evolved brain is capable of, you wouldn’t give it up. In other words, even with all the challenges and strife, it’s hard to trade the good, more complicated emotions, for the life of a dog, who could never truly experience such.

A while ago, I met up with my friend Cindy and we had a conversation during dinner about how ignorance, at a time, truly was bliss. She had her daughter very young and in-looking back in hindsight, she said the only way she got through it was ignorance; not knowing what she didn’t know.

It’s interesting to me that we spend so many years maturing and it’s looked upon as a good thing, an evolutionary thing. And yet by the time we’re more-or-less mature adults (am I mature adult — I dunno) we yearn for the ignorance, the simplicity, that filled our early years that so many waited for us to grow out of.

I was reminded of this just the other morning when Van was with me in the bathroom, shoving a q-tip deep into his ear. I asked him, “are you excited to go to school tomorrow?”, to-which-he-replied, “but first I need to clean my ear”.

Children know nothing more than the moment. And it’s something that they’re lack of brain cells allow for and ours kinda don’t. They’re kinda like dogs. It’s a struggle as an adult to know all we know and still stay present in the moment.

So I pose the question to you: would you trade brain cells for a life of simplicity, a life of living in the moment? Or do you chose the realities of adulthood, which includes the heavy, hard emotions and forethought into what needs to be done in the coming weeks, months, even years… but also includes the ability to watch a kid stick a q-tip in his ear and see the beauty in it?

Summer

San Clemente Family Photographer-4897

San Clemente Family Photographer-4896 San Clemente Family Photographer-4903 San Clemente Family Photographer-4899 San Clemente Family Photographer-4909 San Clemente Family Photographer-4912 San Clemente Family Photographer-4916 I remember summers during childhood lasting what felt like an eternity; the summer vacations, annoying my sister, complaining about complete and udder boredom, laying out poolside, stalking summer crushes at the beach, and putting off whatever summer reading that was assigned, opting instead for the cliff note version in the week preceding the fall return to school.

Summer now seems like a blink of an eye, with school seemingly getting out later and starting earlier. I feel this newfound pressure to pull out the calendar to schedule adventures for the sole purpose of assuring at least a few get snuck in there and that the entire summer doesn’t pass without any of the quintessential memories only summer can deliver. And yet scheduling anything seems to steal the spontaneity that summer alone seems to promise. It’s a catch 22, isn’t it?

Throw in a scheduled move and, well, I’m feeling kinda robbed of this summer already. Screw that, throw in the speed of life these days and I’m feeling a bit robbed of life in general. Who’s with me? I hold no answers to the slowing of time but hoping that with this summer freedom we can schedule some time to be bored. And maybe an adventure, or two, that don’t break the bank because dammit, moving is a money suck.

A Book Release | People Who Knew Me

San Clemente Family Photography _ People Who Knew Me _ Kim Hooper-7418 San Clemente Family Photography _ People Who Knew Me _ Kim Hooper-7395 San Clemente Family Photography _ People Who Knew Me _ Kim Hooper-7401 San Clemente Family Photography _ People Who Knew Me _ Kim Hooper-7429 San Clemente Family Photography _ People Who Knew Me _ Kim Hooper-7459

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!

People Who Knew Me

Scan 11

Scan 12aScan 13
scan14

I remember being on a camping trip when we were young, in a rented RV. I can’t recall a time that a trip with a rented RV went smoothly; meaning, I can’t recall a time that the RV didn’t break down.

It’s funny how you recall small moments from childhood, never big excursions or monumental events in their entirety but instead short little bursts. Glimpses, if you will. Like recalling the first house you lived in when you were arguably not even old enough to remember but somehow you have this hauntingly clear recollection from within its walls, almost more of a feeling than an actual memory.

That’s the first memory I have of my sister writing; we were on one of our summer trips, in one of those rented RVs, and I can remember flipping through her novels which – at that time – were nothing more than pieces of white paper stapled together down the center to give it a binding-like appearance. Because she was older, I idolized everything she did. And yet, I remember flipping through those early books and thinking it wasn’t even worth trying to compete; it was something so innate within her that I knew I never stood a chance. I was competitive on many fronts, always eager to fill the shoes only a big sister can, but writing and making books? I never touched that.

