Mom Brain: It's a Legit Thing

I feel like there are endless ways I could start this blog post.  For example:

Does anyone spend most of their day doing all the little things they'd never remember?

The term "pregnancy brain" is bullshit.  It insinuates that maybe you'll get your brain back after the baby is born and obviously that couldn't be any farther from the truth.  

Or my personal favorite...

So this one time my husband was late to work after he spent an hour looking for his keys.  Hell, I even helped and it just so happens I was the one who misplaced them.  Any guesses on where we found them?  

That last one was this morning.  

But for real though, please tell me I'm not the only one.  We moms go through our entire day automatically doing so many things without even realizing it.  Just last week I was getting ready to go somewhere (I can't even remember where) and was in my bathroom working on hair and makeup.  Saida was talking to me and periodically Corbin would come into the bathroom needing something.  I looked down and at him on one of these quick visits and he had an applesauce squeezie in his hands.  I remembered giving him a yogurt squeezie at some point, but not an applesauce squeezie.  How did he get this thing open on his own? I looked in front of me and lo and behold, there is the damn cap to the applesauce squeezie on my bathroom counter.  I opened that thing at some point and handed it over and had absolutely no memory of it.  I was in the middle of something and just did it without thinking. No big deal really, but he was totally taking advantage of me and on his third squeezie in like 10 minutes.  I wonder what else he could have gotten away with.  "Yeah sure honey, let me open this bag of flour.  Go ahead now, move along."

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Or sometimes people will ask me where a small bruise came from that I don't remember getting.  I walk into furniture, walls, doorways on the regular, but could never even begin to tell you which incident a bruise came from.  Likely I don't even remember the incident ever happening, but I have some sort of vague recollection of saying ow at some point... I think.  Sometimes there just isn't enough time in the day to really take note of these things and my head is already filled with too much other stuff.  

So anyway, when Tyler came to me this morning and asked if I'd seen his keys, obviously I said no.  I asked him twenty questions about what was happening the last time he had his keys and blamed the children for maybe moving them (honestly I still blame the children).  We even looked in their playroom and I texted the neighbor to see if we had lost them there a couple nights before.  In a last ditch effort I checked my purse.  There they were.  For about two seconds I tried to come up with places I could hide them that we hadn't looked yet, but I hadn't had coffee yet and Tyler was 5 feet away so I just handed them over.

Someone please tell me how they got in there.  All I can figure is one of the kids handed them to me yesterday when we were on our way out the door and I just opened my purse and slid them in without thinking and I never really figured it out because we were taking my car with push button start and not Tyler's truck.  I don't really know, but this is at least how I imagine it all going down in my head.  

This is my life.  I really don't know what to say.  Sorry Tyler.  For the record, I still think it's the kids' fault.  Good thing they're cute.

 

 

Why We Gave Up On Potty Training After Half a Day

I started wondering if I should be potty training Corbin more than 6 months ago when he started removing his diaper on his own.  This ended up not lasting long and I never did anything.  He wasn’t even two at the time.  

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He turned two in January. This is June and next month he’ll be two and half.  Seems like as good a time as any to try to knock this potty training thing out.  I was hoping to get it done before we go to the beach in August anyway.  It was super easy with my daughter and she was basically trained in 2 days when she was barely two.  

Honestly I tried to do all the things other people suggest doing beforehand with Corbin.  We got all excited over a potty seat he now refuses to use (it sits on the big potty), we read a super hero potty book that he has zero interest in, and I keep talking about all the yummy treats he’ll get for peeing in the potty because treats would definitely motivate him on a regular day.

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The only problem is we are full on in that stage where you fight about ever last thing or it’s a game. And I'm not talking about the stuff that doesn't matter.  I'm talking about things like diaper changes.  Yes, if you have poop, you do not have a choice, I'm changing you.  Of course he'll kick uncontrollably through the entire thing.  Getting into the car seat is a fight and a game.  He wants to do it himself, but if you give him an inch to do it, he's everywhere except the place he's supposed to be and I literally have to climb through the car after him.  Getting out of the car is also a game.  He wants to go out sister's door which is fine by me except when I get over to sister's door we're all over the car again and now we want to go out this other door.  I've gotten to the point where if he told me he wants to go out a door, that's the one he's coming out one way or another.  Otherwise I'd chase him from door to door for a good 10 minutes before he'd actually get out of the car.  All of it is a fight.  I literally have to man handle the kid to get him to do anything.  

So I’m actually not feeling very confident about this potty training thing, but we’re going to give it a go anyway for the next two days.  If day 2 shows zero progress, I’ll scrap it and try again later.  If we make even the slightest progress, I’ll keep going.

Here we go….

Potty Training Day 1

7:00am: Wrangled Corbin on to the potty after he decided potty training wasn’t part of his plan for today.  Doesn’t care if he gets to wear big boy pants and couldn’t care less about the marshmallows I promised.  If he’s going to wear the big boy pants, he insists on also wearing shorts.  This wasn’t part of my plan, but beggars can’t be choosers so oh well.  I’m planning a load of laundry for the end of the day anyway.

7:50am:  Seems okay with sitting on the potty for .75 seconds assuming I also give him the marshmallow while he’s on the potty. Still no pee so followed this up with a cup of water.  Probably should have done that first thing this morning.

8:30am: Sat on the potty again.  Sat longer, but still no pee.  Stepped up my bribe with chocolate chips for actual pee in the potty.  

8:39am: Accident #1 happens, not even 10 minutes after sitting on the potty. Go figure.  He’s content to just sit in it.

9:05am: Sat on the potty again because he wanted a yogurt squeezie and I was like sure, as long as you go pee in the potty.  He didn’t. No second squeezie was given. He’s drinking more water so we shall see.  In the meantime I’m looking at little potties on Amazon, because I’m not sure we’re going to make any progress today on the big potty, but honestly I’m not sure a little potty would make a difference either.

