Creative Family Series
The Solars and The Happy Family Movement
Raising a happy, loving family is one of the most important things we will do in this lifetime.
Because we know that happy kids raised in joy-filled environments will change the world.
That’s why we believe in …
jumping on the bed;
pancakes for dinner;
laughing ‘til you cry;
We believe in creating memorable experiences for our family and sharing that love with the world.
We believe happiness is not something you find. It’s something you make.
So go ahead… Cut loose. Live out loud. Love a lot!
I had to know more. What is this movement? Why does it make me smile? Who’s behind it? Well, today we find out. Everyone, meet Josh and Jenny Solar, creators of The Happy Family Movement.
What does creativity mean to you?
Josh: Creativity to me is everything. It’s embracing LIFE, it’s found in the eyes and smiles of our children, it’s making your most wildest dreams come true.
Jenny: To me, creativity is change, rolling with the punches, and never letting life get boring.
Have you always considered yourself creative?
Josh: Heck no. I was never much into art, and didn’t pick up a camera until my freshman year of college. Even then I wouldn’t say I was creative, but taking pictures did move something in me. Photography gave me a reason to think about the people in my life and the places I got to visit in a whole new light. Now, it’s a way that I can stop time for my kids, because we all know how fast they grow up. Now, I look at light ALL day. Everything is a potential picture to me, and life is WAY more fun that way, IMO.
Jenny: I still don’t think I’m creative! Josh is definitely more of the creative force in our life, but I do have my moments of brilliance, wink.
How do you nurture your own creativity?
Josh: By constantly having my camera with me. When my kids are doing something random, I want to capture it as natural as possible. By having a camera close that makes it possible for me to capture those moments as they happen instead of trying to re-create them. We have a camera in the kitchen almost all the time for that exact reason. Photography is part of our life experiences and when I feel the most creative, so naturally, I have a camera around all the time. So much so that the kids know to walk on the opposite side of whatever side my camera is hanging off of because they have been banged in the head with the lens hood enough times
Jenny: I’m most creative when it comes to the family stuff, so I spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest and reading various parenting blogs and books. I also spend a lot of time talking to the kids. Most of our great ideas actually come from them… we just build on their ideas to make them really awesome.
How do you nurture it in your children?
Josh: We encourage our kids to create all the time. We don’t have cable tv (which keeps the kids from being lazy), we don’t spend a lot of time in the house (unless it’s cold out, like in the winter, man, I hate winter). We talk a lot about thought processes on how they arrived at certain conclusions, or why they drew what they did, etc. We try not to say “no” or “you can’t do that,” which, leads to a lot of scenarios where they are blowing bubbles in their milk, or dipping apples in ketchup, or anything else that as adults we just forget to do/try. We really want our kids to know that whatever they want to do, they can do (as long as it doesn’t harm anyone or themselves). Messes are temporary, but creative thinking is permanent. It’s also how you end up dancing in the rain on the lawn at the Lincoln Memorial when everyone else is running for cover.
Jenny: We give our kids access to creative outlets. We encourage them to take pictures and we have their canvas paintings all over the walls of the house. We try to encourage drawing and writing a lot as well. Our two oldest are amazing readers and I think that helps foster their creativity for sure.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend time together as a family?
Josh: Road trippin’! We’ve driven through Colorado, the entire Route 66 together, to New Orleans and back, through the Great Smoky Mountains, to Washington DC, and the Oregon coast. We just find some of the coolest stuff to explore while out on the road, like the Minister’s Tree House in Crossville, Tennessee, or the night we had a castle all to ourselves in Lexington, Kentucky. When we’re not traveling, it’s just doing things like going to the zoo, lounging at the pool. We really try and do everything together, which is a little easier for us as Jenny and I are both pretty much stay at home parents. We’re definitely blessed to be able to have more time as a family to do things, which is why we try and make the most of it.
