I am finally making this post! People (coughTravisKileycough) have been harassing me to post my photos from Strawberry. Of which there are 92.
I’m sure there are some people reading this who are all “Strawberry? Like.. the fruit? What?”

But no, Strawberry is a music festival held twice a year (Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend) high in the Sierra-Nevada mountains near Yosemite. And no, we were not in cabins coated in hantavirus so please halt your “OMG UR GONNA DIEEE” comments. We were in our own poop-free tents, 40+ miles away from the “outbreak” and I didn’t see one mouse (or bear, for that matter) the entire time.

So anyway! Strawberry. Strawberry is a fanstically magical place. It’s overwhelming in a myriad of ways. People. Music. Activities. All of it overwhelming. The first year I went I was pretty much o_O the entire time. Since then, I’ve gotten used to the chaos of it all and am more acclimated to it and I know what to expect. So I’m not a big ball of tension anymore! Aven, on the other hand, had a hard time the first couple of days with the overstimulation. Her fuse was sooooo super short. A torn paper towel sent her into a meltdown tantrum that lasted 30 minutes. The tiniest thing would set her off to the point where it just got ridiculous. After the umpteenth tantrum we just started to ignore her because doing otherwise would end in me leaving her with a band of gypsies. By the third day (Saturday) she was more herself, which I was soo thankful for. Because seriously, I was about to lose it.

We are campers, but we are the type to camp miles away from civilization and other people. At Strawberry you have to abandon those comforts because you are literally three feet from your neighbors. Or closer, even. There are no hard lines and people camp and park wherever there is space to do so. A five by five blank spot in the woods? Throw down your tent! It’s wonderfully overwhelming and chaotic, as I said.Β  And it’s comfortable in a different way. People are so friendly there. You can leave instruments and stereos and etc. out in the open and walk away for six hours and know your stuff will still be there when you get back. (Even so, I decided not to take my DSLR because I didn’t want to lug it around – heavy! – or risk it getting lost, stolen or damaged. Instead we just used Kyle’s point and shoot Canon).
If your child decides to take off and gets lost in the midst of the 6,000 people that are there, you can rest easy that they will be found and cared for. All of the littles wear yellow wristbands with their names on them in case they’re not old enough (or too shy) to tell someone who they are if they are found without a parent. It’s a great feeling of community! I mean of course there are the few that look irritated and snotty among all the nice people, but they really are few and far between. On our way up to the meadow each day we’d (and by that I mean Kyle) would pull 70+ pounds of Kid in the wagon. The entire way the girls would wave at people and say “Happy Strawberry!” and most would reply with an in-kind remark or wave and smile back. There were a few that would totally ignore them (WHAT? I know right?) and Jovi would go “Oh well, maybe next time!” haha
So funny.

The days were filled with activities at Birch Lake and the surrounding park area, hanging out a camp and jamming, music on the meadow and making new friends with our neighbors. My grandma Millie (ga ga Millie to the girls) was able to come with us and she had a lot of fun. Dressed up with us, entertained the girls, enjoyed the music, stayed out too late and was so much fun to have there. I hope to have her energy level when I’m her age. (ha, who am I kidding? I don’t even have her energy level at MY age!)
The other day Jovi and were driving home and she started talking about Strawberry and said it was her favorite and she wants to go back. I asked her what her favorite part of Strawberry was and she said, “Grandma Millie!” Aww.

Every season it’s a scramble to get into Camp Mather and find a spot to camp. Hundreds of vehicles are driving around doing the exact same thing, so you have to be quick and decisive. Don’t you dare pass up a spot! On our way in Kyle and I went right on one road and my parents went straight. We found a spot and they found a spot! Ultimately we opted to go to the one they picked (and right when Kyle pulled out of the one we’d picked, someone claimed it within seconds). Their choice turned out to be the ultimate! We were on the end of Coyote Road — camps in front and a blank meadow and forest in back. Absolutely perfect. So we had the feeling of community and neighbors but we also had this beautiful meadow right there to give us a little more of that genuine “camping” feel. And the dirt road through the meadow was a short cut to the lake — bonus! We’d sit in the grassy meadow and play music during the day and a couple times at night. There was a full moon (they said a blue moon) and the moonlight on the tall wheat made it seem like it was glowing – it was amazing! I’m painting quite a picture, right? How about I stop talking and let the actual pictures speak for me?

All set to go! Dad’s truck packed to the limit; ours was just as bad (good?) It was the sort of insane packing where if a bird pooped on top of the truck the entire thing would explode in Stuff.

The girls loved the wading/kid part of Birch Lake.