9:35am:  Sat on the potty again.  He seems to be more excited about chocolate chips than marshmallows. Unfortunately no pee this time either.

10:02am:  Accident #2.  Lord help me.  So if they don’t go in the potty a single time on day one, do you just scrap it completely?  

10:33am:  Sat on the potty again because he really wanted that yogurt squeezie.  He wasn’t able to squeezie anything out though, lol.  

11:00am:  It’s been over an hour since the last accident so I thought now was a good time to go sit on the potty again.  I had to chase Corbin around the house and onto his bed where I was just sure he’d pee.  In my efforts to get him off the bed so we could go potty (or at least not pee on the bed) he fought so hard that I ended up bumping him in the mouth and hurting him. 

 For real though

For real though

This is a child who is clearly not ready to potty train.  I don’t think it’s healthy to put either one of us through anymore of this at this time.  Who are we kidding?  We didn’t even make it half a day.  After potty training one kid, this is definitely not moving in a promising direction at all.  I think if either of us are going to do this and stay sane, it’s got to come after the fighting and game playing stage is over or at least not as much of a thing.

Send all your boy potty training tips my way, pretty please.  We’ll try this again another day.

Actually, send all your getting over this fighting stage tips my way.  We give him choices when appropriate and I pick my battles with things that don't matter, but how do you get over it with things that matter?  I've taken on a no tolerance policy with the things that matter so I'm confused about why we're still trying it.  He knows he's not getting his way and 9 times out of 10 it ends in tears.  It can't possibly seem fun for him anymore.

P.S. This is not at all where I thought this would end up.  I actually thought we'd make it through the day before we made a decision to continue or give up and I was totally ready to see it though.  Bummer.

 

 

5 Photography Tips For Capturing Your Children This Summer

Hey Moms, 

This morning it took me 5 minutes to find a parking spot at the YMCA and I was late to yoga.  And because I was late I had to do my practice at the front of the room facing sideways and on display for the whole class.  It wasn't a formal punishment or anything, it was just literally the last spot in the room.  I kind of just assumed everyone would be on vacation with this being the first Monday since school let out.  Nope.  I was wrong and I had really had to be on my yoga game this morning because I was just sure everyone was watching me the whole time (likely that wasn't the case, but whatever).  

Anyway, moral of the story is summer is here and summer adventures start hopefully this afternoon once everyone leaves the YMCA and takes their kids to do cool stuff.  

But what's a summer if you don't have proof it happened?  And if you're going to have photo evidence of this awesome summer, wouldn't it be cool if the photos matched the awesomeness?  I was sitting here brainstorming summer photography tips to capture your kids' epic summer.  For today, this is what comes to mind.


5 Photography Tips For Capturing Your Children This Summer


1. Let them get wet

Mainly this is because getting wet is fun for kids and they're destined to give you some real authentic (and probably happy) moments.  Also water mixed with some sweet light can make an image so interesting and fun.  Just look at the way the light shines through the water droplets here.  The photo wouldn't be the same without it.  So get out the hose, the sprinkler, slip and slide, pool, etc. and let your kids have a good time.  Swimsuit not required.  9 times out of 10 my kids are still fully clothed and soaking wet.

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2. Look for the light (or even wait for it)

So this is kind of an obsession for most photographers.  It doesn't matter where I am or if I have my camera with me, I'm looking at light constantly.  Summer can be hard because a lot of what we do is in the middle of the day and that sun is bright, bright, bright.  That harsh light is fun to play with, but morning and evening light is where it's at for me 90% of the time.  Maybe we'll address the harsh light on another day.

This set of images is from an evening in the backyard.  Saida got on the trampoline and I could see the light streaming in there on her leg (picture on the left) and that light under the trampoline.  Because the sun was almost behind the fence I really want to use backlight (place the sun behind my subject) so I could get that beautiful golden summer glow.  I actually turned the trampoline around so I could shoot through the opening towards the sun and voila, beautiful golden summer evening images.  The light was so gorgeous that Saida didn't even have to do anything. 

 This is what I first saw when I grabbed my camera.  Light coming into the area of the trampoline.  This okay I guess, but not the awesome summer evening vibe I was going for.

This is what I first saw when I grabbed my camera.  Light coming into the area of the trampoline.  This okay I guess, but not the awesome summer evening vibe I was going for.

 Then I moved the trampoline so I could shoot through the open part with the sun behind Saida and this is what I saw.

Then I moved the trampoline so I could shoot through the open part with the sun behind Saida and this is what I saw.


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3. Don't forget the details

I could photograph just the details for the rest of my life and be a happy woman.  Lately my detail obsession as been hand and feet, but it could be anything really.  Hair blowing in the wind will also get me everytime.  Maybe it's also the sweet rock or shell your kid found or their missing two front teeth.  Don't leave these things out.  I promise they'll be a great addition to an end of summer photo album or just something so fun to look at and remember later on.

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4. Capture the everyday stuff too

Summer can be epic and normal, right?  I think so.  These everyday moments are ones we forget about, but are generally just as awesome as those orchestrated summer moments.  Also this is just a reminder that you don't have to spend money or go anywhere to make beautiful summertime photos. You just have to get outside and allow you kids to be kids.

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5. Don't ask them to smile (make them smile)

This actually sounds like I'm holding a gun to their heads and demanding a smile.  I swear that's not what I mean.  What I mean is play with your kids.  In this image I'm shooting and jumping over Saida on the trampoline.  This was actually her request and a great reminder to me.  Look for real smiles and interact with your kids in a way that gets you real smiles.  Get rid of the word "cheese", you don't need it.

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Hopefully this helps with summer plans and with those everyday moments.  Photography helps me be more present with my kids, which is a challenge for a lot of us moms with all the things on our plates.  Put those other things on the back burner (laundry, dishes, etc.) and just be there with your kids (look, I'm just as guilty as you are).  I promise you'll never remember a specific time the dishes didn't get washed immediately after a meal, but you just might remember that moment with your kids. 

