The four musketeers; the four amigos who occasionally want to kill each other. The four goons who have some seriously good blackmail on each other, and always annoy everyone else by saying ‘Remember when…’ and launching into a story only we’re privy to because, hello, it’s always been the four of us. Always.
Ih ad some awesome friends growing up, and all of said friends too my siblings as part of the package deal. Just like their friends. Anyone who spent the night with Devon accepted the fact the other three of us were going to figuratively torment them by any number of cleverly devised ways.
Whether that be climbing two stories in tin-foil masks, painting themselves in black house paint and running around like a bunch of horror story creatures, running out in front of their cars last minute and causing childhood heart attacks, you name it.
It hasn’t always been fun and easy though. We’ve gone through EVERYTHING together. The best of times and the truly worst of times. The scary shit, the uncertain shit, the shit that makes you wonder how you can come back from it, and the stuff that will hold close to your heart until your last breath.
As an adult in a large, very tight-knit family, it’s been a learning curve to figure out how to grow as an individual when so much of my life is entwined with theirs. Being the oldest, it was REALLY hard to leave home. I had frequent nightmares about something happening to my siblings and I wasn’t there to protect them. It was hard to feel like I had been the only person who parachuted out of the family plane. It was hard and I didn’t cope with it well.
Getting married, my poor husband often felt the same way. Like a drifter being pulled along behind the yacht because of how close we are. It’s so easy to fall into step with just being the ‘four of us,’ that I have to consciously keep including him at the top of my mind. God, that makes me sound like a terrible spouse, but it’s not any less true. Including him in group texts, making new memories of the ‘five of us,’ letting him build his own relationship with his new, overwhelmingly large group of younger siblings. Everyone has worked hard on it. Because ANY relationship is work.
They’ve all been gracious and patient. Each figuring out where their place is, how to interact, learning new ways after all of us old dogs had become so sedentary in our old ways. Watching it has both been the most terrifying experience and the greatest.
Now it’s less awkward. Chris and Devon go fishing together. Matthias and Chris can laugh for HOURS about anything under the sun. Savannah and Chris go and get matching tattoos and send each other more sentimental sibling stuff than I’VE EVER RECEIVED. SAVANNAH. It’s been a trip to watch. One of the realest, most terrifying, most exciting trips. As my siblings welcome each and every life I bring into the family, I’m proud of them. I’m reminded what an exceptional group of family and best friends I have been gifted.
So here is a synopsis of where we are now:
Matthias graduated Calvin College and is a 1st Lieutenant in the Army. He works in Washington D.C. and has just returned home from his first deployment. He no longer has braces and enjoys mimosas, pink shorts, and globe trotting. He’s exceptional at being understanding, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and being one of the more logical and even-kiltered of the group. He’s been known to make me regroup and instilling a good sense of common sense in me when I get a bit worked up. We keep trying to convince him to write and perform slogans and skits of people because they are ON POINT. He can make an entire room laugh and rarely misses a single beat.
Devon is on his way to Wayne State in the fall semester and has experienced so much exciting stuff. From tour guiding kayaks in Pictured Rocks to protecting chickens from demonic raccoons, he’s the sense of adventure and confidence in our group. He has collected stick poke tattoos along the way, enjoying pilfering other people’s cool clothes, and is always there to lend a hand with a complete lack of judgement. He is good at walking into a loaded moment and diffusing it with the easy of the breeze. His first book is in the works of being published. Devon also has a dog, Bucket, who every single person loves and adores because Devon has allowed Bucket to foster this incredible persona.
Savannah is on her last year at U of M and has experienced most of her early adult life with her trusty sidekick, Boogey the mop dog. She’s a badass rugby player with the attitude of an old man who feels slighted by life, but loves food. The way to make her day is with a sub platter and a good meme. Savannah is the one who walks into my house, sees what needs to get done and helps with it, no matter how gritty the task, without a second thought. I call her with anything and everything and she could probably double as me in the event of needing a body double. We’re so similar that when we’re in the same room, Eleni has to look between us a couple times to make sure she’s with the right one.
Chris and I have been married seven years. We own the barber shop and have two kids who do their best to catch us off guard every minute. We enjoy cheap diner food and coming up with ideas that make everyone question our sanity, but work out surprisingly well in the end. Our house is always in a state of happy chaos and neither of us would trade it for peace and quiet for a single minute.
So please, enjoy all the photos from our last minute, everyone get their shit together since we’re in the same state, photoshoot.
“How many pets do you have?!”
That’s a question we get a lot. We have a lot. They’re constantly expanding. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, Chris would have, but he recently started looking at frog vivariums and…
I now have an enormous vivarium enclosure on our dresser and I’M SO EXCITED!