The books only got longer and more sophisticated. Writing, for her, was an evolutionary process. There were essays and short stories and novels; novels my parents would read – a pile of computer paper stacked on their nightstands that, to me, looked like it would take a lifetime to read. Maybe two. I oftentimes felt distant from her as I sat in my room and picked the nail polish off my toe nails in an effort to procrastinate writing a 5 page paper for school on a book I only read the Cliff Notes version of.

I remember one year for Christmas when other kids were asking for a new pair of Sketchers and she was asking for a fire proof safe to keep her work in.

Then came the rejections. Oh the rejections. I remember her telling me once that there was a writer that used to save the rejection letters and glue them to his wall as wallpaper; alluding to the fact that there were so many that an entire room or more would be covered. Over the years, I witnessed just how difficult it was to get published. That despite how much there is out there published independently and how much there is out there in form of blogs or websites that are also self-published, that seeking to strike a deal with an actual publisher boarders on being downright masochistic.

And after years of what I’ve decided to refer to as self-torture, it’s happened. My sister is having a book published. Let me rephrase that, her book has been published and can be found, today – at this very moment – at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.

I always knew there would be relief and pride coming from her when this day came, but I never imagined sharing in the relief and pride to the degree that I am.

I have a copy of the book, the “Advance Uncorrected Proof” version and as I flipped each page, “Kim Hooper” lining the top of the left page and “People Who Knew Me” lining the top of the right, a flood of pride washed over me. Two hundred and ninety four pages later and those words, “Kim Hooper” and “People Who Knew Me”, and the pride associated with such, never wore off.

It’s with great pride and love that I introduce you to my sister’s first novel, “People Who Knew Me“. A synopsis:

Everything was fine fourteen years after she left New York.

Until suddenly, one day, it wasn’t.
Emily Morris got her happily-ever-after earlier than most. Married at a young age to a man she loved passionately, she was building the life she always wanted. But when enormous stress threatened her marriage, Emily made some rash decisions. That’s when she fell in love with someone else. That’s when she got pregnant.
Resolved to tell her husband of the affair and to leave him for the father of her child, Emily’s plans are thwarted when the world is suddenly split open on 9/11. It’s amid terrible tragedy that she finds her freedom, as she leaves New York City to start a new life. It’s not easy, but Emily—now Connie Prynne―forges a new happily-ever-after in California. But when a life-threatening diagnosis upends her life, she is forced to rethink her life for the good of her thirteen-year-old daughter.
A riveting debut in which a woman must confront her own past in order to secure the future of her daughter, Kim Hooper’s People Who Knew Me asks: “What would you do?”

You can find her book on Amazon (here) and read her blog (here).
Love you, Kim. So proud.

Post Birth Ramblings

San Clemente Family Photographer-3910

San Clemente Family Photographer-3749 Sonny San Clemente Family Photographer-3914Hooper came home from school with his belly button painted purple and red looking like a makeup artist got ahold of him and gave his belly button a good bruising. When questioned about it, he said he wanted his belly button to look like Sonny’s.

As Sonny laid curled up into me in the hospital bed, I couldn’t help but think how the kicks from him while inside me were so reminiscent of the kicks I felt with him lying next to me.

One of the nurses commented as I ate my meal over a breastfeeding Sonny that I must not be a first time mom. It sure is a lot easier the third time around.

I’ve always said that the newborn phase isn’t really for Willy and I, that we’d rather jump right into the toddler phase. But I guess with each child you gain a better sense of just how fleeting and unforgiving time is and for whatever reason, I’m really enjoying this newborn phase. Willy too.

Questions asked by the boys: Why doesn’t he open his eyes? Can we watch him suck your booby? Mama, when are you going to fill your belly up again? When will he be able to tell jokes?

Hooper broke out into full crocodile tears when he had to go home from the hospital without Sonny and I. Through choked up words and flowing tears, he said, “I want mama and Sonny to come home too”. Broke. My. Heart. He also cried heavily after Jimmie accidentally scratched Sonny.

Highlights from the hospital: lavender towels delivered by the sweetest of volunteers and home made chocolate chip cookies.

My first day home I watched Van pick a very large sized booger and was actually relieved when he put it in his mouth, allowing me to stay sitting on my injured lady parts.

Van, being to boob man that he is, shared the following observation: “Wow, mama, that is the biggest I have ever seen your booby”. Followed by, “Can I squeeze it?”.

Speaking of boobs, Hooper made one out of his legos. He used a long stick looking lego for the nipple and it resembled the fembots from Austin Powers.

