To the ones who feel unseen, unknown, and tired. The laundry folders, dishwashers, knower of all the things that make worlds go ‘round. Hear my words and know you are more, you are needed, you are incredible. 

Motherhood is the most important fulfilling and yet unfulfilling, sacrificing job ever. The state of the world and the goodness of society is dependent on what we do in our home. It’s humbling to think about and also overwhelming. The literal world depends on good mothers. 

I have 4 children and my oldest is 13 so I have a bit of perspective from where I sit now and yet I’m still in the thick of it. Let me tell you what I know to be true for so many of us. 

Our day is filled with the unglamorous important duties that keep life moving in our famiies… Laundry, dishes, cooking, toilets… if you have boys, you’re literally cleaning the shit out of your house. If we don’t do these important and ever so mundane tasks, everything falls apart. But rarely are we thanked for removing the pee stains from the toilet seat or making sure the sheets are clean and beds are made. There’s an unspoken, and sometimes spoken loud and clear in some marriages , expectation of how we are to serve our family. (I’m sure there’s a different post that fathers can write that is equally true and important, I’m not the one to write that post though) Sometimes we go in to marriage and motherhood with eyes wide open knowing exactly what’s expected and what we intend to do. We accept it and with zeal and naivety, we give ourselves to it. Even still, what I’m about to say remains true. 

In all of our care taking, cleaning and making worlds go ‘round, it’s so easy to get lost, to forget who we are and what brings us joy. Of course we love our children and cherish every moment with them, but WE ARE MORE THAN MOTHERS. WE ARE MORE THAN COOKS. WE ARE MORE THAN THE CLEANING CREW. WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS WITH BIG HEARTS, TALENTS, GIFTS, INTERESTS, CALLINGS! Those things didn’t exit our body’s with the after birth on the floor of labor and delivery for the hospital janitor to clean up and throw out. Those things are not just real still today but important for the success of our family and their future.

For me the sacrifice and unseen work came from my father, my mom baled so he did it all. My dad loved baseball. It was religion in our family. Still is. He played on a fast pitch softball team well into his 40’s. We spent so many nights each week on a baseball field and I remember believing that my dad was supposed to be in the MLB because he was the best ballplayer in Bakersfield California. I LOVED watching him at catcher or second base. I chose to play second base in softball because that’s what he did and I wanted to be just as good. I loved it when he was up to bat and I rooted for a dinger over the fence. I was his cheerleader and he was my hero. The love, adoration and respect for him as a human being with a talent was so good for me and my development as a child. He was more than the provider, gardener, cook and housekeeper. He was a bad ass ballplayer and the best I knew. He created memories for me while he was doing what he loved. He cultivated ambition and competition in me the has been important in life as an adult. He didn’t get lost in his household duties that I know he did without hesitation and with pride. He carried on as a human being with a love for a sport that brought life to him and I was so proud watching him do it. 

I believe this is true for mothers as well. You need to thrive for them and for you. If you don’t, there’s a cost and it’s expensive. Depression, resentment, weight gain, marriage issues…… the list is long and the cost is high. Don’t do it. Don’t continue to lose yourself. Don’t deny  yourself. You have to keep growing and thriving as a person for everyone’s sake. What is it for you? Is it a job you used to do well that you want to try again? Is it a hobby? Do you paint, take pictures, garden, teach…. What do you love? What makes you excited? 

When I was 30 years old with toddlers and a day job, I remember saying out loud to my husband, “I don’t even know who I am or what I love! I don’t know what I do or what I’m good at!” I cried and cried and yelled and cried. And then, I picked up a camera. It was the beginning of something really good. Here I am now, with a 6 figure business that lets me be creative, travel and provide for my family. It got me through divorce, it brought be people I cherish and experiences that grew me.

We have to care for our hearts the same way we care for our family. We need to be healthy and happy as an individual so we can be good for the people we love. If you’re drowning in motherhood and its lost the romance it once had before the weight of reality, I see you and I understand. Go find yourself again. It’ll be good, I promise. 

