personal

An Unposed Session at Padre Island National Seashore

It’s been a quiet year in terms of photography for me.

Probably none of this seems immediately related to these photos so sorry about that.

I’ve been over here playing around with different ideas (not photography related), trying to figure out what my path is. I still don’t know what that path is, if I’m being honest and I’m still over here dabbling in it all.

I didn’t want to put pressure on this thing that I loved. I was afraid it would turn into something I didn’t want, if I kept doing that this year and that thought terrified me. I already saw my spark fading as I got caught up in the drama and BS related to social media and I retreated hard and fast and with that I backed off from everything photography related including photographing my own kids. I’m hoping all of that was necessary and is fulfilling some purpose for my furture self.

Social media is hard. It’s funny because I probably fall into the same category I always have in everything in life. Not quite cool enough for the mainstream kids, but not outcast enough for the outcasts. I’m just stuck somewhere in the middle without belonging anywhere. This is probably a little bit my fault because it’s no secret to myself that I don’t commit enough to people to really belong in a community. I hold myself back for fear of judgement. It’s rare anyone actually gets to see me all the way, which is why Tyler is probably pretty much the only person who sees it all.

What if I’m not who they thought I was? What if I disappoint them? It’s less stress (or so it sometimes seems) to just do it all on my own. This thinking is wrong, right? Is it imposter syndrome that makes me feel this way maybe? Why do I even care what “they” think to begin with? I know better, but I’m still here in this place.

I don’t really know what the purpose of all of this is other than it just feels good to talk about it. Maybe others feel the same and now they know they’re not alone. Maybe it just makes me make more sense to people. I don’t know.

I know this session is the first time I picked up my camera to do this kind of thing in a long time. I had a vision and I was nervous it was going to just bomb and I’d come away with nothing. The first probably 30 minutes felt like that actually. I had to let go in a lot of ways. Once I just decided to let my kids be free and occasionally prompt them into things that would bring joy, it got good. I let Saida get in the waves fully clothed because it felt like freedom and we needed that. Mostly this is just them and me there to see it for what it was and document it the way I knew I could.

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A Week At Padre Balli RV Park in Corpus Christi Texas

Padre Balli Park in the Camper

I cannot express to you how good it actually felt to be in our camper again. It had definitely been way too long since we’d made a trip (3 months). I let it slide though because I knew we’d be staying for a week this time and I have a certain amount of nights I insist we spend in the camper each year to make paying the price worth our while.

This wasn’t really a traditional camping trip for us. It was one of those situations where the camper is basically a condo on wheels and an affordable way for us spend an entire week at the beach. We showered regularly, went souvenir shopping, ate some dinners out at restraunts, and civilization was at our doorstep… or close enough (Thank goodness because we needed it to be on Thursday night).


Why We Chose Padre Balli Park For This Trip

Morning walk on the beach before the crowds showed up

Morning walk on the beach before the crowds showed up

The main reason we chose Padre Balli Park was for the proximity to people we were going to the beach with. Yes there are nicer RV parks within 30 minutes of where we stayed, but those parks weren’t a 5 minute car ride to the family we were spending time with at the beach. Also we knew we weren’t going to spend a lot of time at the park so paying a higher price for one of those other nicer parks just didn’t make any sense. My parents ended up tagging on to the end of this vacation so we did end up driving 15-20 minutes each way to hang at the beach in front of their beach rental too, but we still weren’t hanging out at the RV Park so paying the price for a “nicer” one just didn’t make sense. In this way Padre Balli Park definitely seemed like a good choice.


My Thoughts on Padre Balli Park

Pros:

  • Park is on the Beach

  • There is a restaurant and gift shop on the fishing pier at the park

  • Easy drive to Dollar General, Gas Stations, and Restaurants

  • 50 Amp area is new

  • Shower Houses and Laundry onsite

  • Full Hookups in 50 AMP area

  • Concrete pads in new section

  • Friendly staff

  • Affordable (we paid $275 for an entire week in the 50 AMP area with full hookups and it’s on the beach. The 30 AMP area is $150 a week and doesn’t have sewer. There is a dump station.)

Cons:

  • No pool

  • Basic sites (not too close together, but not too far and zero landscaping)

  • Quiet hours not enforced and people like to party. Thank goodness for AC units being so loud.

  • Old 30 AMP area is run down and cramped (pot hole parking lot with hookups)

  • The beach at the park is very crowded

  • Lots of trash left behind on beach and at the campsites and the park doesn’t seem to prioritize cleaning it up.

Notes:

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They do things a little differently than most. They don’t actually take any payments from you until you show up. When you call to book, you get a reservation confirmation number and that’s basically it. Write it down and hang on to it. You don’t hear from them again until about a week before your trip when they call to confirm your stay. It was my first time experiencing this and it honestly made me a little nervous that we might not have somewhere to stay when it was time to show up. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. They seemed to have it together in this department.

Would I stay at Padre Balli Park again?