Jimmie spent the first week of Sonny’s life rather out of sorts. He welcomed him home by peeing all over the hallway floor, the stairs, and the landing area.

I’ve rediscovered sleeping on my back, which never felt like something to write home about before but is nothing short of a privilege now.

My doctor’s response when I told him we’d like to save the placenta, “Um, okay. Gross”.

The following conversation took place:
Van: “How come your tummy is still big?”
Me: “Cuz there’s still gunk in there”.
Van: “But gunk only comes out of your ears”.

Willy, on having another boy: “It’s nice not having to wipe poop out of a vagina”…

My vagina itched in the worst way possible following the delivery. It’s one thing to be awoken by your newborn baby, but it’s an entirely different thing to be awoken by my own labia. In any event, desitin worked magically. Take notes.

I had made a list of things to do once I felt labor coming on on the back of a tear away calendar. When I came home from the hospital, I turned the list over only to discover that I had written it on March 17. Here I am visiting the magic eight ball’s website trying to figure out when this baby would come when all I had to do was look on the back of my pre-labor to-do list.

Van peed in his bed one night, followed by throwing up in his bed the night after that. Willy has been in charge of household duties so Van spent the next two nights sleeping on semi-barf sheets.

I texted my mom “shit just got real” the morning Van woke up with said throw up. I thought that day would be the day that would do me in but it was the next day, when Van was back to being healthy, that the first I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this tears started flowing. Luckily, they came and went.

I’m eating my placenta, which sounds better than the truth which is I had it encapsulated. I’ve never had post partum depression but as soon as I heard that it could* help with post partum hair loos, you better believe I was in.

Sonny’s belly button stump smells like an ape’s armpit. We ended up using alcohol on it to speed up the falling-off-process and I’m happy to report that the problem has been resolved.

Willy caught a video of me giving birth and I’ve only been able to watch it once or twice. In fact, every time Sonny cries that high-pitched newborn cry I am reminded of that video and equally troubled as the first time I saw it.

Sonny’s balls are the size of the rock of Gibraltar.

Van refers to the suction/bottle part of my breast pump as “water blasters” and has taken to carrying them around the house, one in each hand, shooting them like you would a gun.

Hooper asked if he could carry Sonny down the stairs, pointing out the fact he’s 5 and therefore totally trustworthy.

A Birth Story

San Clemente Family Photographer-3557

San Clemente Family Photographer-3517 San Clemente Family Photographer-3529 San Clemente Family Photographer-3534 San Clemente Family Photographer-3544 San Clemente Family Photographer-3545 San Clemente Family Photographer-3547 San Clemente Family Photographer-3549 San Clemente Family Photographer-3585 San Clemente Family Photographer-3604 San Clemente Family Photographer-3656 San Clemente Family Photographer-3670 San Clemente Family Photographer-3680There’s a mason jar that sits on the plywood concrete block shelf Willy built about a year ago that also houses a portion of our record collection, our record player, and a few other knick knacks and books and plants. Within that mason jar are several pieces of paper folded in such a way that the words remain hidden; guesses, if you will, as to when the baby would come, how big it would be, whether it would be a boy or a girl, and how long it would be. Everyone from friends, even one in Florida, to grandparents, great grandparents, and neighbors pitched in on the pot, hopeful to take home a portion of the pot of money. It seemed like a fun idea until it got near the end when, well, truthfully nothing is fun anymore. I unfolded those little bits of paper and staring back at me were dates from weeks before. Even my own guess, made in some sort of hopeful and delusional state, was far gone.

Sonny, the wait was nearly longer than your mama could bear but, as I suppose they say – and as I peek over my shoulder at you so perfectly asleep and content in your bouncer- you were worth it.

Everyone has a story, my dear Sonny, this is yours.

———-

As your induction date grew nearer, I became more obsessed with getting you out before eviction time. I started to get hung up on stupid shit – like whether you’d be an Aires or a Pisces – and even considered changing my induction date because, I’m telling you, I was going crazy. If only hindsight weren’t 20/20. If I could have the peace of mind that I do today, knowing what I know now, I would have waited with more grace, more patience; I would have waited a lifetime. But, alas, the end of my pregnancy with you felt like a lifetime with each day sucking whatever energy I had and whisking it away like a broom sweeping dust off a porch. I read once that cats runaway prior to giving birth; they find somewhere dark and birth their kittens in the loneliness and company of dark shadows. I can relate. I wanted to dig a hole and not come out until I had you in my arms.