So we take animals, animal keeping, and all things animals pretty serious in this family, so of course we found a zoo that was open in the winter.
THE DETROIT ZOO!
This was my first time to this zoo because I grew up REALLY spoiled being so close to Binder Park Zoo, and even though it was winter, it impressed me! Probably our two favorite things were the penguin enclosure and the aviary. We could have spent all day in the aviary, but it was surprisingly busy.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
The photo exhibit there right now is stunning. It’s inspiring, it’s gorgeous, and impactful. I sat and nursed Eleni and just was awe inspired by the photographic stories of our amazing wildlife the photographers were sharing! I’ll actually even be ordering the book from Amazon too.
So here’s my photographic story of our time!
Oh yeah. That might be the most accurate photo I share on here.
I initially went into the bathroom to get a normal mirror photo, but then Ana took an even better photo. A more accurate and honest photo if I say so. At 2pm in the afternoon, I am still in pajamas, unshowered, leftover makeup and ponytail, with a baby strapped to me, while I poop from cup of coffee number…I don’t know what number, I lost count.
The first couple days at home, I was the “I’m NOT going to let myself look like a blog of unwashed human,” person. Eleni slept, Ana didn’t have anything going on, family was constantly roaming through the house, so I showered and did my makeup, and found time to put on real clothes. The peaceful new baby time passed quick though. Suddenly we had soccer practice to go to, errands that needed running, Eleni started staying up more, and it was just me with the two mini monsters.
So, now you see my normal state.
So it’s been six weeks.
Six weeks to try and figure out our new normal and routines, six weeks of healing, and six weeks of trying to adjust. Some of it has gone great, other parts haven’t. But you know what? It’s fine. Anyone who tells you they are 100% prepared to bring a new baby home is only being half honest with you. They might think they’re ready, but in reality, nobody knows what the future holds and they have about as much of an idea of what’s to come as you do.
Take me for example.
I brought Eleni home knowing how to keep a baby alive. I brought her home knowing I had a somewhat traumatic delivery and healing was going to be difficult and long. I brought her home knowing I was predisposed for postpartum mental health problems. I brought her home, but I didn’t really know.
I didn’t know that my healing process was going to take THAT long. I’m still two weeks away from any sort of ‘go ahead’ for sex. The speculum check alone pulled on stitches and made me bleed, meaning I got silver nitrate on my lady bits. And that was after two previous checks at the OBGYN’s for problems with discomfort at my stitch site when I sat. Seriously, I looked insane constantly trying to rearrange myself to find any sort of comfort for the first 4 weeks. I didn’t know that 6 weeks out, I would STILL have swelling and varicose veins in my labia.
I didn’t know my postpartum anxiety would be worse the second time.
I am positive that I ended up with postpartum anxiety after Ana was born. It never left and I have always been more anxious than I was before having her. This time I got it again, but I didn’t realize how bad it would be.
At night when Eleni wouldn’t sleep, I bounced her on the exercise ball and cried because I felt so guilty about not giving Ana the same amount of attention as I used to. Carrying Eleni up or down the stairs or over pavement would automatically induce a reflex when everything tightened; my grip on her, my chest, everything, and I was TERRIFIED I would drop her and kill her on accident. I would be holding her and thinking about how amazing and small she was and some horrible image of a mother losing her baby would sock me in the chest and I was left with a panic attack and the horrifying realization that if it could happen to them, it could happen to me, and I felt guilty for still having my baby and being one of the lucky ones.
All the anxiety would stress me out and cause me to snap at a lot of the people I loved the most.
I didn’t know it was going to be that hard.
I waited it out to see if it was just the baby blues, but at my six week appointment, I knew it was time. I was scared to be honest about it, but I knew it was time to reach out. The only people I really told about it were Chris, my Mom, and my sister. They were the only ones who knew to some extent that this was a problem for me. But I told the doctor and now, with a low prescription for Zoloft which is pregnancy and breastfeeding safe, it’ll start to get easier.
I’m not trying to scare anyone, but I am trying to be honest.
This isn’t the stuff you’re going to read about on Facebook because it’s scary and it’s hard and when everyone is posting about how amazing and beautiful their baby is, your hardship inadvertently makes you feel some sort of failure that things aren’t that happy and beautiful for you too.
Except you do have beautiful moments too. And those people who post beautiful photos and words, they have some darkness too. They just aren’t sharing it.
My number one goal for you to take away, for anyone really, not just mom’s, is that this shit is beautiful AND hard. It’s okay to share both. I don’t ever want to be the one that shares the beautiful photos and spins this false reality for other people to compare their lives to.