Yes, absolutely. We definitely want to try out Gulf Waters sometime in the future too, but we want to do that when we plan to stay there and not rush off each day to go see other people staying in other places. When we pay the price to stay at Gulf Waters, we want to take advantage of their scenery, pool, and easy access to a beach that’s clean and beautiful. Padre Balli Park is absolutely a great go to for situations similar to this trip we just had. And honestly, if you’re not a little beach spoiled like me and you want to save a few dollars, Padre Balli Park is really a great choice even if you plan on taking advantage of the beach without driving elsewhere.

The highlighted site is site 16 which is the site we stayed in.

The highlighted site is site 16 which is the site we stayed in.


What I Learned on This Trip

More than I was prepared to learn, that’s what. But seriously though, Tyler had to go back to work for a couple days so we spent night 2 with just me and the kids in the camper. I was laying in bed about 10 PM that night thinking it had all gone so smoothly without him when the power goes out in the camper. It’s July in Texas and I like AC. Saida is already passed out and Corbin is making every excuse to stay up just a little longer, but I finally have him laying down in Tyler’s spot in my bed when this all goes down. I check to make sure we didn’t trip the breaker, but the entire Park is out. Turns out a transformer blew and the estimated time of restoration is 3 AM. YES 3 AM. If we don’t get the generator going, we’re going to be hot as hell and lose the food in the fridge and we’re one of the lucky ones with a generator. Unfortunately there isn’t any gas in it so that means I’m hauling kids out of bed at 10:30 at night to go buy gas cans and gas so we can get through these next few hours in comfort. All of these things were new for me, but a momma’s gotta do what a momma’s got to do and I wanted AC for my kids and to save the milk I just bought for them that evening.

Once the transformer was fixed, they blew another one and the new estimated time of restoration was 5 AM. I didn’t buy that much gas so I dropped us down to 1 of 3 ACs and everyone still managed to sleep comfortably. Power was back on by 3 AM anyway and we still had enough gas to get us through another power outage (this time for the entire island) that happend a couple days later.

We’re buying a nice gas can and taking some with us on every trip going forward for situations like this. The other option is our camper does have a fuel station and we could keep some gas in there with a stabilizer to make it last a little longer. And I’m happy to say I now know how to start the generator and keep things going when things don’t go as expected.

I really hate to wake sleeping kids, but they did an awesome job hanging with me and holding the flashlight while I filled the generator.


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Places We Ate

Snoopy’s

13313 South Padre Island Drive

Corpus Christi, TX78418

A family favorite on Padre Island at the JFK Causeway. We’ve been going here for years and fish is always fried to perfection and the view is great. The secret is out though so go early or be prepared to wait in line to order.

A La Mode Gelateria

14254 S Padre Island Dr Ste 101

Corpus Christi, Texas 78418

Our friends introduced us to this place. It’s also on Padre Island and Saida and Tyler are obsessed with the banana pudding gelato. The staff is super friendly and welcoming and it’s definitely a new tradition for us.

La Playa Mexican grille

222 Beach Ave.

Port Aransas, TX 78373

Cash only in Port Aransas and this one isn’t a secret anymore either. The restaurant itself is super tiny so there is almost always a wait and then we show up with 16 people. I love it here because they actually know how to make a fish taco. I love cheese, but you don’t put cheese on fish tacos, you don’t put fruit salsa on fish tacos (IMO), and you don’t use flour tortillas on fish tacos. They do none of those things, thank goodness.

Brooklyn Pie Co.

15326 S Padre Island

Corpus Christi, TX 78418

We were first timers here. I wanted to just walk over to Mikel Mays on the pier at Padre Balli Park the night it was just me and the kids, but Saida insisted on Pizza and we had seen this place just up the road at the next stop light. We ordered their large cheese pizza, went and roamed around at ACE Hardware for about 15 minutes and then came back to pick up our pizza to go. The kids loved it and it came with one of those little plastic barbie tables… I mean pizza savers… which the kids have never seen before and Saida is excited to use it as a barbie table (as it was obviously meant to be).


Favorite Camping Hack of the Trip

I stole this hack idea from one of the RV Camping Facebook pages I’m on. As soon as I saw it I was on Amazon ordering these suction cup hooks to hang our beach towels and swimsuits on the outside of the camper. It was a great solution for not having to bring our wet and sandy towels into the camper.

Disclaimer: The link to Amazon below is an affiliate link. If you purhase from Amazon after clicking this link, I will receive a super teeny tiny commission at no additional cost to you. Also if you purchase these after clicking this link, THANK YOU! You doing this allows me to keep creating quality content for my readers and I think that’s pretty awesome.


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Drink of the Trip

Overall this trip was a family success, just not without drama because who would even know what that looks like. Lots of margaritas were had; spicy grapefruit ones. Click below to see the recipe I found on Pinterest. They were delicious. and I used lime juice from a bottle, HEB’s Rio Red Grapefruit juice, Espolon Silver tequila, and didn’t bother with garnish because we were taking it out to the beach.


Pictures From Our Trip Because I’m a Photographer

On Mustang Island near my parents’ beach rental

On Mustang Island near my parents’ beach rental

Mustang Island

Mustang Island

Mustang Island near my parents’ beach rental

Mustang Island near my parents’ beach rental

That’s how I feel about ice cream too. Shout out HEB.

That’s how I feel about ice cream too. Shout out HEB.