I woke up that morning looking forward to my appointment, eager for the doc to give me some crystal ball answer of when I would go into labor; which, truthfully, I knew was a lousy thing to rely on given the fact at the previous appointment he said I’d have you in my arms within the next 5 days. That appointment was over a week prior. I suppose it’s that very lack of control, the uncertainty, that makes pregnancy so troubling at times; so much to worry about and get hung up on.

He did a quick ultrasound and confirmed that my fluid levels were great, your heart beat perfect. He didn’t comment on your size, per his usual less-is-more conversational skills and at-that-point I was glad; I knew deep down you’d be big and going into labor without that seed of fear planted in my head helped to some degree. He stripped my membranes, for at least the third – maybe fourth – time and reminded me, once again, that he’s never put a women into labor by stripping her membranes. I was 4 cm and 80% effaced and though that came as a pleasant surprise, google was quick to remind me that others stayed at these measurements for weeks, some even having to be induced for ‘failure to progress’ beyond those measurements. No such reassurance with this pregnancy gig, I’m tellin’ ya. He hooked us up to the fetal monitor, checked your heart rate against some contractions during a non-stress-test, told me you look “too perfect”, asked that I not go into labor until after midnight – after his sushi date with his wife – and I left his office.

I met up with a friend of a friend later in the afternoon, who agreed to do some acupressure. By this point I had sworn off all natural induction tricks but given the fact she was referred by a friend who referred to her as “the big guns” and offered to help out of the kindness of her heart, it was hard to say no. I met her at her house and she worked on some areas on my feet, shoulders, neck, and back while her son played with legos and their new puppy pissed on the carpet.

I stopped on the way home to get a pedicure, which is something I’ve never gotten in the two years of living here. But, given the fact I’m unable to bend due to my fused spine and now even less able to bend because of, well, your ridiculous size, I figured someone who does not love me ought to trim my nails and scrape the dead skin off my feet. There was a women sitting with her feet in the tub when I got there. She glanced over as I was picking out a color and said, “you look like you deserve a pedicure, when are you due?”. I gave her the I-know-right look and told her my due date had come and gone sometime ago. I climbed up to the massage chair, flipped through some trashy magazines that I only seem to ever pick up while waiting in line at the grocery store or at a doctor’s appointment, and left the nail salon with cherry red toe nails feeling like now would be a good time to go into labor. As would yesterday, but – ya know – ships sail.

The rest of that day was spent like the days that preceded it — waiting. I waited all the way through dinner and got in bed that night dreading the passing of another day and feeling much like I did the evenings preceding it — defeated. I got up to the bathroom, noticed some blood tinged mucous, googled “bloody show”, compared pictures others had posted, told Willy it could mean we’d be on our way to the hospital soon OR it could mean several more days of waiting (thanks, again, google for all your wonderfully definitive information), and got in bed with just the slightest glimmer of hope to combat the usual feeling of defeat.

As if you had more respect for our OB than I, just a few minutes after midnight – per his request – I felt the first contraction that caught my attention and briefly made me exhale just a tad longer than usual. Not being the first time I was awoken by a contraction that seemed to be gaining in magnitude, I didn’t get too excited. I did consider timing it to see when the next one would come and sure enough, five minutes later, I had another. I stopped timing them, however, when ten more minutes went by and nothing much happened. Defeat, pouring back in.

Then, around 12:20am (keep track of the time here because it’s an important part of your story), I heard a “pop”. I turned to your Papa and said, “did you hear that?”. He wrote me off entirely, assumed I was dreaming and responded to me the same way you’d respond to a drunk person who you know isn’t in their right mind to be having a serious conversation. He blamed it on my back, “It was probably just your back cracking”. Only it felt very internal. To be honest, I thought you had broke your neck. I spent the next couple of minutes waiting for you to move, to be sure you were okay, and when you responded with some gentle kicks, I got up to go to the bathroom hoping to see some sign of impending labor. Alas, nothing. Defeat, pouring back in.

I climbed back in bed and succumbed to the fact it was going to be another sleepless night, waiting and wondering and anticipating. And then my underwear started to feel wet. My first inclination was to wait, to be sure. My second inclination was to get out of bed and avoid having to deal with a mattress soaked with amniotic fluid. I made my way to the bathroom, again, this time accompanied by a clear puddle of water beneath my feet. I called my doula, told her in a calm voice that my water broke and asked her what I’m supposed to do now. Given the time and lack of sleep, she suggested waiting just a bit and trying to get some more rest. I knew in my heart of hearts I would not be able to take her advice.