Have an AWESOME SUMMER!!!!
 

-Monica 

Things My Kids Pretended This Weekend

I always find it funny the things kids pretend to be doing.  Sometimes it's something they've seen on TV and sometimes they're totally imitating me, which is generally pretty hilarious and sometimes embarrassing.  This weekend it made me laugh so that's not too bad.

Our tiny trampoline was an American Ninja Warrior course.  

Saida took the task very seriously as she maneuvered around the outside.  Fortunately she let me take a few other photos too and we snuck one in of Corbin.


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Like they were helping... (because we all know they weren't really "helping".)

But it's cute and they think they are so you just let them do it anyway and then document it.  Unfortunately I missed focus on my favorite photo, but I'll include it anyway.

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And my personal favorite which I have no pictures of...

That it was Amazon Delivery Day

Saida kept putting things in boxes and opening them and saying, "Oh Corbin, look at the boots I ordered for you!"  I asked her where she ordered them from and was incredibly proud when she said Amazon.  That's my girl.  Plus isn't Amazon where everything comes from?  She asked me where babies come from the other day.  I'm wondering if Amazon.com would have been a believable answer.  

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An Honest Look at 10 Years of Marriage

I'm sure my husband is looking at this blog title and sweating.  He's like "Oh crap, what in the world is she sharing with the world now?"  I'm not totally sure where this thing is going yet, but I think for the most part he'll be fine.  In other words, the pros definitely outweigh the cons and I'm counting on another 10 years of marriage and more {insert laughing emoji here}. 

Our story is rare.  The highlights will make you go "awwwww", but it's not alway that simple.

It's our 10 year wedding anniversary today.  For those who don't know, I met and fell in love with Tyler when I was like 6 years old.  My mom was his babysitter.  10 years after that my sister convinced him to ask me to his Junior Prom and we started dating (we went to a total of 3 proms together).  5 years later we got engaged for his birthday and two years after that we were married.  If you're doing the math, that means we've been together for 17 years.  More than half my life.  I know nothing, but him and I wouldn't have it any other way.  See what I mean?  Awwwww!!! So sweet.  This is the condensed story everyone gets and I like this version a lot.



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The true story about this photo is that we agreed not to do this.  I made it very clear it was my wedding day and I didn't need my make up all messed up from the time of cake cutting on.  It just wasn't necessary and we both agreed.  The moment we had that cake cut and in our hands, I saw that look in his eyes that told me everything I needed to know.  Neither one of us needed to say a word.  The deed was done.  This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding.  I love that it comes with a story I actually remember and can still tell.  I was never mad at him for this even though my make up was basically done afterwards for the rest of the night.  


After we were married, I moved in with Tyler at his parent's house for a few months before we rented our first apartment in San Antonio so Tyler could finish school.  The economy sucked and I remember thinking if we could make it through the first year of marriage being out on our own for the first time in the worst economy we'd seen in our lifetimes, then we could probably do just about anything.  It's amazing how difficult something so simple can seem.  Looking back, those three years and two apartments in San Antonio were by far the easiest and simplest era of our marriage.  There were definitely moments of frustration with the stage of life we were in, but our frustrations weren't really with each other.  After three years I really wanted a baby, but we were technically broke and living in a one bedroom apartment with no health insurance.  

This was also around the time things got a little rough for me personally with my family.  I was an emotional mess.  I cried regularly and found peace with music and Tyler became even more my everything.  My guess is he probably never knew what to do with me, but he'd just let me have my feelings and then, being the grounded one, he'd ignore me when my ideas seemed crazy to him.  If he'd gone with everything I said, we'd be living half way across the country right now or something crazy like that.  Now I'm glad we didn't do that.



What we did end up doing was moving back to Austin.  We rented another one bedroom apartment near a part of town we wanted to live in and Tyler took a job downtown that he was initially excited about.   He worked there for 4 months and on the day I finally received a job offer with the State, he lost his job.  I started working in downtown Austin and he went back to work in San Antonio.  After 8 months in that apartment and me finally having a job with health insurance, we decided we needed to buy a house.  The two things we always said we needed before having children was a second bedroom and health insurance.  Buying a house would mean we'd have both of those things.  That was six years ago in May and probably the start of when we began to feel like real adults and living that oh so glamorous adult life (that's sarcasm), but having met our requirements for baby making meant we could actually start working on that.  We announced our pregnancy at Christmas that year, Tyler started working in Austin in July and then Saida was born in August.  Somewhere between buying a house and announcing a baby, we started to work out my family issues.

Aparently Saida was what we all needed when we needed her most.


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Another funny story. Saida was born right before the season finale of the Bachelorette.  I remember watching the Monday before she was born, knowing she was scheduled for induction that week, thinking next week we'd have our baby in our arms doing this exact same thing.  It wasn't the calm, all is right moment I had pictured in my head though.  Like every new mom ever is laughing at me right now.  What were we thinking?  We thought we were ready.  Maybe we were as ready as first time parents can be, but oh my word we had our work cut out for us.  As happy as I was to have my Saida, I'm not a newborn mom and that first few weeks of her life were definitely the most emotionally draining few weeks of mine.  


Kids changed our relationship though or added a new set of challenges you could say.  I have a problem with not asking for help when I need it.  I think I should be able to handle all the things on my own and if I can't then I must not be doing a good job.  I have a feeling a lot of women feel like that.  And then the worst part is that when it comes to our husbands, we just expect them to know what it is we need help with and to just help without us having to ask.  I still do that sometimes, but it is something I'm actively working on most days.

I find now if I just ask Tyler to do something or help me with something, he generally is happy to do it.  I just have to remember to ask instead of going into the mode of he should just know.  When I feel like a nut on the struggle bus, I must actually look like I have it all together is all I can figure.  