SO! You’ve heard the hard part, now here’s the beautiful part…
Eleni is amazing. She’s everything I never knew I needed. She can hold her head up and LOVES to be held on your shoulder so she can see the world. She prefers to only nap in the carrier because she’s the worlds biggest snuggler. She smiles at you when you talk to her and likes to wiggle and squirm.
Ana always wants to hold her, hug her, and love her. When her patience runs thin with me, I don’t mind because her patience with Eleni is endless. Sure she might get frustrated about her lack of “peace and quiet,” but she will give Eleni her pacifier 1000 times over when we’re in the car. She’s the biggest helper in the entire world, even when she really doesn’t want to be. I’ve only received one angry drawing, and she’s still talking to me, so I’m counting it as a win.
Yes, I’ve totally given an enormous amount of screen time to get her to cooperate some days.
Chris is Chris. I probably take his forever calm and happy-ish mood for granted, but he’s a breath of fresh air every time he walks through the door. He takes the screaming, gassy baby so Ana and I can shower, he researches, buys, and uses the best bottles for breastfed babies so one day I can leave baby with him for a stretch to go do something alone. He is the gold that fills in the cracks of our days. He has been quietly supportive, in just the way he knows I need. He makes me feel beautiful when I feel anything but in such a foreign body. He’s been everything.
So six weeks has passed and it’s been like the rest of life. A mix of hard and beautiful, but like everything else, there’s no other place I’d rather be.
My journey is a unique one and I’m in it for every minute.
Shedd Aquarium. Where do I even start?
I guess we'll start at the beginning.
Ana is OBSESSED with anything that lives in water. One of her career possibilities is being a fisher woman who catches Giant Grouper fish. Her favorite fish are the ones that live way at the bottom and look creepy and have dangly lights and I know more about Anglerfish than anyone else my age without children or a marine biology degree. See? So Shark Week was prime time to start a study unit on the oceans and kick it off with a day trip to Shedd, since none of us have been there before.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say that our tickets were less than $150*
The General Admission tickets allowed us to do pretty much everything, including the Aquatic Show with the dolphins and the sting ray petting. The only things we spent money on were valet parking ($26 and SO WORTH EVERY PENNY because hello, 36 weeks pregnant), lunch (we were going to pack it, but ran late), and the gift shop which was pretty well priced.
Like usual, we were running a little late and made it out of the house in Home Alone style.
But we made it there not long after they opened since our drive was about 2 and a half hours and Chicago is an hour behind our time zone. We could have saved more money by packing lunches, which they totally allow, but I was too buy throwing all of our shit in a backpack and chugging coffee real quick.
10 TIPS FOR VISITING SHEDD!
Get there when it opens. No joke. It's *less* busy (it's always busy) and parking fills up quick.
If you can swing bringing a stroller, USE THE ACCESSIBLE AND STROLLER ENTRANCE. It was wayyyyyy less busy than the main entrance.
Go get your tickets for the aquatic show before any exhibits. They fill up fast and you might not get your preferred time slot if you don't. We showed up to the show 30 minutes early and got decent seats, but if you want close seats, you'll want to be earlier than that. You can watch the dolphins swim while you wait, so it's really not that boring.
If you want to pet the sting rays, go towards the beginning of your day. We went towards the end and the line was way too long for us to wait, so we just skipped it since our local zoo does sting ray petting too.
BE PREPARED TO BE PATIENT. There are A LOT of people and some seem to be raised in a barn. It was our biggest pet peeve of the whole day, but we didn't allow it to annoy us and explained to Ana that some people just have a hard time thinking of others. Okay, so we may have used the backpack as a bumper sometimes, but very rarely.
Take your time. Allow yourself time to get through everything without a rush. We packed snacks and water bottles for this purpose and it was so nice to get to read everything we wanted to.
IF YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE PHOTOS, it is very dark and they do NOT allow flash and for good reason. Not only would it reflect off the glass and annoy everyone in your vicinity, but it really affects the wildlife. One lady forgot to turn hers off and it sent the fish in the tank into a panic. Our phones took pretty great photos and I'm sure a point and shoot would too. IF YOU HAVE A DSLR we had to crank our ISO up super high. It definitely tested our manual shooting skills as the lighting was always different and very unlike normal lighting situations. I wish I would have invested in a Circular Polarizing Filter to remove the glare from the glass before we went. You can check them out here.
Carry or push kids if you can. Look, we know Ana is 5 an is more than capable of walking, bet we have a couple reasons we still bring a stroller along. For one, it's a shite ton of walking. When we checked our maybe accurate pedometer, we walked a total of 3 miles. That's a lot for any kid. For two, it get's packed with people and it's way easier for us to keep track of her when we're not actively looking at exhibits. We watched multiple kids get their feet stepped on by adults, bumped into, and lost in crowds. Ana is pretty sensory sensitive and it was nice for her to be able to have somewhere she could recluse away from the crowd at moments too.