I made my way back to the bed and had a contraction that made me grab hold of the bedding for support. Your Papa called the OB. I went over to my desk and consulted the list I had made (I love lists) of tasks to complete in early labor; things like shower, put toiletry bag in backpack, turn off computer, etc, etc. I started moaning in such a way that your Papa said, “How ’bout you stop doing that stuff and we start to head over to the hospital”. I agreed because it was obvious shit was gonna go down. We got in the car about 12:30am.

My contractions seemed to be escalating quickly. It literally went from my water breaking to full-on labor land mode. I tried to watch the clock to time them but each time one came I was swept away in such a way that no thoughts registered, common logic had all but left. I was in survival mode and the drive to the hospital felt like the longest drive of my life. The commute to the hospital is about 20 minutes and your Papa must had been driving 95 mph in addition to running several red lights. I heard your Papa on the phone with the OB, “I’m no OB but I think things are moving pretty quickly…”.

When we got to the hospital your Papa wheeled me into the waiting room of the ER. For the brief second I could open my eyes I could see about 10 to 15 people sitting in chairs, waiting to be seen. I gave them quite the show and I’m sure any one of them would have offered to give up their place in line for the screams of the woman in dire need that just bursted through their doors. Luckily the OB, God bless him, showed up a few minutes later and he was actually the one to wheel me up to the delivery unit. Your Papa went to park the truck.

On the way to the elevator, the OB – the one I’ve called some not nice names and debated leaving several times – rubbed my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “you’re doing awesome”. He probably knew he’d be home soon enough. I’m such a cynical bitch (should I apologize to you for that now or later in life?). Before we even made it out of the elevator, I felt the urge to push. I didn’t fight it. Past experience told me that the nothing was coming out of me with any sort of ease, so with each contraction, I bore down.

There was a room full of people waiting for me and next thing I knew they were asking me to get out of the wheelchair and into the bed. I remember the transfer being so difficult. Your Papa came in from the parking lot. I was still in my dress when I got into bed. I heard one nurse mention something about putting an IV in me, the other nurse declaring that there wouldn’t be time. They made an attempt at putting the monitor around my belly, asked me to switch positions a few times, and urged me to breath in the oxygen they were giving me. The OB checked and everyone stopped moving so fast when they declared me to be 6 cm. My heart sunk. It was 1:10am. They inserted the aforementioned IV. I still felt the urge to push and I couldn’t fight it, so I continued to push with each contraction. Not but a few minutes later I heard the OB say, “we’re going to have a baby here within the next 20 seconds”… and the room full of nurses started cheering on my pushing efforts. About four contractions later, at 1:16am, you were on my chest… your fluid-filled ball sac catching my eye during the transfer. A boy! They could have handed me a monkey and in that instant I still would have felt nothing other than complete and utter relief.

Moments later, my mom came in — the look of complete and utter surprise across her face. And moments after her, our doula arrived. Both intended to be at the birth but turns out that while some hurry up and wait, you prefer to wait and hurry up.

You pooped while you were on my chest, in true Jennett fashion (Hooper pooped on the way out too) and we all laughed by just how much poo there was and just how many of us your poo touched (all over my dress, all over your Papa who went to grab you and came out with fingers caked in green meconium, all over the nurses that eventually bathed you, and even on the OB who left soon-thereafter with poo on his jacket).

You latched on and breastfed like a champ, everyone commenting on the perfection of your latch.

We all took guesses at what you would weigh, with the majority of us (and the nurses) guessing in the 8 pound ballpark, sprinkled with a few 9 pound guesses. All of our jaws dropped when the scale read 10 lbs 0 oz. TEN POUNDS? So much for keeping an eye on my weight in hopes of it affecting yours. Should we be blessed with another baby in the future, I will surely take up smoking.

Welcome to the world, our world anyway, hope you enjoy your time here my sweet Sonny.

Born on St. Patricks Day, as only luck would have it.

———-

Post Script

Your Papa and I laugh about the fact you were almost born in the car. It seems only fitting that we have two ‘failed’ home birth attempts under our belts only to plan a hospital birth that nearly misses the hospital all together. There has been construction on the freeways here and given the 20 minute commute to the hospital, had you decided to come in the daytime hours, you would most certainly have been delivered in the car.