Iphone Picture edited with Lightroom Mobile @ Padre Balli Park

Iphone Picture edited with Lightroom Mobile @ Padre Balli Park

Iphone photo unedited @ Port Aransas, Texas

Iphone photo unedited @ Port Aransas, Texas

Iphone Photo edited with Lightroom Mobile @ DQ in Pleasanton on the way home

Iphone Photo edited with Lightroom Mobile @ DQ in Pleasanton on the way home


Share with Me

As usual I have no idea how to wrap all of this up. That was all kind of random, but that’s just kind of our life right now so… it is what it is.

Feel free to share your favorite restaurants in the area in the comments, tell me where you’ve found fish tacos that don’t suck, or let me know if you tried that margarita recipe. Seriously they are so delicious, especially if you’re into spicy alcoholic beverages.

Happy Camping,

Monica

Weekend Wrap Up: Lots of Sanding and A Little Bit of Crawfish

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This weekend was a weekend of I’m not really sure where the time went or what all got done. I guess technically we did lose an hour, but even still…

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I’d hoped to finish up some projects this weekend that just weren’t moving along as expected. Lots of lots of sanding went down and I think the sanding part might finally be done. And let’s be real, kids need things so it’s not like these things ever get my full attention for too long. Here’s a visual of what we’re working on. I’m sanding and staining multiple projects at a time because they’ll all get stained the same color and it seems like the easiest way to control having them all look the same. Sometimes I just eyeball the stain mixture and don’t actually measure so… yeah. The picture ledge will get painted the same white as the shiplap, but the rest of these are getting stained.

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I feel like the frames for the mirrors are going to take our bathrooms to a whole new level and I’m really excited about it. Our master bathroom especially is in major need of a transformation and paint and framing the mirrors seem like the biggest bang for our buck. We’ve also got some inexpensive light fixtures from Lowe’s that will be mounted into the header portion of the frame. The top of the frame is a 1x10 and the rest of the frame is going to be made out of 1x4s.

I painted a couple of accent walls black (one in our bathroom and one in the office). I don’t regret it, but admittedly I do regret the sheen. Before we can finish and install the floating shelves, I have to head back to Home Depot for more paint. I went with an eggshell by mistake thinking that was what we used for our outdoor kitchen, but the outdoor kitchen is a satin. I think I may purchase a matte this go around. I did try to sand down the sheen because I saw something on the internet that said I could, but our texture is too heavy for this idea to work so back to painting I go.

Saturday evening we attended a random crawfish boil at our home builder’s house. Two years later he and Tyler still keep in touch even though we were a tough customer. The picture below is all the kids (except Corbin) and their big hearts letting the last two crawfish go. Saida is there on the left cautiously watching the release go down. She was curious, but not interested in getting anywhere near those pinchers.

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Parabo Press For The Win + Free Square Prints + $10 Off

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I don’t have quite as much control over things when it comes to Saida anymore. She has her own style, her own likes, wants to decorate her room according to her own taste, and all that good business. I’m hanging on to as much control as I can, but I’m also kind of a believer in letting her explore and letting her take charge of some of those things within reason.

Putting up these super cute (AND FREE because we got the smaller ones which are always free) square prints from Parabo Press is a fun way for me to let her make her own decisions while winning the battle over her room decor. She got to pick each photo she wanted to display. Nevermind that we’re still wearing Christmas pajamas with unbrushed hair (and it’s the afternoon). Scroll down for a coupon code at the bottom of this post for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press. Or if you’d rather, just order the free prints and just pay shipping. Such a fun way to have your kids interact with photographs.

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Code for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press: MNEHAE

Galveston Island Camping Trip: More of My Happy

If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that the beach/bay is the place my soul craves. Our latest camping trip to Galveston Island State Park was gloomy, windy, and cold. I didn’t care. It rained all weekend at home so gloomy, windy, and cold with a bay view seemed just fine to me. The sun came out on our last morning just as it was about time to start packing up. We decided to spend just 30 more minutes exploring before we had to leave and the dunes on the beach side of the island is where we ended up. They called it their mountain. They were in thier own kind of heaven and I can’t even explain to you how overwhelmingly happy and at peace I was in this moment. It’s the kind of happy and peaceful you forget exists until it sneaks up on you. There isn’t a worry or a care in the world because in that moment nothing else matters except being present and completely soaking it in and storing it in a place to keep you content until that feeling sneaks up on you again.

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Leaving was the hardest thing. Nobody wanted to go.

More of my favorites from our trip below.

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

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Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Camper window light with a lensbaby

Camper window light with a lensbaby

We stayed with our RV at Galveston Island State Park on the bayside in site 55. I feel like sites 58-64 would be ideal in terms of a killer view of the bay. That’s my goal for next time. I think I acutally prefer the bayside to the beachside. The bay has a sense of calm that is totally my jam so I think I’d do that again.