Hit Netflix first. Maybe this is just Ana, but she watched a ton of fish and ocean documentaries on Netflix and was actually able to pick out a couple of the fish she learned about. She was super excited she "got to see one in real, REAL life!"
Read up! Pick out some favorites while you're at Shedd and then come home and learn some more. Over these next couple weeks we'll be sharing some of our ocean unit resources, including our library list!
Here's some of the hundreds of photos from our trip! In order to preserve our memories and get them in print, I'm making a hardcover photo book from Artifact Uprising with our photos! If you sign up with them, I think you can get 20% off your photo book too!
One of the best things of the trip? WE FOUND AN ANGLERFISH. It's a blown glass ornament by Dynasty Gallery. Click the photos below for their website.
We have a pretty nice, and HUGE, park not far down the road that has a little bit of everything Ana loves. Playgrounds, open space, water, and wild life.
Ohhhh the wild life.
The geese at our park are not scared of human beings at all. Especially one's about the same size carrying bread. Or the bigger sized ones who end up with the bread shoved in their hands.
Ana was so excited to toss bread to them she ran right up, but then she pissed her pants a little when a little more than 20 of them were just as excited to see her and started running up to her. I'm seriously sitting here doing that maniacal laugh/cry thing people do, remembering her yelling, running away from these damn geese throwing bread out behind her.
I peed MY pants watching her. While laughing.
So when she flung the bread into my hands and hid behind me grasping either side of my shirt, using me as a shield, I decided,
"I'm an adult. I'm going to show her that if you stay calm, things will be fine."
So I gently pull out pieces of bread and toss small chunks to the geese. It wasn't quick enough. They hissed and lunged for the bread and Ana and I backed away FAST as we just shook out the remaining bread.
And that's how we were held at goose point and had the bread bullied out of us.
But after that, we had a great time and I ended up with a purse full of rocks, shells, leaves, feathers, and what would have been half a decaying turtle if I hadn't spotted it in time.
Michigan has been crazy hot these past couple days. Heat indexes of 100?! I LIVE IN A COLD STATE TO AVOID THESE TEMPERATURES. But alas, mother nature laughed at me and cranked the heat. So we made a trip out to Grand Haven State Park to cool off. The difference in temperature between the city and the lakeshore was crazy awesome and the water wasn't so frigid you couldn't enjoy it.
For some reason though, the seagrass was ungodly. There was SO MUCH OF IT. Ana wanted to go out deeper off the shore, but when the waves came in it wrapped around your legs and for a sensory sensitive child, that's a no go. So we carried her out and when a big wave would come in, we'd hold her down low so it hit her. I think both she and Chris had a good time with that.
As for my pasty, pregnant ass, I dipped in occasionally, but left a lot of the beach trudging to Chris.
I've got a question for the Momma's out there though. If you were pregnant in the summer, did you wear a bikini still or did you one piece it?
With Ana I wore a bikini, but the comments and dirty looks got old so I ordered a one piece this time around, but it's so uncomfortable. I ended up with, what looked like a wad of chewed tobacco, lodged in the inside of it from the seagrass and sand and it was miserable. Even Chris commented on how he saw another decently pregnant lady in a bikini and she looked way more comfortable. So next time, I'm going two piece. I don't even care if I catch shit for it.
One more question...
What are your beach must-takes?
I happened to pick up a big umbrella from Five Below for $5 for our yard, but it was a freaking life saver for the sun. Obviously I wear sunscreen like mad, but I still burn. I'm that stereotypical redhead. Chris wants a foldable wagon for next time and a sand-proof blanket.
After a while, we decided to pack it up and ended up stopping at Dairy Treat to snag some ice cream because obviously you can't go to the beach and NOT get ice cream. So what about you guys? What do you do to beat the heat and cool off?
When I was younger, my friends and siblings and I would all go to the county fair we had in our hometown and it was like the epitome of childhood summer. Getting dusty, covered in sticky sugar from all the fair food, and riding rides until we couldn't do anything except sprawl out on a bench.
Luckily, Mothers Day fell on the last day of the Tulip Festival in Holland, MI so my special day request was to go there. It was Ana's first fair/carnival and it was awesome. To be able to relive one of my favorite things from childhood with my two favorite people was amazing. Chris and Ana had the most fun slamming into people on the bumper cars (surprise, surprise) and of course I got my elephant ear and lemonade.
