30 Life Highlights

May 07, 2015 By: Jenna Category: Personal

I like using my birthday as a chance to reflect on my life. My 26th and 27th years must have been particularly good, if the Amazingly Awesome lists I put together are any indication. For my 30th I’m thinking less about how AMAZING everything is and more about the remarkable experiences and states-of-being that pushed me to where I am today.

This post started out as a fun little trip down memory lane, but after I finished the list I noticed some patterns that reveal what’s most important to me, and where I should be focusing the majority of my time and effort. I was surprised to see that work came to my mind. I hold no fondness for the uniforms, or the long days on my feet,  or the hot-hot heat as I drove tractor through the cherries. It’s the relationships formed with my coworkers and the satisfaction found in being assigned tasks and accomplishing them that I enjoyed so much. This is one of the primary reasons why I want to get a job working for someone else within the next year.

Many of the things I wrote down only made the list because of the people I was with. I need to make it more of a priority in my life to put time and effort into those connections. And travel too, travel needs to always be a priority in our budget and lives.

Quite a few of the experiences reveal nostalgia for the way I grew up. We had the opportunity to provide that same life for our children, but we turned it down in favor of a life that will keep us away from my hometown in the thick of the hustle and bustle. There will always be a part of me that romances the pastoral, and I’m glad my parents still live there so the kids can continue to have those experiences in the summer. The suburbs are very bland (San Francisco city proper has my heart though!).

Thinking about my own childhood of course means I’m going to think about the childhood I’m giving to my kids and what I want them to remember. I have zero memories of my mom sitting on the floor playing with me. What I do remember is the stuff that I now realize would have taken hours and days to prep for. Going boating at Mardon, spending a week at the county fair, the trips we took, the pool we had in our backyard which my parents rarely swam in but probably spent a lot of time maintaining. I’m going to be guilt-free about saying “I’m busy right now, go play” in our daily life, but take more time to go to the beach or San Francisco or  Lake Tahoe or a road trip along the coast.

You know I didn’t make the list at all? Stuff. No mention of any of the toys I got as a kid, or the items I saved up for when I was independent, or talk about how well appointed the furnishings are in our home. Less stuff more experiences has been something we’ve been working toward over the last year, but assembling this list has made me want to double down and make it our new religion. We are moving to Redwood City this summer, and I’m going to use it as a test to see how much we can simplify and downgrade. Our home won’t be Pinterest-worthy, but we will get to know our neighbors.

When I’m 40 I’d like to make another list detailing the highlights from now until then. I want it to be filled with experiences over stuff, food, adventures we squeezed into our daily life, trips to places far and near, and stories about the ways I strengthened my connections with the people who matter most to me. I think I have enough information now to see what’s going to bring me the most joy.

30 Things I Loved About the Last 30 Years

(in no particular order)

1. Growing up on a farm

Here I am, somewhere around five years old, sitting on a horse in my front yard. Behind me is a ditch where we would swim. I’m smiling in the direction of the single-wide trailer where we lived until I was eight years old. It was a life full of simple things, and I never knew how poor we were. I’m very lucky to have parents who worked so hard to give me a great childhood. My kids will never know a Christmas where we spend Christmas Eve with dad’s side of the family watching rodeo clips, wake up the next morning and open presents before eating waffles, and then head over to the dairy to spend Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. They’ll have other things, new traditions and experiences but I’ll always miss what we had.

30 of my Life Highlights

2. Pretending to be a model in Rome

I’m far better behind the camera than I am in front of it, but my  mom worked it and we came away with some once-in-a-lifetime shots. Marching in front of the crowd at Trevi Fountain and getting up the courage to act like there weren’t hundreds of eyes on me was exhilarating. Maybe I’ll make my sister do the same thing in Greece this June.

30 of my Life Highlights

 

3. First sunset in Hawaii

The entire trip was extraordinary, but the portion that makes me happiest to look back on is from our first night, right after we got checked into our hotel. My sister and I decided we were going to race the sunset to the beach, and we ran around frantically trying to get everyone into suits before the sun disappeared completely. We speed walked the block to the beach and were treated to the best sunset of the trip. As good as the sunset was, the part that makes my chest feel a bit constricted with happiness was holding T1 in my arms in the ocean as he said over and over “This is the best ever!” and threw his head back in some of the purest joy I’ve ever seen on his face. I want more moments like that with him, 1000x over.