This is a family I adore. One the has been through my motherhood journey with me and cheered me on in my career. I’m so honored to be their photographer and their friend. Here’s a few of my favorites…

1/31/22

Motherhood | The Unseen and the Beautiful

As I was saying in my instagram post…

This shit is too much! Or is it?

I’m pretty strong and I can carry a heavy load. I was made this way. I’ve always been this way since I was a little girl and unfortunately, I needed to be this way, especially as a little girl. Which is why I know that on the darkest days when the load is weighing me down, I’m actually ok. I’m fine. Truly. Shit might be messy and wrong and not how it’s supposed to be. I may feel sad and angry and exhausted but perspective is everything and if I get a little higher above my circumstances, I can see what’s real. I have a home, my family is healthy, there are so many who love me. There’s work on my calendar and money in the bank. I’m good!

I can look back to times when there wasn’t money in the bank and not everyone was healthy. I’ve been through those scary seasons with no hope or idea how to manage. But here I am. I managed. I cried my tears, I said all the 4 letter words, I hit a few things and did what I had to do. And then… I put my boots on and figured it out.

All of this to say, through the fair and the unjust. Through the hard and happy. In the big fucking messes and the beautiful wins… I’m ok. Sometimes more than ok. And if you’re relating to my experience more than you’d like, you are ok too. I’m sure more than ok sometimes. You know what you’re made of. You know how to fight. Get some perspective and then get to work. It’s time to create your own win!

Wishing all the single mamas all the wins and success,

-Kelli

1/20/22

Single Parenting Is Hard!

This scene just played out in my house… One boy is peeing. Door is open, another boy comes in and spanks peeing boy super hard on his bare bottom. Peeing boy almost falls, Pee is spraying everywhere. Other boy laughs and runs away. Peeing boy goes after him with pants half on, no flushing, no washing of hands, no turning out the light, no cleaning up the pee. End scene. 

My house is riddled with Nerf bullets, legos and hot wheels. My laundry is full of inside out jeans with underwear still in them. I buy them at least a dozen pairs of shoes each year. A fraction of everything they eat stays on their face and shirt. And, they don’t care if I’m going number 1 or 2, they’ll tell me all about some amazing Minecraft/Star Wars/Hot wheels… something or other because I’m sitting there with no where to go, I have to listen to them.

My boys are 8, 5 and almost 2. I absolutely love raising boys. I love my girl for sure, but I think there’s a reason I only have one. You feel me…. My boys think I’m beautiful on my worst day. They have a grace for me and I have a grace for them that is just different than with a girl. 

Sometimes Ari (5) will grab my face and tell me how bootiful I am and how much he wuvs my whip stick. He asks me to marry him daily and does this charming little thing where he snaps his fingers and points at me while saying, “Hey babe.” It’s stupid cute. 

Ren (20 months) has always been obsessed with my hair. He puts his arms around my neck and with both hands, plays with it incessantly. If it’s up, he pulls it down. He also loves to be face on face with me. It’s like he can’t get close enough to me so he just smashes himself against me while wearing this cute little grin showing how happy it makes him to literally suffocate me with his love. 

Sam (8) is the man of the house. He opens my doors, takes out the trash, checks the mail, always asks to help me. If I’m upset, he’s upset. He drinks coffee with me in the early mornings because he likes to sit and have quiet moments with me. (really it’s cream with a side of coffee but whatever, it’s sweet) He feels big and I love his tender heart. 