We try to keep things simple. This was a quick trip so Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid is the only attraction we spent money on. We did things like drive by port on Saturday while two ships were in and the kids thought that was cool. We didn’t take the ferry this time, but kids also love that and it’s free. Just do it when it’s not crowded. In the past we’ve done the offshore oil rig museum which is pretty cool and affordable and just right there by the cruise ships, just with the wind we skipped it this time. I think Corbin would love it though so I want to take him to do that someday. What I really wanted to do was the oil rig museum at 4pm when the ships left so we could wave to the cruisers on deck as it passed by. That would have been cool, but our go with the flow attitude meant we weren’t around for that. Exploring the park and connecting with nature was priority for me even though we made time for fun in town too.


Looking for an RV Park or Resort on the Texas Coast? I’ve got a list of more than 60 Parks just waiting for you to book. Click the button below to see the list.

The Picture That Sums up Why we Bought a Camper / Our Trip to McKinney Falls State Park

I promised myself I’d start blogging about our camping trips once we actually started taking them. I wasn’t sure what these blog posts would be exactly. I’m pretty sure I was thinking at some point I would become some sort of camping expert and people would flock to my blog to hear about our trips and what cool things I did/cooked that they too need to be doing, but I’m not sure this is where that is going. Big dreams, huh? I feel inspired for like 5 minutes and then it’s gone so…. Also, like, I’m never going to be that person. EVER. I don’t have my shit nearly enough together for that.

This morning I edited a picture from our trip that basically sums up our reason for buying a camper and trying to take a camping trip every month. Do you want to see it? Not that your answer matters because I’m going to show it to you whether you want to or not.

Here it is…

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You: But Monica, that’s just a blurry photo of your child swinging on her hammock. How could that possibly sum up your reasons for buying a camper?

Me: Um no, it’s not. That photo right there is a feeling.

But for real, the out of focus element of this image is giving me this out of body experience where time has slowed significantly and I’m just exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s that thing I was reaching for when we bought our camper. It’s that thing I’ve wasted the past 6 months or so of my life anxiously awaiting. It’s that thing we’ve been missing in this life that doesn’t ever seem to slow down. It just goes faster and faster and faster and we were afraid that before we knew it we’d wake up and our kids would be grown and we would have let the opportunity for these kinds of experiences pass us up.

It’s easy to skip these things over. It’s easy to say, “Well, life is just to damn busy to stop right now.” We live in a world where we have to intentionally schedule time to slow down and so that’s what we’re doing.

Me: You wanna see more of my favorites from this trip to McKinney Falls State Park?

You: Yes, Monica. I can’t think of anything I’d love more.

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Where we stayed: McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas

Campsite: 18, (1 of 12 50 amp sites with water and electric). Very large pull through campsite with one site very close by (worked out fine because they never came out of their camper) and next to the bathrooms which turned out to not be a big deal at all. In fact when Corbin pooped in his pull up we were just thankful there was a dumpster nearby.

A Letter to My Friends Who Use a Different Photographer

Y’all,

It’s okay!!!!

If you don’t read any further, just know that it really is fine and I’m not offended or upset. I don’t expect everyone to identify with what I’m doing or feel my style is the best way to represent their family.

So here’s a little secret about photographers… or at least me. We don’t want to be the right photographer for every single person out there, unless of course every single person is passionate about the exact same thing we are and completely shares our vision. I do something specific. I’ve spent years trying to figure out who I am as a person/photographer (still working on it), shoot in a way that reflects that, and cater specifically to those who are in the market for that exact thing. No matter what our style of photography is, we photographers recognize that we are made for a specific client or set of clients and those people aren’t always the friends we already have. They can be and it’s totally awesome when they are, but it’s also okay if they’re not. There’s a really good chance we’ll still be your friend anyway.

Okay, now consider this permission to go forth and work with whatever photographer you feel you and your family most identifies with and will represent you most accurately or in the way you’d like to be represented.

I’m still your friend,

Monica

P.S. To the friend who prompted this letter, thank you! I still think you’re cool and I probably needed to write this anyway.

Just a Little Personal Work

So what do I do when I’m not photographing lifestyle family and newborn sessions for all of these amazing Central Texas and Austin area families?

I have impromptu mini sessions with my kids in sweet light and then swoon over them for a bit and oh my goodness does it make my heart happy.

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Think of Someplace Warm

So I love yoga partly because I sometimes get to have these day dreamy moments at the instruction of my yoga teacher and nobody gets to ruin them by asking for fruit snacks or milk. It’s not every time I go, but I hadn’t actually been in over two weeks and my body and mind were screaming for some me time on the mat.

It was 90 degrees yesterday. It’s 45 degrees today so during a pre-class child’s pose Maria (my yoga instructor) asked us to think of someplace warm. 10 times out of 10 when you ask me to think of someplace warm, I’m going to think of my toes in the sand, the sun on my face, and gentle waves slowly lulling me to sleep. It’s my go to. I tried to go there today and you know what? I didn’t want to be there.

Who am I? Why do I not want to be at the beach? What other warm place could I possibly want to go?