I read something recently and I can't remember where, but it was a blog post about why this woman stopped asking her husband to "help" her.  It resonated with me a little bit.  It was basically saying that when we ask our husbands for "help", we are saying this thing is our job (not theirs) and it sends the message that whatever this thing we need help with isn't their responsibility unless we ask for help.  Does that make sense?  I don't know, but maybe I'll try to stop saying help.


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We still make things challenging for each other on the regular.  We're in a stage of life currently where when people ask you how your doing, you can't just say "same ole, same ole".  I can't even keep up with it all.  It's insane.  It's still changing.  Like big, life changing things are literally going down tomorrow, but I can't even talk about it today.  

You know we have this idea in our head of what we want.  It's our end destination, but for some reason we feel like we should be there already and we're in such a hurry.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm only 33 and it's cool if my life isn't completely figured out and it's okay if we live on a tiny lot compared to the acreage we'd like to have.  It's also okay if my house is a little smaller than I'd like it and if the projects haven't been gotten to yet.  I wasn't going to relax when those things were done anyway so what does it matter.  You just move on to the next stressful thing, right?  

Anyway, I guess what all my rambling comes down to is there isn't anyone I'd rather share my stresses and struggles with.  Life isn't easy, neither one of us are perfect, but somehow it all works.  If I'm going to be in the trenches of life, I still want it to be with Tyler just as much today as I did back then.  I kinda love that guy.  I'd marry him again 1000 times. 

 photo by mel christina photography

photo by mel christina photography


Welcome Sweet Juniper: A Newborn Lifestyle Photo Session

Newborn sessions are quickly becoming my summertime favorite.  That Texas heat is creeping in and I love a good excuse for an in home session.  Plus home is that place where you just get to be you.  Everything the camera sees is a reflection of you and the stage of life you're currently in.  

Have you ever considered an in home session?

The focus is still capturing connections, but there is such an ease to in home sessions and it really allows my clients to just be calm and comfortable in the moment.  There is generally less worry about the behavior of little ones and everyone just gets to be in their element and connecting with each other in an effortless and very real way.  It makes me happy just thinking about it.

I still guide my clients.  It's not a free for all, but I make it as fluid as possible and we roll with the punches when they come. 

You get a gallery that is 100% you and unlike anyone elses.  Believe me, your unique moments are so much better than recreating something that's not genuine.  

Take Sweet Juniper for example.  Mom and Dad came into the session with zero expectations of what exactly they wanted.  They were just happy someone was there to spend some time with them documenting this special time.  The result: Some really beautiful moments that nobody had to fake and one happy, happy, happy photographer.  

What I would give to go back and have moments like this captured with my family.  These make me so happy.

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Interested in booking a Newborn or In Home Family Session or just finding out more?  

 

How Monat Haters are Right, But Oh So Wrong

Let me start by saying that I am technically a Monat Market Partner.  My knowledge of Monat is not as good as others in the company, which is why I chose to go about the situation in the post below the way I did.  I tried to look at this as objectively as possible, but at the same time, I'm a real person. 

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Soooo last week I decided to talk about Monat in a blog post for the first time.  I shared my favorite 4 Monat products based on my personal experience over the last 9 months and the needs of my hair.  What happened afterward was interesting, or awkward, or maybe even a little disappointing.  

I posted to my Instagram stories to promote my post and my salon saw it.  We follow each other.  I love bragging about how awesome everyone there is on Instagram.  Their stylists are so dedicated to their art and I love their passion for what they do.  They truly have an amazing team working for them.  

 I've chosen to not show the salon name out of respect for those who work there.  Throwing them under the bus isn't classy.  I really just wanted real answers.

I've chosen to not show the salon name out of respect for those who work there.  Throwing them under the bus isn't classy.  I really just wanted real answers.

So I was a little surprised when they decided to message me on Instagram regarding my post.  What if I chose to use Redkin or some other salon product?  Would they have still felt the need to reach out to me in this way?  My guess is probably not.  They probably would have let it go, but I posted about Monat, a company that is a threat to the natural products they sell.  The products at the salon I go to (or went to) are great and people love them, but they made me itchy and they just weren't for me.  My hair was happier when I used something cheap from the grocery store so I stopped using their products for that reason. But all of that is beside the point.  

I felt a little offended and sat and thought about how I wanted to respond or if I even wanted to respond.  Several hours went by and I figured my 2018 word is Rise so let's give them the benefit of the doubt.  I messaged them back asking my haircare professionals to give me a little more info.  I never got it.  

I took it upon myself to do a little more research just like they suggested so that I could get the "complete story".

So let's talk about their allegations and how they're right and oh so wrong.

Allegation 1: Monat is not FDA approved

After diving into this a little more turns out Monat isn't FDA approved.  They're right.  You know why?  Because cosmetics aren't regulated in that way by the FDA.  The ingredients however are FDA approved.  Maybe this information below provided on a fact sheet about Monat products will help clear that up a bit. 

  • Monat has sold over 14 million units of product in the United States alone. Monat has created unique product formulations, containing ingredients that have been tried, tested, and used in the cosmetics industry and that have been found to be safe for consumer use, in the concentrations Monat uses them, by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the cosmetic and beauty industry world-wide, rely on the safety findings of the CIR, and leading companies use ingredients, in concentrations, determined by CIR to be safe. Other ingredients used by Monat are all known to experts in the industry to be safe for use in cosmetics. All MONAT formulations use ingredients, in concentrations, that CIR, the FDA, Health Canada, and the European Commission consider “safe for their intended cosmetic purpose.” 

Allegation 2: Monat has estrogen

They never told me what those ingredients were after that message back to them, but I did end up figuring it out on my own.

Monat has Capixyl.  This Capixyl is formulated with small amounts of Red Clover Extract.  Red Clover Extract is a phytoestrogen (yes! A plant based estrogen).  What people (stylists and other haters) are saying is that by letting this sit on your skin, that you are absorbing all this extra estrogen that is going to just completely mess with your hormones, which is going to result in cancer and wide variety of other hormonal issues.  