Sitting on the meadow the first night, this guitar-shaped cloud appeared all pink and awesome. The band stopped, the entire crowd took photos and everyone oooh-d and ahhhh-d. Super fun πŸ™‚ (and there are probably like 5,000 similar photos floating out there!)

They had activities for children every morning at Birch Lake. The girls made crowns.

And they painted the big banner! This was used Sunday afternoon during the traditional Kids Parade.

Jovi made a friend the second night we were there (Kate) and played and danced with her for hours. And even though we were in the midst of 6,000 people, we managed to keep running into Kate and her family the whole time we were there!

On the meadow listening to the music. The presence of children meant we sat way further back than we used to in years past, just so the kids would have more freedom to move around. Or, in Aven’s case (as illustrated above) throw tantrums while everyone ignored her. haha!

A view from the middle of our camp looking out to the meadow next to us.

standing in the road. Meadow behind me, our camp/vehicles on the right. Camp Mather extends in front of me and in all directions.

the road we walked up and down every day to get to the music meadow!

standing in the road looking to the left of our camp at all the other camps. This doesn’t do it justice. At all.

my husband is Vanna White! Showing off our camp sign “Camp Please ‘Em All”
It’s Strawberry tradition to name your camp and create a banner. This was a gift from us to my parents years and years ago. New friends have signed the back of it.

Looking from the “back” of our camp to the front. There’s our kitchen area in the background, the bathroom we set up (mom’s brilliant idea! even has a shower!) with the purple tapestry, our tent and my parent’s tent peek-a-booing on the side in tan and red.

We know how to do it! A Strawberry worker was so impressed on a walk through of our camp that she took a bunch of photos of our grub box and kitchen. lol

our bathroom. with a “sink” and mirror, even. The blue tarp is around a solar shower. Brilliant, mom!

All the tapestries could slide closed because you know. privacy. I was standing in someone else’s camp to take this photo, in fact.

tuning before jamming

our fancy Calendar of Events

road to Birch Lake

Travis and Kiley had the idea to dress up a couple of the nights we were there. Friday was Cowboy night. (sorry for the blur; point and shoot!)

We were talking about a recent trip they took to Virginia City. I asked if they took any old-timey photos and they said no, that the ones taken at Strawberry were just as good. I agreed. I mean.. all you have to do is wear the right clothes and then change it to sepia and add vignette, right?


Kyle and I got in on it, too.

my sweetie pie

I love capturing these moments

Jovi took this photo! My little photographer!

glow in the dark pinwheels

OK so my grandma was ready to take a shower and wash her hair. We were getting water heated for her to use in the solar bag but she got all impatient and headed in there fully clothed with the idea of just washing her hair. Which, ok fine, but then she used a handful of Travis’ Axe bodywash and this happened:

SOOOOOO MANY BUBBLES! Hilarious. Travis kept filling up a kettle with water trying to help her rinse it out but the kettle only held like 20 ounces. We were laughing so hard. I love my grandma.

jamming in the meadow. our camp is behind the boys

my little hippie πŸ™‚

Kyle’s camera kept playing off the green and gold of the meadow and woods and his photos would turn out like this. No editing on my part!

I took Jovi to get her face painted!

I got mine painted, too. And she took photos. πŸ™‚

You can imagine my AHHHHHHHHH!-ing when I looked back through these afterward.

It took her like 5 minutes, literally.

Kyle may very well kill me for posting this.

I tried to get him to wear a scarf over his boobies but he though it’d make him look too “feminine” or something. Idk. That tight-pant leg on the left belongs to Travis.

getting dolled up!

I tried to paint a kitty on Aven’s cheek but she smeared it within two seconds.

Did I mention this night was our anniversary? Eleven years!!

They were talking about (and illustrating) tight pants. Or something.

pipes make one thoughtful.

I know this is mucho blurry, but Aven took it and I think it’s cute. πŸ™‚

Rich and Robbie (dear friends) met up with us on our way to the meadow. We are standing in the food vendor area. The entrance to the music meadow is behind us.

my love!

Another theme self-designated theme night: King and Queen (keeng and kween) Strawberry!

Aven got her face painted that night because she was really good all day. She sat sooooo super still the whole time – hilarious!

my little kitty!