It’s such an important job raising boys. I know the movement of the hour is for women but we’d have no need for a women’s movement if we raised our boys to be gentlemen. We need to teach our boys to be strong and still tender. Brave and still wise. Respectful and responsible. That’s a more challenging job for some over others. How do you do that when there’s isn’t an example present? I don’t have all the answers but I think I’m doing a few things right…

I tell them how I see them even if they aren’t functioning well in it yet. I tell Ren that he’s a strong boy with big love in his heart. He’s actually not that strong because he’s 2 and when he sticks his finger all the way up my nose just because, there’s not much love in his heart but, I say it anyway. I always call them to their best. When Sam makes his bed and it looks like there’s still a body in it, I ask him if that’s the best he’s got. I wait to enter through a door until they open it for me. I rarely have to wait long because it’s become natural to get the door for other people first. Ari is still learning this but Sammy is setting a great example. I remind my boys often that girls are precious and need to be treated as such regardless of how they act. I also remind them that most girls have a daddy and they’ll have to ask that daddy’s permission before they go near her. That convo was introduced after receiving a text message from Ari’s teacher about him chasing, proposing and kissing girls the first week of school. Dear God…

A very wise friend told me this once: Boys get their worth from their momma while they learn how to be a man from their daddy. Girls get their worth from their daddy while they learn how to be a woman from their momma. I’m so thankful to know this bit of wisdom…. 

One of the most important things I’m learning about parenting is to let them see us as people. People with interests and hobby’s, people who over come hard things, people who are kind to other people. They need to see us being good humans so they can become a good human. We have to live out loud in front of our kids. With our kids. 

That’s all I got. Fingers crossed and a lot of prayer I get this right. 

5/11/21

Raising Boys & Cleaning Up Their Pee…

Out of the 7 babies that have entered my body, only 4 are here with me today. 2 miscarriages and 1 ectopic pregnancy took 3 of my babies to Heaven. I don’t know why miscarriages happen. It’s the first question I’ll ask God when I get to Heaven. I do have a lot of theories, I’ve collected them from all of the people who freely gave me there’s. I know they meant well but if I’m honest, most of them made me more confused and and sometimes angry. Does anyone really know why babies come and go from our bodies before we get to know and love them? I don’t think anyone truly has the answer and I wish we’d all stop trying to make up the answer in efforts to fix someone’s pain. You can’t fix that kind of pain with any explanation. It’s unexplainable, unbearable pain that absolutely has to be felt and lived and processed before it can be tucked away into our heart. We put the memory and ideas of that little person in a safe place, never to be forgotten but also not altering our joy or sanity in the present. Then, we go on with life. 

It’s really a strange thing, to go on with life with out someone who was supposed to be with you. And yet they are with you. I have friends who have babies the same age as the ones I’ve lost. Each time I see those babies I’m reminded of my precious little ones. They are always in my thoughts, always with me. It hurts less today to think of them, but I do think of them often. 

All of my losses were different. My first one was before I had any children. The loss was so significant. It was as if someone stole my baby. Someone took from me what was so precious and belonged only to me. It was a long loss. 7 days of “maybe I’m loosing this baby to I’m loosing this baby and finally, I’ve lost this baby.” Absolutely agonizing. The words, “not a viable pregnancy” only made me angry at my doctor. It felt like she took the life out of the living being in my body by referring to him as a pregnancy. In my heart, he was a person and he was gone and “a little sensitivity would be great, Doc. PS, you’re fired. I’m not a project in your lab, I’m a person. ” Yes, I said that to her. Unapologetically. 

The second miscarriage happened after my second son and during an extremely difficult time in my marriage. I went through it alone. No one really knew I was pregnant and my husband was in a different world. I had to put my boots on and take one for the A-team. There were babies to raise and a marriage to save. “Get off the bathroom floor and go do work, Kelli.” That’s what I said to myself. 

My last loss was an ectopic pregnancy. Baby was growing in my fallopian tube and about to rupture. It was my birthday and I didn’t even make it home from dinner with friends before I was doubled over in the parking lot with the worst pain I had felt since child birth. I took some tylenol and went to bed praying that what I knew was likely would not be my reality. I called my doctor the next morning and she ordered me in immediately. An ultra sound confirmed that my baby was not where she was supposed to be and at any moment could endanger my life. An OR was booked and in 1 hour I found my self in a hospital gown on an operating table about to remove a living baby from my body. I could not reconcile that with my heart. I knew the facts but my heart  was broken over it. Just before the surgery started I asked for the doctors and nurses to clear the room, I had to get to God, He felt far away in that moment and there was no way I was going under with out knowing the creator of that baby in my body was near and not going to hate me for what I was about to do. But I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t think. I was nearly hysterical. I called my dear friend because I knew she could get to Him for me. That’s what friends do. We hear and see for each other when our sadness and fear overwhelms us. And she did just that. She was already in prayer and already had a word from God for me when I got her on the phone. The word that would put my heart at peace long enough to do this impossible thing I was forced to do. She cried with me. She cried so hard with me. Have you ever experienced that? Someone feeling your pain with you? It’s such a gift and so comforting in an uncomfortable moment. It’s love. 