Actual research is telling me anytime you eat broccoli, carrots, legumes, oranges, or drink coffee or tea, you're ingesting phytoestrogens.  Coffee y'all.  I'm done for apparently according to the haters.

But nobody is drinking their shampoo.  If you are, you've got a whole other set of issues you should probably be more worried about and a bottle of wine would be way cheaper.  Just saying.  

So are dangerous levels of phytoestrogen being absorbed through your skin when you use Monat products?  The short answer is no.  Just so happens I had an OB/Gyn annual appointment yesterday and I took it upon myself to just ask my doctor while I was there if that was a possibility.  I explained to her the situation and she kinda just looked at me like it was completely insane.  Her opinion as a medical professional specializing in women's care was that we eat phytoestrogens all the time and if we did happen to absorb any of the phytoestrogens from the shampoo into our skin, that it wouldn't be enough to effect our hormone levels.  I left her office confident in my decision to break up with my now ex hair salon.

Side Note: If you are genuinely concerned about phytoestrogens in your shampoo, talk to your healthcare professional and see what they say.  Don't take my word.  Don't take your stylists word.  

Allegation 3:  There are a slew of lawsuits surrounding this product due to it causing hair loss

This is true.  There are some class action lawsuits that have been filed with this stated as the reason, but the word "slew" seems a little extreme in my opinion.  To my knowledge the outcome hasn't been determined in any of those cases.  I don't personally know anyone that has lost hair due to Monat (or at least not to my knowledge).  Saying anything else about those lawsuits would be pure speculation and unfair so I'll stop there.

Final thoughts

What I will say is that these products work for me and my hair type.  I am someone who is getting the desired results.  I lost a ton of hair with the crazy hormones following each of my children's births and Monat is growing that hair back.  My hair is healthy and strong and growing fast.  Heck, even my ex salon that said I shouldn't use the products was always so impressed with how healthy and fast my hair was growing at each appointment (at least before they knew what I was using).  I actually feel like my hormones are finally getting back on track post children and have noticed nothing negative in that area.  I'm also not drinking my shampoo though and tend to stick to red wine, Topo Chico, and phytoestrogen filled coffee instead (in no particular order).

The number of people who claim issues is so tiny in comparison to the number of people currently loving their hair due to switching to Monat.  If you try it and and don't love it, stop using it, like I did with the salon products I was getting before I started using Monat.  We're all big girls capable of making simple decisions like what shampoo to use.  You do you and if you think Monat might be something you want to try, don't forget to click the links below.



Interested in Ordering?

Motherhood Sessions

Tell the truth mom, where are you usually when pics are getting taken on a day to day basis?  Are you the one taking them?  

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Not always, but it seems most often moms have taken on the role of family historian in families these days, which means mom ain't in the picture.  I personally have tons of pictures and videos of my husband with the kids, but anything with me in it is a selfie and most likely Corbin is sticking his tongue out because apparently that's what you do when you're two and taking a selfie or you get the fingers in the nose like this picture here.

My solution, motherhood photo sessions.  

I mean, what mom doesn't want beautiful photos of herself with her children?  I've recently added motherhood sessions to the menu of photogaphy services I offer and they're a little shorter than a typical session, which means they're also more affordable.  

"I'm so upset I have these pictures of myself with my children" - NO MOM EVER

I'm pretty sure this sweet photographer momma has zero regrets about treating herself to the gift of beautiful photos of her and her children.


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My Top 4 Monat Favorites

It's my first time to talk about Monat on the blog so let me start by saying that I started using these products back in October after being introduced to them by a friend.  So I've been using them for about 9 months.  At the time I really didn't know what Monat was about, but from what little I'd seen I thought it was just another product one of my friends was going to try to sell me.  Annoying, right? 

One little sample later I knew there was no way in hell I was going back to my old shampoo.  I was angry for a minute because now my hair products were going to start costing me a furtune (or at least I thought so), but I had already drank the Monat koolaid and was hooked.  My hair was already healthy (or so I thought), but I could tell an immediate difference in how easy it was to style and overall it just looked extra shiny and full of life.  

Does it actually cost me more though?  No, it doesn't.  My first bottle of shampoo lasted me 5 months.  5 MONTHS!!!  Incredible.  

So what is Monat?  It's basically a health care line for your hair.  These naturally based products have the ability to penetrate the hair all the way down to the core (medulla) and heal your hair from the inside out by putting all those good amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and essential oils back into your hair.  No wonder even my previously healthy hair feels better now than it did a year ago.

 My Monat Favorites: Revive Shampoo, Revitalize Conditioner, Replenish Masque, and Rejuvabeads

My Monat Favorites: Revive Shampoo, Revitalize Conditioner, Replenish Masque, and Rejuvabeads


So let's talk about my favorites and why they are my favorites.  They're all in that line up above.

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Revive Shampoo / Revitalize Conditioner

Like I said, overall my hair was/is healthy.  I have fine hair, but I have a lot of it and the last thing I need is something to weigh it down.  Both of these products are from the volume line.  The shampoo smells so good.  It's not overbearing.  It's just the perfect amount of fragrance.  

My hair blow dries so easily and I rarely need to use a straightener anymore after blow drying.  I still do occasionally, if I'm going for more of a super straight look.

These two products definitely changed my haircare life and are staples in my shower.


Replenish Masque

I use this maybe once every week or sometime I just don't think about it and I'll use it once every two weeks.  When I do though, it's like heaven.  As if my hair wasn't soft and shiny enough after using my shampoo and conditioner, on masque days my hair color even looks better on top of the soft and shiny.  This is definitely responsible for all my best hair days.  