One additional token of irony is the ease of which you came out… the biggest babe of mine yet and somehow the easiest to deliver and with the fewest repercussions.

All of it proof, I suppose, that life doesn’t always have to make sense.

Nesting

bathroomrenovationThe last few months feel like a mission of completion; with the objective being to get things done we’ve talked about doing for some time, all in the name of welcoming another child into our family and home. Downtime on the weekends that we have together have been a productive whirlwind, with several trips to the local hardware store along with trips to drop off donations at the local secondhand stores, not to mention countless loads of laundry and sorting of clothes the boys grew out of long ago. There’s still much to be done, but the dent has been made and with the exception of the daily messes that seem to overtake any house where children reside, things are coming together.

For the bathroom renovations in both our bedroom as well as the bathroom outside of the boys’ room we went with penny tiles on the floor, white subway tile backsplash, custom made vanities using the same reclaimed wood we had left over from our flooring in the garage, and vintage rugs that we’ve scored at some point along the way. Both mirrors are from Ikea and are super reasonably priced. The facet in the boys’ bathroom and the towel hooks are also from Ikea. We went with wall-mounted facets from Lowes in our bathroom and we love them. The hardware on the vanities is also from Lowes.

Tidbits

sanclementephotographerWe finally got the rain we so desperately needed and when I say “we”, what I’m referring to is California. El Nino has arrived and I’m longing for more days that send us all to the window to see just how hard it’s coming down. I secretly hope the rain sticks around come March, when we welcome the baby, because who doesn’t like the freshness of a new baby and the sound of falling rain?

This article, shared on NPR, about the little girl smoking a cigarette who was photographed decades ago by renowned photographer Mary Ellen Clark. Always interesting to hear about the people whose image, years ago, became iconic. I love how the girl in the photograph refers to Mary Ellen Clark as “that photographer lady”, even after all these years.

I was published in a Russian Magazine called Veter Magazine. You can peep the digital issue by clicking here. I’m on page 100 or so, I believe.

I was also published in Rangefinder Magazine back in July/August. Here is a link to the digital edition. I’m on page 43.

Photography by Vinca Petersen, from a road trip in 1999, taking me back to the days Janet and I went everywhere just because we could.

Loved watching this video, Rewild the Child, that speaks to the link between children and the natural world. An excerpt: “We have what I think is a very narrow education system which rewards a very particular skill set but completely ignores the great intelligence, the genius, that many children have but that is never discovered”.

I was named as one of 115 inspiring photographers by Delicious Presets. You can check out others who made the list here.

This guy works 6 months out of the year and spends the other 6 months riding his bike and living on $10 a day. Love how he admits that he hates working.

Janet sent me this link to images taken by Photographer Bill Yates in 1972 at a roller rink in Florida.

I shared some tips for beginners on shooting with your iPhone over on Write On Your Heart, you can read the tips by clicking here.

The Bee & The Fox’s ‘Pick Flowers Not Fights’ tee was featured over on Babiekins Magazine with images taken by my dear friend and very talented photographer, Katherine Heise, with Lamb Loves Fox. You can check the feature out here. Or you can screw the feature all together and just check out Lamb Loves Fox, because honestly her work is better worth your time and she’s been a true friend despite never having met and living thousands of miles away.

We finally made the time to watch Montage of Heck and followed it up with Soaked in Bleached. Have you seen either? Loved how well Montage of Heck was done and loved the controversies presented in Soaked in Bleach. We currently started Making a Murderer and are about halfway through. Highly recommended. Can’t stop won’t stop.

Happy Friday, wishing everyone a restful weekend.

Pain

San Clemente Family Photographer-60It’s funny how life throws you a curve ball just when you convinced yourself that you might make it to the league’s home run derby. The last few weeks had been so productive; so much checked off our to-do list… both bathroom renovations complete, closet doors and front door renovations too, along with piles donated and listed for sale (the biggest being the sale of our 68′ Jeep Wagoneer which was bitter sweet but more sweet), furniture moved around, closets cleaned out… what I’m saying is that you’d think it were spring around here.

And then it hit me like an old ex that shows up unexpected at your front door. I’m talking about pain. In my neck, to be exact.