After that loss, I was a mess. Angry as hell and so confused. So much so that I hired a therapist to help me process. I highly recommend therapy to anyone processing through great loss and pain. We all need someone to steer us through losses like that because, let’s get real, grief can make you crazy. Like certifiable sometimes. No one should have to do life; mother children, run a business, and keep their world spinning while in that kind of mourning. We absolutely need help. We need truth. We need love. We need. Period. 

What happened next is for another post but I can tell you that today, 4 years later, the grief has been grieved and my heart isn’t as sensitive anymore. I can smile when I think about my Heaven babies. When I go to the doctor and I fill out the stupid form that asks how many pregnancies and how many living children I have, I proudly tell them I have had 7 pregnancies and 4 beautiful children with me today. I imagine my Heaven babies growing up watching me and knowing me from a distance. One day we will all be together, I won’t be a stranger to them and they have not been orphans. It will all be made right. 

My hope in sharing these stories is not for my own comfort but to extend that to another mommy who needs it. I hope that if you’re reading this with a sting in your heart and tears on your face you will know that you are not alone and you matter. Miscarriage isn’t something  you should just get over and move on from. It deserves to be given time and attention. And, if you need to process through your own loss with someone who might relate to your story, I’m here, talk to me. I mean that with all my battle wounded heart.  

5/11/21

Heaven Babies | My journey with miscarriage…

Some say don’t pose, just let it all happen organically. Well actually, there’s nothing organic about a camera and a stranger in your face so, I say, both! 

When I’m with clients photographing families, children, seniors, couples.. I’m shooting for more than just the client. The client likely has a grandma, a mom, an auntie, a future self… While wind blown hair and big laughs are full of life and natural, Your grandma doesn’t always want that on her wall and your yearbook requirements are likely a bit different. So I’ve made it a priority to pose some and direct organic moments all at the same time. 

A timeless portrait with eye contact and smiles is a unicorn photo when you have small kiddos but it’s not impossible. It’s what I start with and then I let moments unfold. When your toddler waddles away and begins to explore, I’m tagging along, capturing chubby hands in the grass and little feet in the sand. When your sweet baby girl reaches up to be held, I’m capturing daddy lifting her up and giving her a little toss in the air to cheer her up. Dads are good for that. When you bend down to discipline your 5 yearly for not listening during family photos, I’m shooting your hands on his face and your eyes locked on each other. You have no idea but I’m grabbing all the moments in between the ones I set up. I’m also setting scenes with easy instruction. Kiddos, do what you do, run as fast as you can to daddy and then tickle him! Or 12 year old, hug your mom and hold her for a minute. While you’re there, tell her thank you for being awesome and promise you’ll never get a girl friend;) If a sweet moment + laughs unfold,I’m high speed shooting all of it!

So If I tell you to stand in a way and look at the camera but then it all falls apart, that is ok! I’m there for it. The moments you think are wasted and no good, I’m finding the memories.

5/11/21

Posing vs Directing

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Hey, I'm Kelli Avila.

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I’ve been at this business for 10 years. It’s the very thing that lets me provide for my 4 children as a single mom. I know what it’s like to feel inadequate and overwhelmed. Your business should be a boost to your income and your confidence level and yet, at the beginning, that idea can feel like a far-fetched dream. Let me show you the ropes with real talk, perspective and discerning advice. You’ll leave inspired and informed.

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