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Rejuvabeads (Split End Mender)

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I've kept my hair pretty short for the last couple years.  That means haircuts every 8 weeks and split ends weren't really something I dealt with.  Recently I decided I'd like to grow it out a little which means I'm going longer in between cuts and split ends are actually happening especially now that I'm beyond the 8 week mark, but not quite to that next haircut.  This is definitely saving me.  Similar to the masque, I feel like this actually makes my color look better and of course my hair is visibly smoother at the ends when I use it.  It's basically a miracle in a tube that I use after every few washes.  


INTERESTED IN ORDERING?

or email me at my Monat email address: monatwithmonicajo@gmail.com


The Easiest Chicken Pot Pie Ever

When I said I was going to start blogging I had decided I was going to try to post every Tuesday to start.  You know what today is?  Not Tuesday.  I'm blaming it on my children.  Who's with me? 

Also for anyone who is curious, I haven't cried in yoga since my last blog post.  I definitely look at yoga a little differently than I used to which is pretty cool, but no tears have been shed.

I made chicken pot pie last night.  It wasn't fancy, nothing about it was healthy really, but it was delicious and sometimes that's really the only requirement.  Yeah sure I'd prefer some fresh ingredients and all sorts of time to prepare, but the reality is that is just not where we are some days and thowing this thing together is just too easy and leftovers never sit in the fridge long enough to get thrown away.  

It's so easy in fact, that it's completely possible you already have every single ingredient in your house.  We lived with the in-laws for 6 months in between houses and one evening we all just kind of looked at each other like "what's for dinner?"  Nothing.  Every protien was frozen and it just wasn't going to happen.  I found pie crusts in the freezer and canned chicken, veggies, and cream of chicken in the panty.  That's literally all this thing really needs to make it work.  Like I said, it's not fancy.  

Speaking of fancy, let's all appreciate this chicken pot pie I ordered at a restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg nearly 4 years ago...

 Disclaimer: I didn't make this.  I only ate it, which I felt bad about.

Disclaimer: I didn't make this.  I only ate it, which I felt bad about.

It's like a work of art.  I felt guilty sticking a fork in it.  This is not what my chicken pot pie looks like.  

I personally prefer to use rotisserie chicken for basically everything.  Somebody already cooked it, it's a good amount of chicken, and the price is generally right.  I also have a cheese problem so I put cheese in the mixture tonight (totally optional) and then an egg for the egg wash is not pictured below.  Canned chicken can easily be used in place of rotisserie and I've also used a bag of frozen veggies in place of the veg-all.  It's really just whatever you want or whatever you already have.  Heck, you could even use real fresh veggies.

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Ingredients:

1 - Rotisserie Chicken (or can of chicken)

1 - Can of Cream of Chicken Soup

1 - Can of Veg-All (or bag of frozen veggies)

1 cup - Cheese (or amount of your liking and just whatever kind you like)(optional)

2 - Pie crusts

1 - egg

 

Getting started:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  I'm generally winging it on this depending on what the pie crust box says.

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Drain juice from the rotisserie chicken into whatever mixing bowl you plan to mix the pie filling in and then shred the chicken completely and add it to the bowl.

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Drain water from the can of vegetables and add vegetables, cream of chicken and cheese to the mixture.

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Mix it well.

Next start getting your bottom pie crust into the pie plate.

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Dump the filling

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Use your fingers to wet the edges of the pie crust with water to allow the top crust to stick better to the bottom crust.  Unroll and place the top crust on top of the pie, using your fingers to pinch the bottom and top crusts together.  

Cut extra pie crust from the top crust and throw it away.

Cut slits into top crust.

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Next up is the egg wash and my daughter's favorite part.  Whisking is one of her favorite activities.  The first time I ever read about an egg wash, I had to google it.  It's just whisking an egg and brushing it on.  

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Bake in oven for the first 20 minutes with the edges of the pie covered.  We used foil because we were at my parents' house, but we have these pie crust sheilds at home that I just put over the pie.  You can buy them below or find them later on Monica's Amazon Favorites page. 

After the 20 minutes just remove the crust shield (or foil if you went that route) and continue to bake until the crust is a good golden color.  I just keep checking on it from time to time until it's how I want it.  You can tell we went a little heavy on the egg wash.  There's really no wrong way to do this.

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Ready to eat.

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If you try it, let me know what you think.  I almost didn't think it was blog worthy, but my mom and grandma have been asking to try this for ages and they seemed to completely approve so here it is. 

Also, please excuse the iphone photos. They're breaking my photographer heart, but it is what it is.

None Of This Stuff is Easy

I cried through yoga this morning.  At the beginning, somewhere in the middle, and at the end.

Some days it's just me doing something good for my body. An effort to become physically stronger.  Today it was literally the only thing that had no expectation from me.   The only thing I felt like I'm getting better at instead of failing.  

I've had a rough few days of just letting everything stressful in my life weigh me down.  My house is a complete disaster.  We're still fighting with CalAltantic/Lennar about the floor.  I forgot to dry the clothes I put in the washer yesterday (and Tyler probably could have used some from that load today for work).  Every single diaper change is a full on fight. When am I even going to find a few days to work on potty training?  My daughter cries about everything and our efforts to correct behavior are not working.  My husband's job drains him and we get what little is left, if anything, at the end of the day.  I haven't picked up my camera and really made anything meaningful of my kids in probably over a month.  

And so this morning when I was running late to yoga, still wearing what was left of yesterday's makeup, and quickly trying to get into the same pose everyone was already in, I leaned my body into the yoga blocks beneath my back and the instructor told the class to allow the mat and the blocks to completely support us. And that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried.  

I wish I had something inspirational and uplifting to say, but I don't.  Every moment isn't pretty.  Motherhood isn't easy.  Being a wife isn't easy.  Sometimes days just suck and as much as I wish they didn't, I still want to feel those days so the good ones feel like the most amazing days.  I don't want sympathy.  I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me.  I just want to be real because we all feel it.

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Fixer Upper Style For My Windows on the Cheap

Ask me who I'd like to be right now and my asnwer is probably Joanna Gaines minus a few kids because let's be real, two is enough for me.  