The last day we were there we went to the revival at Birch Lake and then went back to camp to relax a bit. The girls showed us their fairy gardens they’d found in the woods!
Some explanation: My mom started a fairy garden at her house a couple months ago. She built it out in the flower bed in their backyard and made it really cute. Used shells and wood and other natural things to make a little “house” for fairies. She told the girls about it and every day they go check it to see what the fairies have left for them. My mom will take things they’ve left around the house (play keys, hot wheels cars, hair bows, etc) and put them in the fairy garden so when the girls see it, it’s as if the fairies collected their things and built them into their house. It’s funny because they get a little indignant at the fairies for taking their stuff, but they also tend to leave it there in case the fairies need it. Anyway, so at Strawberry my mom took the girls for a walk one day and Aven found three fairy gardens all by herself. Over the next couple of days my parents would take stuff out of our camp and put them in the gardens. The last day we were there we all went out with the girls so they could show us the gardens, and they found their stuff hidden away. Super cute πŸ™‚

I love love LOOOOOVE this photo. It was one of those, that right when I took it, I knew I captured something special

found a fairy garden!

I don’t even know what these are. Fairy gardens to the girls, but.. yeah. There are two of them in the meadow.

another garden!

My grandma wanted me to recreate an engagement photo I took recently. It didn’t work so well; they couldn’t stop laughing and my brother’s hands are weirdly unmoldable. πŸ™‚

While we were packing up the last day my grandma kept the girls entertained in the meadow. She played hide and seek with them, looked for fairies, wore a chain of glow necklaces around her head and played in the dirt. She truly is an amazing lady!!!

Our huge camp was reduced to a pile of stuff

the girls and their Ga Ga!

On the way home we went over Tioga Pass through Yosemite. We stopped at a lookout toward Half Dome.

You can see Half Dome between the trees on the right-ish

photographer Aven. We’re all hoping she doesn’t drop the camera

photographer Jovi

We stopped in Carson City on the way home and shopped a bit at Trader Joe’s, then headed home. Next year we will take the day after off as well — we were soooo exhausted from the long weekend and it was torture going back to work so quickly. It’s such a fun festival though. Very family-friendly and organized well. We’ll be back next year!

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summer L-O-V-E

I don’t really have anything to say. Summer is winding down. The days are getting cooler (and by cooler I mean 95 degrees instead of 102 degrees) and school has started for most kids (which is giving me mini panic attacks thinking about going through it with Jovi next year). Speaking of that precocious question-loaded kid, she starts pre-K in two weeks! She is excited; I am “Eeeeeeeeeeee!” We still have 12 months to psych ourselves up. Or out; whichever.
Anyway. Photos. Just some random ones from our summer da(ze).

Pinspired — brought to life via aunt Laurie (my camera; their hands)

Have I ever mentioned how much they like to play in the dirt?

Annual luau at nanny and pappy’s house! Super fun.

Anderson/Hinton family!

Anderson/Hinton kids (taking photos of a large group of kids is like herding cats)

There were like five adults behind me yelling at them to smile and look over here! haha
OVER STIMULATION! (Mason is totally steadfast in his grin though, right?)

my beautiful sisters-in-law!

Limbo and/or clotheslining Austin

my lovelies.

And some more randoms from summer in the water …

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It’s been a bit stressful around here these days. The weekends don’t bring a whole lot of relief as far as Things To Do; our house is usually in need of a thorough cleaning/de-cluttering after acting as a catch-all throughout the week when we’re too busy otherwise to attend to it. Such was the case recently when the sink was full of dirty dishes, the living room floor was covered in toys and shed clothing (Jovi likes to change her clothes five million times a day and Aven leaves un-soiled diapers around the house randomly. Oh the joys of pottytraining!). The grass needed mowed, the deck needed sprayed off, the garden needed weeding, the inside of the house needed Everything. But instead of doing all that and being like, responsible or whatever, we made mud.
Because work can wait and getting filthy can’t. (ie, we have our priorities straight, obviously)

That’s right. We stripped down to panties (“we” being “not me”) and dove in. Feet first.

And of course, abundance of water always results in a tea party. (Mud AND faded tattoos? We win at personal hygiene!)

Aven is not interested in tea parties. She’d much rather make mud gloves, and thus….

…mud handprints.
Jovi wanted to get in on that too.

Of course Mommy’s simple mud pit wasn’t awesome enough, so after Kyle got over his o.O “whaaaaat is going on out here??” (he’d slept in a bit and missed the beginning of these shenanigans) he decided to build the girls a Mud River! They were excited. Jovi wanted to use the pick herself. Um, no.What drought? MORE WATERRR!!!


Fortunately I had the foresight to set up the pool beforehand* so the girls could just go jump in intermittently and wash themselves off. They still required a good hosing when the fun was over, though. Mud gets into cracks, y’all.

*not really. it had been set up for days (by Kyle) for use as a dog pool. Mostly for our temporary fur-baby Max. I can only imagine what kinds of dog-goo were in this water. Meh. We added kid-goo!