We all rode the ferris wheel which used to be one of my favorites, but it's been so long since I've been up that high that I almost immediately regretted it.
Ana and I found her carnival costume at a thrift store two days before and we altered it to it her just for these photos. I've been trying to do more photo projects with her and this one was a blast. We can't wait to use this costume in more photos.
*All these photos can be clicked on to see them larger!*
Even though the barber shop has been open for 6 months now, we're still adjusting to our new schedule which begins later and ends later. One of the harder parts has been that Chris getting out so late means he can't participate in as much as he would have been able to before, but I'm getting better at planning and organizing morning activities. Like this one!
The Grand Rapids Children's Museum is one of Ana's favorite places EVER. We could spend an entire day in there if they had coffee. So when we realized they opened early enough Chris could spend an hour with us there, it was game on yesterday! I was just expecting the usual awesome stations they had, Ana's favorite being the grocery store and play cafe, but when we hit the second floor, we were so pumped.
Ana talks about how she's going to be an animal doctor and baby doctor CONSTANTLY o when we saw the Diagnosis: Fun! exhibit, we were blown away. The different centers they had were so incredibly realistic, which is one thing Ana get's frustrated with when it comes to the doctor set toys is they're so toy-like. So when she got to shove Chris through a tiny tube and take his photo and use a working stethoscope, she never wanted to leave.
She has since requested a legit doctor kit "like the museum has, not the baby stuff" and spreading the word that this is such an amazing exhibit for a child who is so interested in becoming a doctor or nurse! I'm so stoked that Chris got to participate too. That way I wasn't taking the brunt of the bandaging and proding haha!
We Facebook & Instagram announced last week to our friends and family, so now no one should be crushed and say "You're very, very small amount of blog followers knew before we did!" (hi Mom!) if we announce to the rest of you that we're adding one more to our crew. We're super excited, super nervous, and torn on gender prediction. Ana and Chris say team XX, but I'm standing pretty proudly in camp XY. Either way, we won't be disappointed one bit. We have names, now we just have a couple weeks to find out! Realizing I'm going to have to do baby stuff all over again though really made me consider how we did pregnancy and the infant years with Ana though. So here's the stuff we're doing different:
Doing It Different List (Unsolicited Advice for First Timers)
I'm buying maternity clothes damn it. I spent a ton of time in maxi dresses with Ana. It worked, it was the hottest summer ever, and I didn't have another kid to chase. This time around though, it's cold out, I'm getting bigger faster, and a maxi dress is not ideal for chasing down a 5 year old. I bought the jeans on Ebay, splurged on nursing bras from Motherhood, and hit the H&M Mama sales for other stuff.
I'm scheduling diaper service with Amazon. YEAH! YOU CAN DO THAT. That means fewer last minute "Oh shit! (literally)" trips to the store. I wish I would have done this with Ana. She never slept, I was always exhausted, Chris was always exhausted from working so much, and the last thing we ever wanted to do was trek out late at night for something.
I bought a badass swing. The 4moms momaRoo to be exact. Ana spent so much time in a swing, I wasn't skimping this time around. I know the price tag is high new, but you CAN find them used (ours was a find on Letgo) and they don't take those enormous batteries a lot of other swings do. The only other piece of baby gear we used more was a Boppy pillow.
I'm getting an electric double breast pump and taking it serious this time. With Ana, she was almost exclusively breastfed not by choice, but because I couldn't get the hang of pumping. I tried hand pumps that failed miserably, I tried an electric with the wrong size guards, etc. I also never took the time to sit and relax and pump. It was always this big pressure and struggle to pump. This time around, I'm getting the good pump and I'm asking loads of advice.
I'm doing freezer meals beforehand. I do NOT like eating out a lot. The grease from things gets to me easily and I just cant. I've started a Pinterest board for freezer meals and I'm figuring out a way to make our favorites fit in the freezer too. I bought a larger slow cooker and I'm going to use the hell out of it. Cooking with a newborn strapped to you is hot, stressful, and not fun.
We told our immediate family on Christmas that we were pregnant by giving them Christmas Baby Slippers.
When we gave them to my parents, my brother, the DC living one, really thought they were for dogs. So when my parents and sister started crying, he has legit confused and said "If I knew how much dog slippers meant to you, I would have gotten some."
When we told Chris' parents, his very much older Papu (Greek for Grandpa) with hearing difficulty was there. When Chris' mom told him that we were having a baby, he thought she had said she was having a baby. Her face was a mix of "OH GOD NO," and trying not to laugh. I so wish I had photographed it.
SO! Make your sex predictions now!