And then I had my most favorite day dream of someplace warm to date. It was cold outside in this day dream (much like today), but I was snuggled in close on the couch in our new to us camper in front of the TV and space heater fireplace with the three people who mean the most to me in all the world. Wrapped in blankets we’re happy and warm and just soaking in all the goodness that is family confined to a small space. We’re drinking hot chocolate, the kids are laughing (I can actually hear Corbin laughing in my head and it makes me smile), Tyler and I are beaming with pride for the family we created, and I literally can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

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I can’t wait to start sharing our camping adventures with you. I love that we’re calling them adventures. I was showing Saida all the places we’d go and instead of asking where we’d camp next, she asked me to tell her what the next adventure would be. It was painful actually signing the paperwork for the second most expensive thing we currently own, but hearing her put it that way makes me realize I would have gladly paid even more to make these adventures her reality. These are the moments we were absolutely meant to live together and I’m glad we get to start sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned.

- Monica

Why We Invested In Memories Over Real Estate

There was this brief moment a few weeks ago where Tyler and I seriously considered buying a house. As seriously as we’ve done anything we were planning renovations for each room and really trying to understand the layout and falling in love with the sweet lot the house sat on. We’d only seen it in pictures and it just hit the market and literally every single room was going to need renovations. I’m down for renovations, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t going to be any money left for renovations.

That morning we’d been camper shopping so we were thrown for a loop when we saw this property pop up. Our options were camper or house, but not both. We already have a house so it’s not like we don’t have a place to be, but real estate is always a good investment, right? Campers just depreciate over time and all that.

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Sooooo, we passed up a super awesome real estate opportunity and decided to buy a camper. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it’s what we did. Here is what it came down to for me.

Real Estate vs. Memories

We got stuck in one of those time share presentations back in April in Sedona. We had no intention of buying, but there we were trying to collect the $100 promised to us for sitting through it. Side note: Don’t ever sit through one of these things for only $100. Ask them for the world before you show up and negotiate something much better than $100. Anyway, they ask you all these questions trying to guilt you into buying a timeshare because if you don’t, you obvioulsy don’t love your kids or your mother-in-law. Legit this is what the dude working for Diamond Resorts more or less told me. I wish I was kidding. The thing that made sense from that presentation was investing in memories. We’re not timeshare people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to start making the kinds of memories I cherish from my childhood with my own children. So we bought a camper and invested in moments and memories for our family. We can buy an new house with more land later after we handle some more things financially, but I’d prefer to start making the memories now. Each day is a gift and it would sure be a shame if we let these years pass us by with regret. Something tells me we’ll never regret a single day spent with our kiddos exploring nature and making s’mores.

{Almost} Wordless Wednesday | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Monica Brown | Buda Texas Lifestyle Photographer

We'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but let me just say Wednesday is rough so far.  I should have known immediately that day 3 of school was going to be a hard start because the reminders to eat breakfast were aplenty.  Day three came with tears at drop off and my sweet girl saying she just wanted to be where I was today.  Break my heart.  You better believe I wanted to say okay and take her back home.  Enough of all that.  Check out these photos I've posted to Instagram over the last week.

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First Day of Kindergarten

I only have to survive 40 more minutes before I get the oldest child back from her very first day of Kindergarten!!!

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Y'all I made it a whole day with her in the care of someone she isn't related to and I didn't even cry once.  I got close like two times, but it was because I was so proud of her and because her teacher added photos to the class Facebook page.  

I talked about this on Facebook and Instagram this morning.  I love watching my kids reach these milestones. I try not to rush things, but I genuinely love watching them them grow and learn and do the things kids are supposed to do.  I don't want my babies to be babies forever.  There are definitely some ages and stages I miss, but I also wouldn't trade them for the stages we're in now.  We've been there, we've done that and now we're going to do this other thing and it too is going to be awesome (and maybe awful all at the same time, idk).  

We tried to do the obligatory first day of school sign photos this morning.  I'm not sure we're cut out for this.  I could have spent more time forcing them into standing still and things, but somehow this one seems to fit the day and the attitudes of the day perfectly.  Plus also of course my kid is the one that managed to bust up her face two days before the first day of school.  I feel like we're being judged already.

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I'm so anxious to see if she's as excited this afternoon as she was this morning and I pretty sure I need a hug.  Time to go find my shoes and walk the couple blocks to school.

When Your Home Builder Doesn't Want to Do the Right Thing: Texas Residential Construction Liability Act

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Let me preface this entire thing by saying that I'm not a lawyer.  This blog post is not intended to be legal advice.  This blog post is intended to make you aware of the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act (even though your builder probably provided you with a hint of information about it in that packet you probably never looked at) and share my journey to getting reimbursed for failures in my wood floor due to poor installation after the builder denied our original requests to replace it.

I'm going to try to make a really long story short.  From the day we moved into our brand new home, we had issues with our upgraded engineered hardwood floors.  Boards were popping, delaminating, and chipping.  The builder kept sending the contractor out to repair more and more and more and more and finally my husband was just done.  We wanted it all replaced.  These issue were happening because of poor prep and installation and after some research we were convinced the actual product may have also been faulty.  Our builder want to keep polishing a turd and told us they would not be replacing the floor.  They said it was normal to replace 50+ boards in a 900 square ft. area.  

Guess what home builder, not buying it.  We called in a certified wood floor inspector at our expense.  He identified more issues than we originally knew about.  We still had a builder that didn't want to work with use to replace the floor and they made it very clear that they would not be reimbursing me for the cost of the inspector ($300). 