Ok so Jovi is a little bit brilliant. She put this empty flower pot at the start of the river-thing Kyle built. It has a hole in the bottom. She filled it with water so it’d run out the hole and keep the river flowing. Once the errrr…..reservoir? at the end of the river filled up, she’d take her bucket and fill it up in the reservoir and then pour that into the pot to keep it all going. I was like DUDE, SMART.
We spent like two hours doing this. Mud is good therapy, I’ve decided.

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my heart.

(has it really been nearly a month since I last posted?!)

A few weeks ago Kyle and I stole away from Life and spent a glorious weekend in Reno away from our minions beautiful children and did things like hold hands! and drink before noon! and sleep in past seven! On one of the days I ordered a mojito with lunch (which didn’t consist of chicken fingers I ordered for the sole purpose of sharing. For once.) and Kyle had some of it and rightly declared: “This tastes like Jack Creek. Smells like mint and tastes like alcohol.” And… he was totally right. Ahhhh Jack Creek. My heart.

roasting marshmallows on the first night when it was just the six of us.

We just got back from good ol’ JC and no matter how much time we spend up there it never seems like it’s enough. There is nowhere else on earth that smells like Jack Creek. It doesn’t even matter if there are the same bushes and the same flowers and the same dirt and the same everything that makes up Jack Creek’s smell… it still won’t smell just like Jack Creek. I suppose more has to do with that in the emotional sense than in the logical, but it’s true for me. And I know it’s true for so many other people in my family. It’s such a special place to me and I am grateful that I found a man who not only understands how I feel about it, but shares my feelings and wants our girls to grow up knowing that place just as much as I do. He never ever tries to convince me to go somewhere else to camp in June; he knows that’s reserved for My Place. Out of every outdoor possibility in this vast state, he’s never offered up any alternatives because he know I’d kick him in the shins.

The face of JC has changed just as much as the people who go. Parts of our campsite were ravaged by fires and floods a few years ago, completely changing how most of it looks. And what once used to be group of 60+ people has now slowly dwindled down to half a dozen, maybe a handful more, due to deaths and moves and kids who grew up and just never came back.
This year was the first in many that we had more than a dozen people together. I think we counted 16 at one point, which was so great! The laughter echoing from other nearby campsites is part of what makes Jack Creek, Jack Creek. I love that there are still a handful of “mainstays” to keep it all going.

It’s painful sometimes to sit around the campfire or cook dutch oven chicken and not hear my grandpa’s laugh, or to look across the table and not see my aunt Joanie’s arched brow judging me, but pain is part of life, and we can’t just NOT keep on going to the places we love because they have changed. We adapt. We evolve and we bring up the next generation to keep it all going. I used to be one of the kids of camp; now Kyle and I have stepped into the rolls of leaders. We camp in the main camp where my grandparents used to park. It’s a little bizarre to be in “their spot” but also … honoring? I guess? We plan dinners and cook them. We do the dishes and make breakfast and decide our activities for the day. In essence, we’ve become an arm of my own parents who for so many years were (and still are) sort of “camp directors”.

The girls explore and pick flowers and find pretty rocks and get completely filthy in the black dirt because that is what they’re supposed to do. It’s what I did when I was little! I hope as they grow up, and as long as Jack Creek is still open for use, that it becomes just as big a part of their hearts as it is for mine.

My husband is a genius. Or redneck, whichever. We’d forgotten to bring an essential item — a stereo! — so Kyle put out is iPod and set it up against the ladle so the curve of the bowl would act as a speaker. And.. it actually worked.

Our vicious guard dog.

Digging worms with grandpa! This is one of my clearest memories as a child, doing the same thing with my dad and brother. And this year our girls got to do it! Super fun.

I’m pretty sure that’s the same bucket, even.

We went to the lake for some fishing. The girls and dogs had a blast. Jovi chose pink power bait (SHOCKING) to go on her pink pole.

My brother’s dogs, Ona and Luna. And possibly the closest I’ll ever come to having nieces. hehe

our hairy beasts, Zoe and Heidi.

Jovi caught this huge moth and carried it around in a jar for an hour until we convinced her she had to let it go so it could go eat dinner.

This is something I regret not doing every year — getting a camp photo! So from here on out, there will be one taken every year that I go so we can document our good times. (missing: Dawn, Cheyenne and Kayla)

Jack Creek, 2012!

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challenges. the pint-sized kind.