An episode of Fixer Upper from season 2 is my inspiration for our latest home improvement project.  I always wanted to do this in our old house, but life never really allowed or rather, we didn't make time.  

See that wood header piece above the window?  I wanted something like that on our otherwise boring windows.

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We don't have curtains for a couple of reasons.  1. Tyler hates them and 2. his allergies are terrible.  Curtains are just one more thing that collect dust and as cute as they are, we've just opted not to do them mostly (I actually have a pair in the dining room and Saida's room).  But this means my windows were so not cool and so boring and weren't really contributing anything to our home in terms of style or character.  Not to mention our home is a brand new home void of much in the way of character to begin with.  So I decided to do this simpliest version of this idea that I could think of.  

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So this was literally as simple as buying wood, cutting it to size, staining it, and screwing it to the wall.  There really isn't anything special about the wood we bought.  I didn't even poly it.  I was really just thinking how do I do this as cheap as possible with as little work as possible and still get something I think looks really cool.  

Next on the list for this room is a rug and maybe a large house plant. 

Side note:  Why are rugs so expensive?  Where do I find an affordable one that doesn't suck? And how do I know how big of one to buy?  I suck at rugs.

OKAY LET'S BREAK DOWN HOW TO DO THIS

STEP ONE: Measure your windows.

In my personal opinion you have two options here.  One is to have a piece of wood for each window and the other is to do like I did here and have a piece of wood for each set of windows.  I measured window sill edge to window sill edge because I wanted a little bit of overhang and that just made sense to me as a simple way to decide on a measurement.

Once I had all my measurements, I took into account how long the boards are at Lowe's and started figuring out how many window treatments I could get per board.

STEP TWO: Family Trip to Lowe's 

Get however many boards you've determined you need.  I'm pretty sure ours are 1x8s, but really you can just get whatever fits the look you're going for.

Wood Stain.  I used a combo of Minwax Weathered Oak and Early American.  1 part Weathered Oak and 3 parts Early American.  I also found a sponge next to the stain that I used to apply the stain once mixed.

Screws - We used black sheetrock screws just because I like to accent with black and it goes with what's happening in our home.  Make sure you buy something that isn't too long, but is going to go through whatever board you choose and still be able to secure to the wall. 

Drop Cloths - Depending on where you plan to do the staining of the wood, I'd definitely invest in a drop cloth or something to protect the floor of wherever the staining is happening.

Sand paper - we used a pretty fine sand paper

STEP THREE: Cut and sand the wood

The cutting part was Tyler's job.  I gave him measurements and told him which pieces were supposed to come out of each board and he went for it.

The sanding is really just so the wood will take the stain and you can remove any sharp edges.  I sanded off all sharp edges of my boards because that's the look I wanted.  I took a wet cloth to my boards afterwards just to remove some of the dust.  Sanding as many boards as I had took forever so I stopped for the day and came back to stain another day.

STEP FOUR: Stain the wood

Again I mixed one part Weathered Oak to three parts Early American and then generously applied the stain with a sponge to one board at a time going with the grain of the wood.  I let it sit for about 7 minutes and wiped it away with the grain of the wood.  I love how the knots in the wood absorbed more stain and really gave the wood some character.

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STEP FIVE: Find a really cute young thing to do the install for you.

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Just kidding.  But for real though, this could take a couple people depending on how much space you're covering.  We got ours lined up the way we wanted them, made sure they were level, and that we were screwing into a stud.  We also mounted ours down just enough to cover the mechanical part of the blinds.

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And that was it.  Now we have Fixer Upper worthy windows instead of ugly builder windows for way less than traditional window treatments would have ever cost.

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Things I Learned in Sedona

 Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona

The place is beautiful, yes.  I think we probably already knew that, right?  The hostess at the restaurant laughed because I wanted to sit outside for the view.  The view was of a parking lot, but it was still gorgeous.  You can't go anywhere in Sedona without being just completely blown away.  Each time a new formation came into view I was like "Oh man, this is incredible."  I was a freaking broken record, in complete awe of my surroundings.  Places like that really exist, and it's amazing to get to experience them and do it with people you love.

I learned a couple of things while I was there though.  

One is don't trust the trail maps or even that little booklet the hotel gives you that talks about the different hikes and what they entail.  Other than the part about each one being amazing, it's all lies.  Let's take the Devil's Bridge trail for example.  The Forest Service map tells you it's a moderate hike, .8 miles long, and a 600 ft. elevation gain.  Okay, great.  I can handle that.  I mean a 600 ft. elevation gain actually seems pretty legit for .8 miles, but I can probably handle it.  I'm sure it's worth it at the top, right?  What they don't tell you is that the mile long Forest Service road you take to get to the trailhead is not something you can drive your rental car down.  There are jeeps, and ATV legit rock climbing on this dang Forest Service road.  I was hot and tired before we even got to the trailhead and then had to climb 600 ft. over the next .8 miles.  That's like 55 flights of stairs.  This is the point in your vacation where you start asking yourself why you didn't go to the beach.  If you're going to be this hot, you may as well have a margarita in hand and crashing waves nearby.  

And speaking of a alcohol, that brings me to the next thing.

It's true when they say alcohol effects you differently at higher elevations.  I'm going to gloss over the details here, but I can assure you 3 glasses of wine in Central Texas (Elevation 489 ft.) is no big deal and that's not the same experience I had in Sedona (Elevation 4,327 ft.).  Don't say you weren't warned.

Let's talk about mild, medium, and spicy.  We ordered chips and salsa and were asked if we wanted medium, spicy, or one of each.  I almost just ordered the medium thinking this is Arizona and surely they know how to do spicy, but we went for both anyway.  Nope.  Spicy was medium at best.  This seemed to be a common theme everywhere we went in Sedona.  Spice is not their thing.  If you're from Texas and they tell you it's spicy, expect medium.  Obviously they don't measure spiciness on the same scale as level of difficulty for hiking trails.