The Texas Residential Contruction Liability Act (RCLA)

I got out my home warranty manual and found this very small and limited section referring to the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act and decided I needed to google it.  It's confusing at first, but what I found out is that if I ever wanted to take them to court, I needed to first send them a certified letter referencing the RCLA.  This is how you say attorney without actually saying attorney.  When they get this letter from you they know you are getting your ducks in a row to take them to court or you're at least thinking about it.  

The RCLA outlines statutory deadlines for responding, inspecting the home, the builder making some sort of offer and you either accepting or denying the offer.  You have to go through this process before you can take them to court.  Hopefully you never make it that far.  The purpose of the RCLA is to resolve issues without a lawsuit.  

In our letter I mentioned the Texas RCLA, gave a quick run down of all of the issues with our floor, and attached the report from the certified wood floor inspector.  I also listed a few scenarios we would be willing to accept for resolution.  

Did we want to sue our builder?  Not really.  I'm not sure anyone wins when that happens, but we were at the point where we would do what we needed to do and we were tired of being taken advantage of.  I totally would have done it purely on principle. 

All of the sudden these folks who had been legit ignoring our phone calls and emails for at least a month, if not two, were quick to respond.  Or at least as quick as they can be because when you send one of these letters, it immediately goes to an attorney working for the builder.  

It still took us months of negotiation to get what we wanted, but we got it.  Referencing the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act was the key to getting our builder to stop pushing us off and actually work with us to come to a resolution that was fair.  They're still going to try to get away with giving as little as possible, but as long as you have a legitimate issue with your home (which we made damn sure of before sending this letter) you have the upper hand.  They don't want to go to court.  They're trying to get out as cheap as possible and writing me a check for the amount it would cost me to replace my floor (including removal and a $300 reimbursement for hiring that wood floor inspector) is still cheaper than going to court.  

I did all of this without hiring an attorney.  You could definitely hire one if you wanted to, but I just want to tell you it's possible to resolve your issues without one.  

Below are some of the resources I found that were helpful when researching the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act.

http://www.jtexconsumerlaw.com/V7N1pdf/V7N1construction.pdf

https://www.krcl.com/news/importance-notice-texas-residential-construction-liability-act/

If you are dealing with this issue, I'm so sorry.  I feel your pain.  I'm sending you all the positive vibes and wishing your the best of luck in getting your issue resolved.  Don't give up.

Galveston 2018

Just sitting here pushing refresh from time to time of the parent portal for your school district.  In just under 20 minutes we find out who Saida's Kindergarten teacher is.  Back to school night is tonight and I'm just hoping I'm not a hot mess of tears for the whole thing.  So to distract me from constantly checking the damn thing for the next 20 minutes or so, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from our Galveston beach trip because I still haven't done that.  

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Monat Monday: What I Ordered During The Latest Flash Sale

You know it's going to be a good week when your Monat Flash Sale order shows up on a Monday.  Plus I'm having a good hair day thanks to Monat, my coffee was just like I like it this morning and nobody has peed on the floor yet today (that I know of) soooooo... life is good.  

So what was the last flash sale and what did I order?  The flash sale was buy a system (including the Junior line) and create your own travel size system for $10.  In addition to that you also got a sample of the color enhance duo FOR FREE.  

Oh and did I mention FREE SHIPPING?  Amazon Prime has made me a sucker for free shipping.

This came just in time because it's been 10 months ish since our first order of the Monat Junior line and we're just about out.  This means one of two things.  I either don't wash my kids' hair enough or this stuff lasts forever.  Maybe it's a combo of both.  

No matter what, I always get a little excited when one of these boxes shows up on my doorstep.



So everything you see below cost me $51 + tax with my Market Partner discount.  That discount is a huge part of why I signed up to be a Market Partner.  The Junior Line is regularly $59, VIP Price is $50, and as a Market Partner I pay $41.  

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What We Love About the Monat Junior Line

  • It's tear-free, sulfate-free, and paragon-free
  • a child's hair is more fragile and fine and the Junior Line was formulated with that in mind
  • It comes with conditioner!!!  My daughter has long hair that she almost never wants to wear up and she certainly doesn't want to cut it.  Trying to brush that out after shampooing with children's shampoo that was not Monat was total agony.  Having a children's conditioner is saving time, hair from being damaged, and maybe our relationship as mother and daughter.  Okay that's maybe a little dramatic, but you get the point.  The experience brushing her hair after a bath with Monat is night and day from what it used to be.

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This Stuff only Cost me $10

What is it about travel size stuff that gets me excited?  I don't even travel that much and when I do it's typically not on a plane.  Have you ever seen a dry shampoo so cute in all your life?  

I'm thinking that dry shampoo might just go in my purse.  I feel like you never know when you might need some dry shampoo.

I'm also just excited to try the Colour Enhance duo.  I'm a brunette, but I ordered the Brilliant Blonde because I have blonde-ish highlights.  I've heard other say it really makes them stand out and I wanted to give it a try.