 

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Poland 2014

March 03, 2015 By: Jenna Category: Travel

I’m working to put together a plan that will get us to Poland this June, and it reminded me that I haven’t written a post about our trip last year. These experiences are too important to skip over!

Last year as we flew home with an exhausted baby and fidgeting four-year-old we said that we were done with this trip for the next few years. We wanted the kids to be older so the flight and jet-lag would be a little easier on them, and on us. T1 in particular struggled with this trip. It was hard for him to adjust to the foreign language and food, and I didn’t feel like he ever quite warmed up to his usual sweet self. It’s a lot for a sensitive kid to handle.

I assumed it would be best to give him some time to mature, until the day he turned to me and said “Who are these people who give me presents?” My in-laws are some of the best people I know, and it was awful to hear that T1′s memory and association with them had to do with items instead of interactions with them. It’s not his fault of course, but after that I became ultra-committed to making yearly trips a priority. Someday, hopefully a very sad day far away from the present, family members are going to die and I don’t want to face down regrets about not making enough effort to see them and deepen our relationship. My kids lovingly refer to their Nana and Papa on a regular basis and I want to hear them doing the same for their loved ones across the world.

Before I book those tickets for 2015, let’s rewind a bit and recap the June 2014 experience! June 14th-June 28th, 2014.

2014 was the beginning of my obsession with film, and the only digital camera I took with me was the one on my iphone. My FIL not only very generously offered to purchase film for me so I wouldn’t have to fly it over, he also helped me search the Polish ebay for good deals on cameras and bought me my first medium format body, my beloved and broken Mamiya 645. It wasn’t broken back then though, and we got some really fantastic family shots out of it! I hope they are ready for another round of family photos this year too because I feel very passionate about making the time to fit group shots into the trip schedule.

The kids lounging on the bed TH and I share when we stay there. Once they adjust to the foreign time zone this place is a sort of paradise for them. All the TV, treats, and screen time they desire! Plus we only visit during the warmer months so they can splash in the backyard and eat off the many fruit trees and bushes growing in the backyard.

TH’s parents are incredibly generous when we come visit and take the kids on so we can travel Europe together. On this visit we went to Berlin (here is my Pinterest board for the area.) I finally understand the difference between West and East Berlin, largely due to the excellent Red Berlin Tour put on by Sandemans. If you’re into Soviet history or raving all night long I would recommend going to Berlin (we didn’t rave all night, but I know that’s a thing based on all the travel guides I read.) If you’re into food like me, you’ll probably like: Read more →

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Christmas Card 2014

December 25, 2014 By: Jenna Category: family, Holiday

 

Horizontal 5x7 Folded Card Back Horizontal 5x7 Folded Card Front

I am tempted to write that this has been a year of change and transition, but I think that’s probably every year for everyone. It has required some twisting and bending, as we encountered situations we didn’t expect, but we are wrapping up this year in a really good place.

I am chugging along as the family coordinator, chauffeur, rule enforcer, babysitter arranger, cook, expense manager, picture taker, blogger, and anything else that has to do with running a household and portrait photography business and multiple websites all at once.

TH switched from one Bay Area firm to another this summer, giving us the gift of even more time living in this wondrous place. He works a lot.

T1 is four-years-old and wakes up each morning with a new arsenal of stories to tell. He is observant and kind, frequently going out of his way to “fill the bucket” of those around him. He wants all the blue things, unlimited amounts of electronic time, and any food that passes his lips to be white and cheesy or filled with peanut butter.

T2 hit her baby peak at eighteen months, and we are shoring up to weather the slide into toddlerhood. We adore her kisses, baby talk, and attention to detail. She wants nothing but milk, baby dolls in her bed, endless renditions of the ABC song, and shoes on her feet.