Jenny: Travel is definitely a big part of our life. We tend to let the kids direct our travel a bit… Max is really into geography right now and landmarks, so he really wanted to go to DC. He’s got his sights on the Eiffel Tower next, so Paris is definitely on our radar. When we’re not traveling, we enjoy the simple things: riding bikes in the cul-de-sac, baseball in the front yard, tickle fights, sword fights, pillow fights, and snuggle chats.
How have you been able to integrate work with pursuing your creative passions?
Josh: Work for us is creative. We’re wedding and family photographers, so when we’re working we have to be creative. We’re also lucky, because we attract a specific kind of couple/family to take pictures of. The people attracted to our work are always fun, happy, most definitely in love and not afraid to show it, and very close with their friends and families. What that means for us is that not only do we get to always be around fun/happy/people in love, but we get to learn from them about WHY they are so much in love and so happy. We can then bring that back to our family life and friends, it’s just a big circle of love.
Jenny: We’re really passionate about our family and raising happy little people who will go out and make positive changes in the world. Our approach to parenting is pretty simple: we want our kids to know they are loved, to have FUN growing up, and to value memorable experiences and close relationships over ‘things’. We’ve taken that passion for our family one step further with The Happy Family Movement to inspire and encourage other families out there to do the same. It’s simple ideas for happy family living.
What are you working on now?
Josh: Answering your questionnaire, a blog post on the HFM about Max’s first day of first grade (they grow up SO fast!), and editing a few weddings and family sessions. It’s all so much fun!
How did you get into photography?
Josh: I’ll give you the short story: Jenny and I have been together since before we could drive. She loved to take pictures but never had a nice camera. I bought her one for Christmas in 1999, and found myself using it more than she did. In August of 2005, Jenny found herself in a job she hated, so over the course of a weekend, she quit, took the GMAT (and passed, she’s pretty brilliant), then enrolled in UMKC to get her Master’s in Accounting. At this time we had a baby, a mortgage, and now only one income. So, we decided to shoot weddings to pay the bills as a temporary solution, we both fell in love with it and the rest is history. Now we love it more than ever and can’t see ourselves ever doing anything else with our lives.
Jenny: Um, that’s a pretty good short version!
Tell us about The Happy Family Movement. How did it start?
Josh: The Happy Family Movement started as a side project for us to encourage other families to think outside the box and have fun raising their little ones. One of our friends convinced us that the way we live is unconventional and that we needed to help inspire other families to do the same. Over the course of two months we launched The Happy Family Movement and now we are currently working on some REALLY cool stuff. I think now that the Happy Family Movement will be a great legacy that Jenny and I can leave behind…you know, inspiring families to live extraordinary lives is pretty cool if you ask me.
Did you pursue coursework in creativity in school (e.g. arts, etc) or do you come by this on your own?
Josh: All on my own. And I feel that it’s helped me be a better artist. Now that we’ve been shooting professionally for six years, we know all the “rules” of photography, and I can tell you that we break darn near every one of them. I love that I can walk into a situation and capture it how I see it and want to remember it, and not think about all these rules of how it’s supposed to be done.
Jenny: We both have degrees in business… but that helps with the business side of things!
From time to time everyone’s creative juices wane. How do you handle that?
Josh: Being that we shoot mainly weddings, we have to be creative and bring it EVERY SINGLE TIME. There’s no do-overs at weddings, but at home, sometimes I’m just feeling tired and don’t want to take pictures (I always kick myself later for the memories missed). When this happens, it only takes me a few minutes perusing our personal family blog (now the HFM blog) and looking back at all the wonderful times we’ve had together as a family, and how far our kids have come in the few years they’ve been in our lives. I will say that I hardly ever get nervous, or anxious, I’m a pretty mellow guy. I can take a few deep breaths and that will generally calm me down and get back to focusing on life.
Jenny: I think we occasionally lose our creativity in the winter. It’s cold here in Kansas City, so we do very little shooting between the months of December and March. As soon as it starts to warm up, we just get back out and start shooting like crazy!
Visit The Happy Family Movement site to get ideas and activities to bring your family closer together over meal time and get your day started off right delivered right to your inbox. They’ll even develop a Happy play list for when you need a good pick-me-up.
I have to say, that’s pretty happy.