So much has happened since this trip, but we never shared our adventure with you! A couple years ago, my grandparents decided to move to Munising, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula and run Angel Island View Inn on 16 Mile Lake. Since they move we make it a point to go visit them at least once a year. This past year we went up for Thanksgiving and Wild Things birthday and were lucky enough to see my brother who lives out in DC for a couple days. Chris and I are both adventurers at heart so we finally decided to head out to Kitch-Iti-Kipi out in Manistique and we had even more fun going along with the family. We also hit a couple of our favorite spots, the Christmas Antique Mall, Miners Castle, a couple of the Munising falls, and Marquette.
Since this is being posted so much later than I intended, it's been kind of a reflection for me. Time has flown so fast since we traveled up there. The barber shop has grown so much, we've come so far as a family, and there's so much new stuff on the horizon for us. Sometimes I wish things would just freeze because it never feels like we're in one spot long enough. I often feel like we are moved from one position to the next by life so fast, that I crave that peace and quiet that so many people post about on social media. Part of my personal journey has been accepting our journey. The pace of it, the challenges from it, and the fact it doesn't look like anyone else's journey. It's been a personal struggle. One I constantly pray over. I don't know how many times a day I take a deep breath, ask God to grant me inner peace so I can reflect it outwards, and let the flow push me along, but it's a heck of a lot.
So if you're feeling overwhelmed some days, like you just never stop moving. If you see other people post about their perfect bit of peace and get envious. If you just wish you could pause life for a moment, you're not the only one. That's life. Real life. And it's okay. I'm walking that path right along with you.
Every once in a while, before the shop opens, I like to sit in our old theatre chairs and look around the shop and inventory what needs to be done, what we still need to get, and imagine how well Chris is going to do that day. Whenever it seems like an overwhelming mount of things need to get done, I remember where we came from and am instantly humbled by our road to where we are now.
Every once in a while, someone will sit in the chair to get a haircut and Chris will ask them what they do and sometimes they say they're a fabricator/welder/machinist. Chris won't come out and say it, but he used to be a fabricator too. When we were first married, Chris built overhead cranes to support our family. At first it was an alright way to work. It paid the bills, it kept us fed, and Chris enjoyed it. It gave him an enormous sense of pride. But as life goes, things started changing and it started to become less enjoyable. He was getting sick more and more, he started becoming unhappy, both our families were always concerned about him, and it bled into our home life. In the Spring of 2015 we finally decided we needed to make a change.
I'm a staunch believer in 'you only have this one life and if you're not making the most of it, your wasting it'. I was not going to let my family live this life unhappy and sick and I damn sure wasn't going to spend half of my life without my husband from an accident or sickness, when he promised me at least 60 years together. So he quit. We drove out to the barber school in Lansing, and with some serious convincing that we would make it work and we needed to have faith that this was our road, and financial help from family, Chris enrolled.
To make a long story short enough that you don't get bored, it was a stressful, but thankful time for us when Chris went to school. We still had bills that needed paying so we opened a wedding photography business that paid some of them and our families graciously helped us with what we couldn't afford. We are still so thankful to all of our photo clients and families for their support that it makes me want to cry.
After barber school, we didn't really know what our next step should be, so Chris took a job at a shop near Lansing that looked like a safe bet. Unfortunately, it wasn't. It started slipping and we started realizing that we would have to do something else. So we both left our jobs and abruptly moved back to Grand Rapids. Chris took a part time barber job and I started scouring the city for the perfect place for a shop to open.
I accidentally found this place when I called about a property that was $1.4 million. After the agent and I got a good laugh about how that was NEVER going to be in our budget, he asked what we were looking for. When I told him we needed something 900 sqft or less for a barber shop, he got super excited about this place that wasn't available yet, but he thought it would be perfect for what we were looking for. Well Todd (that's the agent), you were right. We snagged this place after meeting with Dan (the landlord, who happens to be the greatest landlord we could have asked for) and it was go time.
We ended up at so many salvage places, random estates, thrift stores, and lumberyards that I lost track of where all we went. All I know is that we found our perfect backbar at Pitsch Salvage and we took this 16 ft hunk of beauty and stuck it in a 10 foot truck bed and strapped it to hell and back and just prayed it would stay in because, you know, broke people struggles. We hauled a set of theatre chairs down a rickety fire escape and just Chris and I moved everything in by ourselves. The two of us moved in two (INCREDIBLY HEAVY AND AWKWARD) barber chairs, the backbar (the homeless neighbors we have watched us with their coffee and laughed at us as we moved this sucker in) and the movie theatre chairs. And it was fun, and tiring, and exciting, and terrifying.