And lastly, when the timeshare resort invites you to one of their presentations and tells you it's 90-120 minutes depending on your level of interest, they're lying.  Our level of interest was zero.  We were in that presentation for 3 hours.  My prize at the end?  A whopping $100.  So here's the other thing, if you're going to go to one of those presentations ever, negotiate.  Whatever they want to offer you to show up, ask for more.  I'm sure I could have gotten at least more money in gift cards out of the deal and probably an upgraded room.  Work it.  If you have to be subjected to that, make it worth your while.  Believe me, $100 isn't enough.  You're welcome.

But for real, we'd go back.  Sedona is pretty amazing.  A hiker's paradise.  

THINGS I'D RECOMMEND

Miley's Cafe - Casual, Affordable, and just good.  Just make sure you order the "spicy" salsa.  Great for breakfast and lunch.  

Hiking Cathedral Rock- also a .7 mile hike with a 600 ft. elevation gain, but we actually parked at the trailhead and the view from the top was amazing.  Go early.  This one actually required legit climbing and though it's considered moderate by Sedona standards, the Brown Family Scale of Hike Difficulty ranks it more in the area of "But, did you die?"  It was hard.

Rocky RD Ice Cream Co. - Bourbon Pecan Praline & Mexican Coffee with Tequila ice cream. Enough said.

Renting a Jeep - Not the Pink Jeep stuff that you rent in town by the day.  Rent a Jeep from the rental car place at the airport.  ATV's will cost you $500/day in Sedona.  If we ever make it back, a jeep is a must.  We could have avoided having to walk down that mile long forest service road.

 Midgley Bridge, Sedona, Arizona

Midgley Bridge, Sedona, Arizona

Important side note:  These cacti are real (see pic below).  I never really doubted it I guess, but when you see them in real life for the first time it's just funny.  It's called a Saguaro and they're all over the place just north of Phoenix.  We totally trespassed so we could safely take a photo of these things.  Apparently they average something like 40 feet (I never would have guessed without seeing them in real life) and have an average of 5 side arms.  According to Wikipedia they don't get their first side arm though until they're like 75-100 years old.  There's a fun fact for you.  I'm kind of obsessed now.

 Somewhere north of Phoenix on private property

Somewhere north of Phoenix on private property

Hello Niko

Niko's momma emailed me way back when she first got pregnant so needless to say, I'd been anxiously awaiting his arrival for quite some time.  

When I finally got that email at the beginning of March saying Niko was here, I got a little giddy.  Things get so crazy in the Fall, but in the spring I live for these sessions.  They fill me up so much. I could photograph babies ever single week and it wouldn't get old.  Those tiny toes and fingers and those cute little belly buttons.  Ahhhhhh!! Just try not to catch the baby fever.

Tamed Whimsy.... Sorta

Being a mom and being married to one of the most grounded dudes in all of Texas means my whimsical soul has pretty much been tamed and that's in some ways probably a good thing.  So basically because we're too conservative (*cough, cough* cheap) we're probably never going to be that family that's like "Hey, you want to pack up our stuff and head to (insert super awesome vacation spot here) this weekend?"

Like never.  That will never be us.  

I remember once when I was young (I suck at remembering how long ago things actually were so don't ask my age because I could have been 6 or 12 and I just don't remember) we got home on the last day of school for the year and my parents did that.  We packed up some beach clothes, they made a reservation, and we got in the car and drove.  That was probably the coolest I ever thought my parents were at age 6 or 12 or somewhere in between.  

This weekend when half the family was suffering from some sort of virus (myself included) I felt whimsical.  I definitely wasn't booking a vacation or anything like that, but I was sitting in my house thinking we need color and texture, but not too much color because that doesn't work with my aesthetic and since we're all sick I think we need that Theives line from Young Living like sometime last week and obviously I needed all of the things and myself in all my whimscal glory basically needed it all right now.  This is where my husband shakes his head and is like what does it matter if your handsoap is non toxic if you're still using that dish soap.  He thinks he's stopping me, but at this point it's basically a done deal and now I'm considering adding the Theives Dish Soap to the cart too.  Honestly this would all be cheaper with less criticism.  Just sayin'. 

And about that color and texture, I needed plants.  Real ones.  My thumb is as black as they come, but I was tired of looking at all the cheap fake plants in my house and we're all sick and we need something to help with the quality of air in our house.  So yesterday I went to Ikea because 20% Off planters and it fits the aesthetic and because sometimes you just need and excuse to drive the 40 minutes to Ikea.  I don't really need a reason.  I guarantee you I'll find my reason somewhere between the fake display apartments and the pot and plants section.  I may not know I need it, but it's definitely there.  

The plants are here, I should probably go water them.  Young Living is a thing for us now, but the products haven't actually arrived yet.  I'd like to think my whimsy is putting us all on the right track for better health.  Whimsy for good.  Whimsy for health.  No regrets.

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Motherhood Sessions: Limited Offer

FOR A LIMITED TIME....
BOOK A MOTHERHOOD SESSION AT A SPECIAL PRICE

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Session Details
As moms we have so many challenges in daily life that it's easy to overlook those little tender moments with our children. There is always something else waiting for us on our to do list. Book a Motherhood Session with me and spend 45 to 60 minutes being in the moment with your child or children while I capture those moments for you to keep forever. 

These session can be in-home (imagine snuggling with your littles in bed) or we can find a local park or peice of land for an outdoor session. 

Includes:
Access to me via phone, email, or text pre-shoot as needed
45-60 minutes of shooting
20+ full resolution images in an online gallery (download included and printing rights)
25% off products from the Monica Brown Print Shop (the shop in your gallery)

$325 + tax

*session includes one parent only and children*

Sessions available for booking through Mothers Day for a session to take place by June 30, 2018.

Email me at monicajophoto@gmail.com to book a session or click the "contact" button in the menu at the top of the page.