Meet the Parents: Ventura, California

The Jones Family
Courtesy of the Jones family
Peek inside the life of this surfing, designing, business-owning family on the California coast.
Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Meet the Joneses

Meet the parents:

DeNai, 35, and Braden, 33

Meet the kids:

Sutton, 2
Miller, 5 months

How they met:

"We met right after high school," says DeNai. "A mutual friend was taking a photography class, and she used both of us as models independently. Brady happened to be flipping through her book of photos and saw my photo and was asking who I was. She gave him the photo, and he had it up in his bedroom for a couple of months. Then she surprised him by bringing me over to one of his family barbecues. He panicked because he was afraid I'd go into his bedroom and see the photo. At the barbecue, he acted like he had no idea who I was, and I thought: This guy is a real piece of work!

"We started hanging out and became good friends, and then we dated for six years before we got married. We've been married 10 years now. We've definitely grown up together."

"The day I met her, she was perfect," Braden says. "It's hard to imagine her getting any better, but she has."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

What They Do

In 2000, DeNai and Braden gave birth to Petunia Pickle Bottom, a company that makes stylish diaper bags and other baby accessories. DeNai is head designer for the venture (named after her father's pet name for her when she was little), and Braden oversees the business end as CEO. They started the company in a room above her parents' garage. The idea came to them during a trip to Alaska.

"There were a lot of deep conversations by the campfire," DeNai recalls. 'If you could do absolutely anything, what would it be?' I just happened to have this diaper bag idea in my mind. A few of my friends were having babies, and I thought there wasn't anything out there for them. At that time, diaper bags were designed for the baby and not for the mother's style.

"At that age you think anything is possible. And a lot of things are, especially if you have a great support system. We moved in with my parents and scrimped and saved, digging for change between couch cushions to go to dinner or the movies. Back then, a fashionable diaper bag for over $100 was a hard sell, so it took a lot of time to gain momentum."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Where They Live

Ventura, on the Pacific coast of Southern California.

"Of course, we paid too much for our house. We live in California, for Pete's sake! We scrimped and saved like most couples for years before we could get into the housing market. We had been looking specifically in the historic downtown area for about a year. I was getting desperate. Thankfully, Brady was able to keep a level head. We wrote a personal letter about us and started dropping them in mailboxes of homes we were interested in buying. We had some friends who were putting their house on the market the very next day. We met them that evening, made an offer, and the house was ours within the next few months.

"Our house was built in the early 1900s. It has three bedrooms, two baths, a living room, dining room, and home office. It's right next to the church we got married in and where we both went to preschool. Now Sutton attends preschool in the very same classroom. The office is a few blocks away, closer to the beach."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Why They Love It

"There's a little park that's close by. Pretty much every Saturday, we walk downtown and get coffee at this little coffee shop we like. And we walk over to the farmers' market and get our fruits and vegetables. Sutton's in love with kettle corn. We get kettle corn and the strawberries he loves and just enjoy everything California has to offer. My husband is an avid surfer, so the beach definitely fits into our life."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Surf's Up

"Sutton had his first experience on the surfboard last month. He's a fearless 2-year-old, which concerns us, but of course he wants to do anything Daddy's doing. One thing that Sutton and Brady do together is go swimming three or four times a week at a pool next to our house."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Sutton's Room

"There's a wall decal that's an 8-foot black horse. It's by an artist I found on Design*Sponge, which is a blog that I love," says DeNai. "All of Sutton's furniture is black, and his room walls are pale blue. He has a sheepskin rug on the floor and a big comfy chair that we read books to him in. There are some personal touches like an antique abacus, a birdcage on his dresser, a vintage suitcase -- different things we find here and there that we like.

"Sutton wasn't a great sleeper, so for the first two years of his life, we didn't get much sleep at all," adds Braden. "We tried everything in the book. He just didn't want to go to sleep. Imagine waking up three times a night for two years, plus the business and the travel schedules and everything."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Miller's Nursery

"It was inspired by a really beautiful pillow from Anthropologie," says DeNai, "and the diaper bag fabric that I had a lot of fun designing when I was pregnant, Misty Shanghai. I just really liked the grays that were in both pieces. I found some wallpaper that had a shade of gray and really pretty silhouettes of trees, so we did that on two walls. His furniture is simple, a marriage between classic and modern. One of my favorite pieces is the mobile of two little birds in a cage that hangs over his crib. It wasn't designed as a mobile, but I thought it would make a great one."

"I had to do the wallpaper [myself]," says Braden. "DeNai was nine months pregnant, so I really couldn't argue."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Hanging with Mommy

"Now that we're in year eight of Petunia, I have the luxury of going in to work just Tuesdays and Thursdays," DeNai says. "Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I get to be home and be mommy. We get up and have breakfast with Daddy. We usually play outside in the morning. We read books. There's a music class that we go to. We go to the beach and do all sorts of fun things. We love making cookies.