I took every bit of marketing knowledge I had picked up from GRCC, books, and trial and error for the photo business, and put everything I had into setting up a web presence, social media, and contacting every news and lifestyle outlet I could think of. I'm pretty sure I ran on coffee, delusion, and 'fake-it-till-you-make-it' to make it out alive. I did more painting, building, and creating than I had ever done. Ever.
And then, just like that, it was in running order. On September 6th, 2017, we opened the shop for the first time and prayed to God it wouldn't sink us. We're confident people, but even the bravest would have even a little fear. I prayed the work I did would be enough to launch the shop. I prayed that I wouldn't let Chris down with the marketing work. I just prayed. It was slow going at first. It wasn't this massive boom. But every day, we looked at what was working and what wasn't and stayed on top of it, constantly shifting and changing things and that's what made the pieces fall together. I know it's hard to hear "You just have to keep working at it," but it's the biggest truth of business. If you don't keep working for that next goal, you'll fall behind.
On January 6th, we've officially been open 4 months. We've beaten everyones expectations of where we'd be by now, even our own. We're doing double the amount of work we thought we'd be doing, and we've made some amazing friends along the way. Our support network of family and friends helped us grow and each and every day we say "Look at how far we've come," and then the three of us vacuum and mop the shop. We're grateful. We're humbled. We're strong. And we'll never forget where we came from. This is just our beginning.
I was honestly so tired, I didn't take 'real' photos of the process. So you get instagram photos. You can also see the shop here.
We're finally catching up on pre-Christmas life. Slowly. It has taken me two days to take down the minimal Christmas decorations we have and put ornaments and lights away. I haven't even moved the boxes back downstairs yet. That's okay though. Life gets busy and we always seem to have random emergencies, bad or good, pop up all the time for us. So here are some memories I meant to share!
Because we live in Michigan and we are the typical "I love the outdoors and winter" Michigan people we cut our tree down every year. My family and Chris' family did it when we were kids and Wild Thing loves helping cut it down. The only thing that's changed since I was little is the kind of tree we get. I developed some sort of super annoying allergy to the Blue Spruce prickly trees that hold ornaments so so so well, so we have to get White Pine tree's with the soft needles every year. The challenge is finding a tree we like that will hold all of our mercury glass style ornaments since we add about 8 new ones every year.
So off we set, to find our beautiful tree, but first! Since my two crew members eat constantly (seriously, I've never seen anything like it) we stopped in at the Grand Coney. The Coney means a lot to Chris and I because we were there constantly when we were dating. I would be at art school late printing photos (like midnight late) and Chris would pick me up and we both needed food, so the only close by place was the Grand Coney. We got a BLT with fries, I got chili and I would steal his fries. It's also where I proposed over breakfast! To be able to let Wild Thing make her own go-to meal to add to ours is pretty rad.
We filled up on milkshakes, chili, BLT's, and chicken strips and off we went to Hart Tree Farm! Before we got very far, Wild Thing (who wants to be an animal doctor and baby doctor when she's a grown up) HAD TO ride the ponies. For the amount of time on the ride, it was a super great experience for her and it's probably one of the biggest smile's we've ever seen on her. After she tearfully said goodbye to "her" pony, we handed her the saw, hopped on the wagon and were tractored out to the general vicinity of the great White Pines. It didn't take us long until we found our 10 foot, bushy, beautiful tree. So we chopped it down and strapped it to the top of our Subaru Legacy and brought it home. We get so many looks when we let Wild Thing carry the saw, or help saw it down, or strap trees to the top of tiny cars, but I wouldn't do it any other way. Wild Thing is well aware that saws are sharp and we don't run with them and which way to hold them and if we can trailer motorcycles with the Subaru, then we'll be just fine with a pine tree.
Now you've seen how we got our tree in the middle of the living room, how did yours get there? I'm nosey so I love hearing your stories!
I know a lot of you out there think a new year doesn't mean jack shit, BUT! I love them. I always have. I love setting goals, making lists, and that fresh start feeling. Before we get on to my hopes for 2018 and my resolutions though, lets recap a little on 2017.
Highlights and Hardships of 2017:
We moved back to the Grand Rapids area from Lansing, MI with Wild Thing, a giant dog, and two cats.
In April, we decided to open Avenue Barber Shop, found a space, and filled it out and opened September 2017.
I left a job I really, really, really loved and began a new one in GR.
Ana started a new school that is infinitely better than her last and rebuilt her trust in teachers and schools.
We battled another bout of drug addiction in our extended family that hit my anxiety button all over again.
The barber shop took off faster than anyone expected it to!
I finally made the decision to start saying "No" and left my job in GR to work on marketing and Mrs. Motley's Crew full time.
Chris and I put another notch in our "built together" belt. Literally, the barber shop was pieced together by the two of us alone. It doesn't get much more grassroots than that.