Sigh. Four year olds. Just now, during our bedtime routine (which I am single-momming it through, thanks EMT class!) I asked Jovi three times if she needed to go potty. I’m trying to move past the “go potty NOW whether you have to or not” stage and into the “I will allow you a snippet of independence in this regard as far as deciding for yourself whether or not to go.” Because you know.. she’s four. But also, SHE’S FOUR.
So after tucking her into bed and threatening her to NOT GET OUT OF BED FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS PRECIOUS (we’ve been having issues with that, obviously) she yelled at me from across the house. But like.. she followed the no-getting-out-of-bed-unless-your-arm-has-fallen-off-and-you-are-bleeding-all-over-your-pillow-pet rule, I guess? By yelling at me. From across the house. While her sister was trying to go to sleep in the same room. Four year olds.

So I go into to check on her and she says quietly, I have to go potty.


I just made this face : | and was all I told you three times! I kept asking! I … OK. I.. just go. Just go, and tuck yourself back into bed. AND DON’T GET OUT AGAIN.

I can hear them laughing in their room right now.Β  Making some sort of repetitive animal noise. From across the house. Four.

Anyway. So the whole point of this post originally – before the potty shenanigans – was to photo-dump a bunch that I’ve taken over the past few weeks. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Busy life and all that. Most are from one of my impromptu shoot-things in the backyard one day when the weather was nice. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to photographing kids, candids are where it’s at.

I love this photo even though it’s blurry. Cousin Austin was tickling her!

laughing at the boys’ shenanigans

my business logo will be a dandelion. Just as soon as *someone* (COUGH) designs it for me. (COUGHCOUGHCOUGH)

OK is it just me or does she look like she’s about nine years old in this photo? Stop aging exponentially, Jovi!

We never found Jovi’s name in any baby book. The closest was “Jovial” which means joyous. It’s fitting, I think.

another one of those “it’s blurry but I don’t care” photos πŸ™‚

Let me tell you something, the life of a (little) girl is all about the drama. I’m not sure that changes much.

summer feet


love most.

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the “funcation”

Weeks ago, when we told Jovi we were going on a vacation to Oregon, she got super excited even though she didn’t really know what a “vacation” was. We told her we were going to stay in a hotel, go swimming, eat at restaurants and do some exploring. She thought that sounded “really really fun, mommy!” and started calling it a funcation — all by herself. She also calls hotels hoentels (ho-en-tels) … which, where did that come from? I don’t know. The first time she said it, it took Kyle and I forever to figure out what she was saying and what she was referring to.

So… our funcation. It was a mix of fun, stress and exhaustion. Aven got sick pretty much the first day we were there, at times coughing until she threw up. She came down with a fever on Sunday while we were in a wading pool and fell asleep in my arms while I sat on the steps in the water, cradling her while other stranger-moms gave me the pity eyes. To them, I attributed her random napping to tiredness; I thought it’d make me look like Super Horrible Mother if theyΒ  knew I had her in a pool when she had a fever. But Jovi was having a blast with Kyle and we’d been catering to Aven’s needs so much that the kid deserved to have an hour of pure fun. Also, one of the treatments of bringing down a fever is putting the child in tepid water, right? So. Justified.

We did get to do some exploring and shopping though, and Bend is a beautiful, wonderful city. It has the perfect mix of mountains, lakes and rivers paired with the “city” things like shopping and culture. If you go 20 minutes to the west you’re high in the pined mountains with the amazing views and mountain-ish activities. Twenty minutes to the east and you’re in high desert country that basically looks like Nevada. Sagebrush. Wide-open sky. Nothing to obscure the view. It’s really the perfect mix for desert rats like us who also love mountains and trees! Enough green to appreciate it; not so much that we felt suffocated or claustrophobic.

We didn’t do too much in the way of exploring nature because the weather was still a little chilly and with Aven being sick we didn’t want to be out in the cold too much at once. Also, the high elevation in places meant roads were still closed because of the snowpack. Since we didn’t get out much for that sort of thing, I didn’t get many photos of our funcation, but I did get a few…

Saturday we landed in Klamath Falls so I could visit a good friend. We went to a park near a lake so the girls could run around.

Not just the girls : )

Tuesday afternoon we made it a point to get out of our room, rain or shine, and explore the area around us a little. Just a few blocks from where we were staying was a beautiful park that was right against the Deschutes River. The girls got to run around a little.

We didn’t come armed with food : (
Poor duck.

And here’s a … I don’t know. Muskrat? Beaver? Woodchuck?

The funcation is officially over and honestly I think I need a vacation from my funcation. I’m not sure Kyle and I even really talked to one another the entire five days we were in Oregon because we were so busy calming, wrangling, disciplining, navigating or sleeping to get a word in edge-wise. Such is life though, right? We grin and bear it! (And occasionally get puked on).


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