We have a lot of good things in our life, and all those who receive this card are a part of that! With love to our family and friends,

TH,  That Wife, T1, T2

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Christmas Cards from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008

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2014 Family Pictures with Samantha Kelly Photography

September 25, 2014 By: Jenna Category: family, Photography

We haven’t had an official family photography session since Kelli Nicole (Houston) photographed us in our Chicago apartment before T2 arrived on the scene, and since that time my ideas about photography and my dream family session have changed a lot. It’s less about the perfect posed portrait with everyone looking into the camera, and more about trying to capture who we are and what we are like at this stage in our lives. The kind of thing I want to provide for my own clients.

I tried to fly Samantha Kelly (Utah) to the Bay Area by recruiting one of you to hire her as well, which I didn’t make much progress on. But then I lucked out and she was able to squeeze us in for a session during a romantic getaway with her husband. We talked about a few different settings, but I kept coming back to the beach. I wanted something that documented the glorious beauty of the California coast, and would capture how much we love living in an area that looks and feels like this. We don’t make it to the beach very often, but when we do T1 can chase the waves for hours. It took a lot of tricky maneuvering to keep him dry as long as we did!

After I decided on Cowell Ranch Beach for our location (crossing my fingers that it would be one of those rare sunny days in Half Moon Bay) I poured far too much time into putting together our outfits. I actually put together two separate combinations for each person because I wasn’t sure if it would be warm or cold, and it was a top priority for me that everyone be comfortable and relaxed. I didn’t want “props” to pose with, but I did want to bring a few things that would keep the kids engaged and distracted (before we turned our oldest loose in the waves). I packed a quilt from the thrift store, a few different headbands for both kids to play with, a cupcake sand set for pretend snack time, white and dry snacks that the kids could snack on without dirtying their outfits (tip: clear gummi candies allowed TH and I to get a few photos alone while the kids took a little snack break), and a dozen mini beach balls from Amazon.

One really important thing to note: We told her that we didn’t care if there was a single photo of all of us looking directly into the camera and smiling. That’s not what this is about for us (and it probably won’t be what any of our photography sessions are about from now on.) If you’ll allow me a moment to get on my soapbox – in the age of Instagram and Facebook, our nearest and dearest know what we look like. They see our selfies and snapshots all throughout the year. The best photo, in my opinion, is the one you look back on 50 years from now and smile on because it shows what you were really like at that stage in your life. A slightly happy polished version, but still, reality.

Samantha shot the entire session on film, and returned so many amazing photos that I had a hard time narrowing them down for this post! I can’t believe how spot on her exposures and focus were as we dashed all around the beach. We picked up the film photography bug around the same time and I’m in awe of how fast her skills are developing. I can’t recommend her enough if you’re looking for someone to photograph your family. She’s based in Utah but I know she’s interested in traveling sessions as well!

We don’t just love the result, we loved the process. Even That Husband said he is looking forward to doing this again next year. (I promise you guys, he said it and meant it.) Taking these was as enjoyable as they seem. There’s something about the bond between the people you feel the most passionate about that is hard to capture, but I think the images below come as close as I dreamed they would.
The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. Read more →

One Quick Take (Poland and Washington Edition)

July 30, 2014 By: Jenna Category: family

This summer we spent two weeks in Poland, had less than a week back in California, and then flew up to Washington for a week with my family. I left my dSLR home for both trips and pushed myself to give my film photography skills a big bump.

Over the last year I’ve developed a belief that making portraits of the people I love is one of the most important ways I can use the skills I’ve been developing. Not just candid snapshots, but portraits, that document time and place and personality. I’m very pleased with what I ended up with for TH’s parents and my own.

I was a little aggressive with this photo session, both in making it happen, and in how long it lasted. But it was worth it! I think everyone else will agree.

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Anyone who knows my parents will get a kick out of this shot. Farmer father and city-girl trapped-in-the-country mother. They’ve become quite the powerful force over the time, somehow finding the time to manage THREE businesses simultaneously. I’ve got a lot to learn from them.

 

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I haven’t documented much over the past year, but I’m not going to let the opportunity to recap our amazing summer trips pass me by entirely! There is far too much to be grateful for

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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