We all continued to be blessed with health, amazing friends and family, and so, so much love.
2017 was a huge year for us. I remember making an Instagram post on my personal account when we first moved back saying something like "Big things are coming," and big things have indeed come. We've made a lot of new starts, the three of us, but this one has been one of the best, most exciting ones. I feel like we're FINALLY finding our stride, no matter how many jumps, bumps, and bruises are included. We're just happy we're still here to collect them.
Even though this year has been great, we can't wait to see what 2018 has in store. Buttttt, I'm kind of bossy so I have my own list of what 2018 is going to do for me. Are you ready?
What 2018 is going to do for Aslyn:
It's going to be the year that I for real have no fear of saying NO. I hate, no, loathe, letting people down or disappointing them, so this is actually kind of rough for me. I'm going to own that word by the end of 2018 though.
Eat more cake. Seriously. I love cake and I haven't eaten enough of it in 2017. So watch out for my reviews on cake recipes and my steady weight gain. #dontcare
Work on patience. I have a short fuse. Chris will attest to that. Wild Thing would too, but I hate being the crazy lady. I want to be that calm, collected, icy queen when I need to be. Not the "she hasn't showered and she's giving me crazy eyes" lady. SO. If you have ways that have helped you grow your short, short fuse, I NEED HELP! SHARE!
I'm going to date my husband more. This guy works 6 days a week. Dating is hard when you work that much. But I'm going to figure out ways to do it. Maybe it's breakfast dates, maybe it's home dates. We'll see.
So that's what I've got. I know it's not a lengthy list, but it's mine and it's a truckload for me. What about you guys? What are your corny resolutions? Please tell me yours in the comments!
To go out with a bang, we went to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. NERD ALERT. But seriously guys, it's pretty freaking cool. Their new exhibit, Dragons, Unicorns, & Mermaids is here until May, but we couldn't wait any longer. We were being curious (a corny way to tie in their Be Curious slogan)
Well, this isn't the first post I've made, but every class I've ever taken has made me tell everyone about myself, and it was always my favorite part to hear about everyone else. So, here's our little intro for you. I'm Aslyn (see red hair, and yes like the lion in those books) and the babe I married in Chris. Through birds and bees we created Wild Thing ( who shall remained Wild Thing for the sake of the internet.). We own a barber shop, Avenue Barber Shop, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We're basically the adult fiction book that comes after the Young Adult fiction work of when the crust punk meets the rebel cheerleader and they fall in love. Life has thrown us so many curveballs, but together we fought to get to where we are and we picked up some hilarious stories to share along the way. Chris probably won't be posting here often, so I'm just going to give you my top ten life things, and then when you're done reading about me you have to tell me about you. Okay, here we go.
Aslyn's Ten Life Things
I'm a very driven person. I (almost) always know what I want.
Spicy food is everything. Thai, Mexican, Indian, anything with hot peppers.
Wild thing is super head strong and we have a battle of the wills all day, every day. It's my own personal battle to be patient with her and guide her the best I can.
Tattoo's, piercings, punk/hardcore music, motorcycles. I've grown with and love what people refer to as the "alternative lifestyle." As a Lansing hardcore scene native, its where I learned friends are family and creativity goes beyond paper and paintbrush. (Fun fact: I started my photo career taking "show photos" for friends.)
I'm always down for an adventure and we sure have a lot of them. From hiking, to diners, to museums and beyond.
I'm a huuge booknerd. I have worked at libraries in the past (thumbs way up to PBTDL! The other one we'll just call The Library Who Must Not Be Named) so I'll be sharing my current reads no matter how far and in between they are.
Sewing is my therapy. Most of the time. Chris is tall and skinny so I end up taking shirts in that he orders too big or custom making them a lot. Just don't ask me about how much I hate putting pearl snaps on things.
Nothing's perfect. A huge goal I have is to impress upon you that pretty pictures aren't everything. We've faced battles we didn't know how we would ever overcome and I never candy-coat those struggles for anyone. They're vital to us and our lives and so are yours.
I don't do the Facebook. I started seeing that the platform was being used as a way to tear others down and I don't need negative shit in my life. I'm part of IG which I've loved since day one for being overwhelmingly supportive and positive and a great place for mom's to connect.
Winter is my jam. Living in Michigan, you have to either embrace the winter or always be pissed off and wish you lived somewhere else. I've embraced it. Being paler than Casper, I also don't stand as great of a chance of getting burned. So it's when we do a huge chunk of our outdoor activities.
That's more than enough about me. Check out these beautiful photos by Alycia, and tell me about you.
Yes, Wild Thing has fading blue hair. We'll talk about that later though.