"We have a group of about six other couples that we're very close with that all have children under 3. There are 13 children under 3. So there's usually something organized. Either we're going to the park or the beach or the zoo."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Evenings with Daddy

"When I come home, it's intense," Braden says. "Those three to four hours before they go to bed are intense. Not only does DeNai need a break or just an extra hand, but Sutton just really wants to play hard with me. He's 2 1/2, so he's all about Dad. I'm a jungle gym, basically."

"If I'm holding Miller and Sutton wants to play, he'll grab Miller out of my hands and try to move him and say: 'Put him down. Put him down!'"

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Their Parenting Styles

"We can thankfully say we were brought up in very similar households, which helps out when it comes to parenting," says DeNai. "When it comes to disciplining our 2-year-old, Brady tends to be a little bit more of a softy, which can create conflict between the two of us. I'm a stickler for time-outs, and Brady tends to give more warnings before the time-out."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Built-In Childcare

"The days I go into the office," says DeNai, "they're with their grandparents. One set of grandparents takes them on Tuesday, and the other set takes them on Thursday. My parents live a couple of blocks from us. Brady's mom lives about 20 minutes away. I'll usually run my breast milk home at lunchtime because we're so close."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Being Super-Efficient at Work

"Because I spend just two days in the office, everybody on my design team has all their questions ready," says DeNai. "I make that time efficient because I don't want to get calls or check e-mails on Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Yes, I do check e-mail after the kids go down, but I try to make it so my time with them is with them."

Learning to leave Petunia behind at the office:

"We find ourselves talking about work issues over dinner, and we'll consciously say to one another: 'Let's talk about this later. It's not something we need to be talking about during family time.' It's kind of an unspoken rule that my husband and I don't get on the Internet until the kids are asleep. We try to be in the moment as much as possible when we're with our children. When the kids are in bed, we're sitting on our bed with our laptops, being with each other as we're working. A lot of times Brady will work from 8 until midnight and get anything done that didn't get done during the day."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

What Worries Them

"Like most parents, we worry about our children's happiness, health, and just the general concern that you are doing a good job parenting," says DeNai. "As business owners, it's a big burden knowing that you are supporting 20 employees' household incomes as well as your own."

"It's hard to run a business and feel like you have enough time with the kids," Braden says. "I go to China quite a bit and Vietnam, and I can't take them. I was in Vietnam a month ago, and DeNai texted me that Miller laughed. It was one of those things I wasn't there for."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Making Time for Romance

"When I get home, the two boys definitely get most of my energy," Braden says. "It's a challenge, especially when you're exhausted, to stay up and hang out after the kids go to sleep. That's a little thing, but it's important."

"Brady and I are good at carving out time together as a couple," DeNai adds. "We try to have a night for us to go to dinner or a movie. And we plan weekend getaways because we have the luxury of having grandparents around. A couple of our favorite destinations are Palm Springs and the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. In Palm Springs our favorite place is this old hotel called Korakia. It's Moroccan-looking -- all white and simply decorated and very old. You just sit by the pool and not talk and do nothing. It's just a nice calm getaway from the house of ruckus.

"If you don't make the time, it won't happen. When you become a parent, romance slides to the end of the list -- unless you make it a priority. Taking the time to write a love note, schedule a date night, or just a short weekend away makes the biggest difference in our marriage."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

Road Tripping

"We just got back from a trip along the coast," says DeNai. "We bought a VW Westfalia camper van in Seattle and took a week to drive down the coast, camping along the way. The family named the van on the way down. It's white, and we named it Blanca."

"Sutton loves it," Braden says. "He calls it 'Sutton's van.' That'll be his graduation gift right there."

"The top pops up, so I would sleep with Miller in the 'upstairs,' and [Braden] would sleep with Sutton 'downstairs,'" DeNai says. "We'd have great campfires and cook hot dogs. The kids did great. It's always a pleasure of mine when we lose cell service. That happened multiple times."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

On Squeezing In "Me Time" -- and Why They're So Lucky

"Time to yourself is slim when you're raising a family and running a business," says DeNai. "It's definitely a conscious effort and takes a lot of coordinating between my husband and me. It's understanding the other person needs it and being okay with that. He'll go surfing before the kids get up. I'll go to Pilates after they're asleep.

"We have the luxury of having family close by. They've been through it, and they know what it takes, and they will say to me: 'Why don't you take this time to get your hair done or go have an hour to yourself.' We're just super-lucky to have them in our lives."

Courtesy of the Jones family
Courtesy of the Jones family

On Running at a Fast Pace -- Almost All the Time

"We can't wind down too much," Braden says. "We always have to be on. But that's just life right now. That's part of the package. And it's a great package."

Copyright © 2008 Meredith Corporation.

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