Monat is really expanding their selection of hair products.  It can be a little overwhelming if you don't know where to start.  Take the Hair Quiz to find out which products are right for your hair needs.  Visit my website to make your purchase or learn more about the products.

I Really Wanted to Be a Soccer Mom (Not a Dance Mom)

It's true, I didn't want to be a dance mom.  The only reason I went to dance as a kid was goof off with another friend of mine (as evidenced by the dance recital home video my parents have when that friend and I were both one step behind every other girl in our dance class).  Friend, you know who you are.

My husband and I both played soccer so last fall we put Saida in soccer.  The only way I could get her on the field was holding the coach's hand with a promise of the biggest handful of pom balls she could grab for her pom ball jar (our good behavior reinforcement system).  I wish I could say I had pictures of this, but at the time I was not amused.  She's done one other thing that was more frustrating and that was swim lessons last summer.  I still prefer not to talk about it.

If the girl could do one thing all day, it's dance.  She loves it.  I love watching her, but I didn't want to be a dance mom.  There was a whole show dedicated to those moms and if I remember correctly, it painted them crazy and we're like the least competitive people in the world.  

But what it comes down to for me is letting my kid follow her own path.  I could force her in to soccer all day, but who is that really for?  As long as the decisions she's making are healthy, I'm more inclined to just let her choose the things that make her happy.  I don't have to fight her to go to class and she actually cares enough about it to try.

So here's to being a dance mom.  If you're looking for me I'll be the one in the corner at dance class reading Rachel Hollis and feeling thankful for an hour of nobody asking me to do anything.

By the way, the last day of summer dance was yesterday.  Cutest thing ever.

Light Obsessed: Black and White Photo Editing Post

If there is one thing that has gotten completely out of control with my love of photography, it's that I'm light obsessed.  

It's true.  Just last week on our way to the beach we passed a field on the bayside of Galveston Island with a dirt driveway making it's way toward a beautiful canopy of palm trees with water on the other side.  I stopped whatever conversation we were having to tell Tyler exactly how I envisioned the light during golden hour.  

I've been known to just stare at this field across the street from Target in the evenings (especially in the Fall) because the way the light hits that field is amazing.  

I went hunting with my husband at an exotic game ranch and sat there looking at light and the way the grass moved in the wind while others looked at Fallow and Axis deer.

I can't unsee light. 

Yesterday evening Saida ran through a little pocket of light we only get in our living room when my office blinds are open.  She let me spend about 1 minute shooting and I had zero time to get proper settings, but I still had to get that light and the vision of it I saw in my head.

What I wanted to share is what I see when I see that light vs. what it looks like coming out of my camera.  So whether your into photo editing or not, you're getting the before and after image of this light.

For those who are curious, I started with my favorite black and white preset in Lightroom, tweaked it to my liking and used graduated filters and the adjustment brush to decrease shadows, exposure, highlights and whites where needed to really make this the dramatic image I envisioned.

This first photo is a completely untouched version of what I took.  Straight out of camera (SOOC).

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And this next photo is what I saw in my head when I saw her run through this little slice of light.

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Well to completely honest I was hoping she'd do something a little more worthy of a picture, but nope.  They never do what you want them to.  I'll take this for now though.

-Monica 

Post Vacation Monday

I have a few choice words for post vacation Monday.  Usually I'm all like Yay Monday! Lets make this week awesome, but today I'd like to take Monday out to the parking lot.

Problem #1:  We're out of milk.  I've let us run out of milk one other time since Saida became a milk monster and last night was the second time.  The problem is her milk was already poured and in her cup for this morning and she completely drained it before I made my coffee.  I'm not a fan of black coffee.

Problem #2:  Before I could even take one drink of my freshly brewed black coffee, Corbin informs me that the dog just peed on the carpet in my bedroom.  Seriously?  He had been outside for at least a couple hours before I let him in less than 5 minutes before this happened.  

So I'm currently surviving Monday morning on black coffee and Young Living's Stress Away Essential Oil Blend while looking at our freshly painted walls because for some reason we thought it would be fun to spend all of yesterday painting our main living space with kids in attendance.  

Problem #3: I'm tired as hell and my body is like No.

So here's to hoping Tuesday starts out with properly prepared coffee and dry carpet.

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Yes I Love Monat and I Sell It

So a friend of mine just told me she didn't know I was selling Monat Hair Products.  Y'all this means I really really suck at sharing and that I've been letting all the other life stuff get in the way of telling people about these products that I've come to love over the last 10 months or so.  And I really do love them.  Like a lot.  I make the whole family use them and I especially love what it does for my daughter's wild hair.

The Monat Junior Line 

She's like me in that her hair is her pride and joy.  We're not allowed to cut it except for just a tiny bit and she loves to leave it down which means it's always a straight up nightmare to brush out.  I will tell you though, the post bathtime brushing, which used to be the low point of my day, is now so easy.  Most of the time that brush just glides right through her hair.  Also I'm going to be real, her hair gets me the most likes on Instagram.  People love it.  The Monat Junior Line may have save our relationship and my willingness to let her keep her long hair.