It’s been an on and off part of my life since my back surgery, though more recently stemming from a car accident I was involved in in March that resulted in three cars all being completely totaled on the freeway.

I’ve had a few hiccups here and there, with most weeks built around physical therapy appointments… but the pain I’m experiencing this week is less like a hiccup and more like a tidal wave; meaning that I have been unable to do anything. And when you’re unable to do anything, you’re suddenly reminded of everything you’d like to be doing and, dammit, need to be doing.

Fantasies of adventures with the boys over their break from school have been haunting my thoughts. As have the completion of what’s left on that ever-lengthy to-do-around-the-home list. I have nothing but time, with only one photo session scheduled before the New Year as well as one shift left in the hospital, but am by no means able to turn this time I have into anything productive. It’s frustrating to say the least.

And yet each time I’m in one of these dire states, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to be healthy… I spend my time in bed trying to relax with a household below me that sounds as if it’s about to unravel at the seams without me. A baby kicking away in my belly, making me thankful that I have time to heal before the physicality of an impending natural birth that causes me to giggle at my current state of pain and discomfort.

With all the heartache that has taken place as of late – both in Paris and San Bernardino – my piddly pain in my neck is simply a drop of water in the ocean. Nevertheless perhaps it’s the reminder I needed – and maybe we all need – that the holidays ought not to be about gift giving but instead about counting the many blessings already present in our lives.

Wishing everyone a festive week, filled with laughter and happiness, and thanks.

Making a list

San Clemente Family Photograhy-26

San Clemente Family Photograhy-11 San Clemente Family Photograhy-14 San Clemente Family Photograhy-15 San Clemente Family Photograhy-19 San Clemente Family Photograhy-20 San Clemente Family Photograhy-23 San Clemente Family Photograhy-25 San Clemente Family Photograhy-31

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.

Around the home

Orange County Photographer-7114

Orange County Photographer-6992 Orange County Photographer-7012 Orange County Photographer-7023 Orange County Photographer-6993 Orange County Photographer-7037 Orange County Photographer-7047 Orange County Photographer-7085 Orange County Photographer-7092 Orange County Photographer-7097 Orange County Photographer-7101 Orange County Photographer-7107 Orange County Photographer-7110 Orange County Photographer-7121 Orange County Photographer-7128 Orange County Photographer-7140 Orange County Photographer-7159 Orange County Photographer-7202

I sense that it will be hard for Willy and I to put down roots in any one place because we’re always dreaming of something different than what we have as soon as we acquire whatever it is we have. Isn’t that awful? Sounds like a recipe for depression, though I assure we’re happy with where we are, and grateful to have what we have.

That’s not to say that living in a townhome is ideal. There are things we love; like our neighbors and the community living with shared walls brings. We also love the pool that we rarely use despite our good intentions. And it’s bigger than our old home, with a layout we love and an interior we’ve made our own despite the not-so-attractive stucco exterior. On the flip side, we are without a yard. We have a small covered patio that we rarely use and are actually hoping to convert into useable indoor living space. We have a homeowners association that I truthfully despise; mostly because I don’t like someone telling me what I can and can’t do with a property that we own. The boys are technically unable to ride their bikes in front of our home because it’s a private road and we’ve gotten many letters in the mail reminding us of such.

That all said, we’re awfully close to the beach and to downtown where there’s some of the best pizza just a short walk away. And I figure should we be here long enough, the freedom of riding their skateboards down to the beach or down to the pizza joint is one they will treasure deeply. It’s just hard to accept that now, without a yard to roam or a street to ride bikes, it’s not really ideal.

Sometimes I watch the boys play and it feels like they are those bouncy balls that you get in the .25 cent machines in a room with hard surfaces; constantly bouncing to and fro and destroying just about everything in site. It’s a constant struggle to keep the house clean and a constant struggle to keep them entertained on the days we have to lay low to get work done within the home. Sometimes I feel like our situation is more complicated by the fact we both do a lot of work from home; like we’re juggling two things at once with a bum arm.

But I think of the years ahead… and the proximity to the ocean… and our neighbors who truly have hearts of golds… and then I just pile em’ boys in the car and set them free somewhere else. Just not quite as easy as opening the back slider.

How do those of you who live in smaller places or lack yard space make it work?

An Interview

Souther California Photographer-266

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!
Souther California Photographer-205

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☺
Souther California Photographer-248

You can view more pictures of our time in Montana by clicking here.