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.

 

30 of my Life Highlights Read more →

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

Samantha Kelly Photography-9041

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

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My Kid Chose Santa Over Mom

December 23, 2014 By: Jenna Category: kids, Parenting

We are a household that doesn’t buy into the cult of Santa, which until now has only meant that I write on my blog about how we aren’t doing Santa. Previously it hasn’t mattered to T1, but this is the year that playground gossip started shaping his worldview, and around this time of year talk of Santa is all the rage around the sandbox.

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We were snuggling in my bed a few weeks ago, just the two of us, when four-year-old T1 said something about Santa. I knew that this was my chance to let him in on the Grownup Secret. I don’t mind if he believes in imaginary figures (if he references Mickey Mouse or mermaids I don’t go out of my way  make sure he knows that they are make-believe) but it is important to me that he doesn’t think that he is a naughty kid and therefore didn’t get any presents delivered via flying sleigh (can mom’s gifts wrapped in brown kraft paper really compete?). I’m not sure what the other kids are saying exactly, but it’s possible that he is absorbing messages that communicate he will get whatever he wants from Santa as long as he is on the nice list.

I leaned over and told him that I had a very special secret to tell him, a secret he gets to hear because he is so very grownup. I emphasized how important it is that he keep this secret to himself and not tell any of the other kids. When I said that Santa isn’t real, and that it’s a game that parents play with their kids, he smiled really big and immediately embraced the idea that he was very mature and able to handle the information. Throughout that night and the next morning he kept telling me that we need to make sure his little sister doesn’t find out the Grownup Secret because she isn’t ready for it yet. I smugly patted myself on the back and figured this meant one child down, another to go in a few years.

The next afternoon Santa came up in the car again, and I was informed that the man in the big red suit actually is real (along with the tooth fairy), and that he has proof. Obviously the secret my son and I shared was not kept close to the vest and was the topic of some intense playground discussion. T1 told me that Cora said that she wanted a unicorn for Christmas last year, and she never told anyone about it, and still it somehow found its way under her tree, so obviously Santa is real. There was also lots of talk bout teeth and the tooth fairy.

And so, this year when I was selecting the ornament I would give to T1 for 2014, I chose Santa and a small boy, skating off into the sunset together. To represent this year as the one where my kid chose a mythical Santa Claus figure over the being who actually has the power to hear and deliver on his heart’s deepest desires.

Think that next year T1 will also be choosing Santa Claus over his mommy? Tweet with me, @jennacole, or leave your thoughts on the That Wife Facebook page.

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One Quick Take

November 05, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Holiday

Mario and Yoshi. BFF Foreverzzz.

DIY Mario and Luigi Halloween Costumes

T2 is 1

February 06, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Dear T2,

It’s been a beautiful year with you. Below, a favorite photo from each month of the first year of your life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

From day one you have been a sweet baby. I claim you are the easiest baby in the world, though I haven’t been around enough babies to know for sure that you can claim your spot in the Guinness Book. I sleep trained you to sleep through the night before five months, and you often take a 3-4 hour nap in the afternoon. If you decide to have children of your own you will understand why parents talk so much about sleep when they want to relate where their baby sits on the ease-of-parenting scale. You may also seem easier to me because you are my second, and I’m getting a little bit better at this parenting thing as the days go by.

I’m finding it difficult to write this without thinking about the ways that you differ from your brother. Growing up I did that to myself, comparing myself to my sister and judging my strengths and weaknesses based on hers. I was the singer, she was the photographer. She was good at math, I was good at public speaking. She was tender and sweet, I was outgoing and passionate. I can see now how I limited myself because I believed that the areas where she excelled where the areas where I would always be sup-bar. As though there was some sort of finite limit on math proficiency in the family. Almost a decade after she started, I bought myself a dSLR and found myself wanting to take pictures of people as a profession. But that was her thing. Could I?

Don’t limit your life with comparisons and doubt. I don’t want you to do that to yourself, and I don’t ever want you to feel like I’m doing it to you either. You may not be a special snowflake, but you are one-of-a-kind with a potential that astounds me. At this age it is easy to imagine that you can do anything.  Read more →

      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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