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How I use Monat

I'm pretty basic with my haircare or try to be.  I don't always go all out fixing it, but Monat makes it easier for me to low maintenance.  When you're giving your hair what it needs, turns out it's actually a lot easier to style it.  Who knew?  My flat iron only comes out on rare occasions becaue it's just not necessary anymore to tame my hair.  I quick blow dry is generally all I need and then that usually lasts at least two days so at most I'm washing/styling every other day and sometimes longer in between.  For the most part I'm a shampoo and conditioner kind of girl, but I do use the Replenish Masque once a week or once every other week, the Rejuvabeads to stretch out my haircuts a little while I try to grow it out some, and the Rejuveniqe Intensive Oil.  

I have a whole blog post on My Monat Favorites so if you want to learn more about some of these products and what they do for me, please go check it out.



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So what is diffent about my hair since starting Monat?

I honestly thought my hair was healthy before Monat.  It was I guess, but with Monat it's even healthier.  It's shiny and easier to manage.  It's growing in length and also so much of that hair I lost after childbirth is actually coming back.  I can go longer in between washes and it doesn't get gross so quick.  I look forward to washing my hair instead of dreading the process.  It smells wonderful and feels so good.

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Okay so more about Monat.  What is it?  It's a naturally based haircare line that has the ability to penetrate all three layers of your hair and heal it from the inside out.  You could call it healthcare for your hair.  I've watched them grow rapidly over the last year and the product line is growing.  No matter what your hair needs, there is something for you.  Not sure what you need?  Take the Hair Quiz to find your perfect products based on your hair type and needs.



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You may also enjoy reading my post about Monat haters and how they are right, but oh so wrong.  This is one of my most popular posts to date.

Things I've Learned About Myself & Why Yoga Is My Exercise of Choice

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The last two years I've learned a lot about myself.  I'm not necessarily a different person than I was prior to these last two years, but I've paid more attention and in doing so I'm making decisions that are more me instead of me trying to do what I think it is I'm supposed to do.  This doesn't mean my everyday is perfect now or anything like that, but it means I get to enjoy the things I love to do more often.  Life is still life and shit still happens.  

So things I've learned about myself in the last two years (since quitting my traditional job) are...

1. I'm an introvert.  I enjoy people, but generally in smaller groups and then I need my me time.  Basically there is no way in hell I'm working the crowd at a party.  

2. As much as I love light and airy, I love a little moodiness and subdued colors and things even more.  In other words, I stopped trying to be the light and airy photographer because who am I kidding?  And now I see these things creeping into my style in all aspects of life.

3. I love, and I mean really love, quite and calm.  

4. I'm a sensory kind of gal.  I love smelling things that remind me of good memories and diffusing scents that make me happy/calm.  I love music that fits my vibe which is generally pretty chill, but occasionally something with more energy or sadness when the mood hits.  My comfort foods truly give me comfort (that's probably bad) and can bring a sense of all is right in the world.

And you probably read the title and you're wondering how in the world this has to do with yoga.  I've never really been able to stick to any regular exercise routine in my adult life.  We tried doing P90X once or twice and would find an excuse to not continue after a certain point, running was okay but I really wasn't motivated to do it, and Camp Gladiator was an awesome workout but just didn't feel like me.  I joined the YMCA in January and knew the classes were going to be my thing.  I kind of want someone else to tell me what to do, but I don't want to hire a personal trainer and really be one on one.  The classes I tried were Body Pump, CXWORX, Pilates, and Yoga.

Body Pump and CXWORX - I'm putting these into the same category because I always did them together and they were kind of meant to be that way it seemed.  The room was huge, very brightly lit, the instructor has a ton of energy and wore a mircrophone.  It was loud in there and I found the energy, though fun, to be very overwhelming for me (sensory girl who like calm).  It's just not my thing.  It goes against all the things I've learned about myself over the last two years.  I wish I was that person, but I'm just not.  I get enough chaos at home that I just don't need it at the gym too.  Some people thrive on that though and that's awesome for them.

Pilates - I like it just fine.  No complaints really.  I just like yoga more.

Yoga - First of all let's state the obvious. The lights are low, the music is chill, nobody is yelling, my shoes get to be off, we shavasana at the end of class, and I can close my eyes while I work out if I want to.  Do you see how based on what I said up there, is fits me perfectly?  Paying more attention to who I am allowed me to just forget all that other stuff that would probably get me buff a lot faster if I stuck with it and find something that I actually want to stick with.  It feeds my soul and my body and it's just whatever I need it to be on that day.  Sometimes it's just a workout and me challenging myself into the poses.  Sometimes it's my body really needing to release stress. Sometimes it's just the only thing in my whole day that's about me and I just needed that.  

Is it for everyone?  No.  That's not the point.  The point is being honest with myself led me to a workout that I love to show up for.  I'm 6 months in, which is longer than anything else I've ever tried to stick with and I have no intentions of stopping anytime soon.  My yoga pants have actually been to yoga y'all. 

{Disclaimer} Also just so everyone knows, I'm not good at yoga yet.  I'm improving though and getting much stronger from doing it.  My shoulders and shrugs are looking pretty sweet and my mom belly is slowly (like very slowly) going away.  My legs are stronger, but I'm probably the only one who really notices that one at this point.