Philadelphia photographer & mom Shannon shares how her Larktale caravan changed the game for family outings with her special-needs child
Written by Mia Weber
For the latest installment of our LarkTales column--where we catch up with real parents all over the country about how they use their Larktale strollers for fun, family time, and all of life’s on-the-go moments--we chatted with Philadelphia-based photographer and mom-of-three: Shannon.
Shannon is a professional photographer and the co-owner / co-founder of the content creation company Quarter Moon Co. She and her partner (who works as a school principal) have a 16-year-old, a 13-year-old, and a 5-year-old (who also happens to be on the Autism spectrum). Shannon and her fam love to spend time outdoors--be it playing soccer, travelling somewhere new, or exploring their beautiful home state of Pennsylvania--and they can’t get enough of movies, music, and theater. We caught up with this busy mama about work, parenting, and why the Larktale caravan™ has been a game-changer for her special-needs youngest child. “I have not-so-secretly always wanted to design child travel gear so I have a special passion for companies who do it well and are purpose driven,” Shannon says. “We can’t wait to see all the wonderful things Larktale continues to do and hope to be along for the ride!”
Without further ado, meet Shannon, her business, and her oh-so-sweet family!
For any Larktale readers not familiar with your business, tell us a bit about the mission of Quarter Moon and your core services?
Hi there! We are Shannon and Michele--brand content creators, lifestyle photographers, mothers, and down-to-earth humans with a passion for making the world a better place. Our main focus is creating relatable, inclusive and empowering imagery for brands that make a positive impact.
We especially love to work with brands who give back, support equality and inclusion, prioritize ethical and sustainable production, protect the earth, manufacture locally, and overall make the world a better place!
As a working mother in a creative field, what is your schedule like and how do you find the work/home equation that works for you?
Is there such an equation that works? If so please pass along the formula! Actually we have a really amazing dynamic now where the kids are all in school, my partner is a principal in our school district so that means that I have flexibility throughout the day to get what needs to get done and also stretch my creative legs and run hard when need be to make the magic happen for our business!
My business partner Michele and I do a lot of “rocking the nap-time hustle” (IYKYK) in reality, but if the last year and half has taught us anything it’s that we are resilient and committed to allowing space for what’s needed each day!
What led you to raise your family in Philadelphia?
Both my business partner Michele and I were both born and raised north of Philadelphia. While she always kept one toe in Philly throughout college and now our adult years, I was always headed into New York City. We both met at a local farm where we worked in high school.
I can say with confidence that we are truly split between loving the city and the passion that radiates from the streets just as much as we can’t get enough of wide-open spaces, golden sunlight and nights by the bonfire. This was important for us both--and our respective partners--when raising a family!
What are some of your favorite family activities to do all together?
While I can say in full confidence that we are introverts at heart, we are also a non-stop, on the go family too! If we aren’t on the fields for travel soccer, attending band practice, various therapies at our local children’s hospital--because our youngest kiddo is neurodiverse and we all work together to best support each other--we are hitting the stage for play practice or to see something on Broadway. We love to be outdoors, but also enjoy the comfort of being in our home and are big-time theater/cinema lovers!
You’ve posted on social media about your child Harvey’s autism and how the Larktale caravan has been a helpful item when they have experienced a bit of sensory overload.
Our 5-year old child is neurodiverse. They are autistic and have a condition called Reflex Anoxic Seizures. Because of this, it can mean that there are times where they are easily overstimulated or even medically at risk. The caravan stroller wagon has helped us immensely at making sure they feel/are safe and also the canopies make it easy (with some noise-canceling headphones) to remove light and other stimuli when they are feeling overwhelmed or after a seizure episode.
Also, it is exactly what the busy-parent ordered as far as room goes for all the “stuff” we would otherwise be inevitably carrying! Speaking of size--I feel like it’s important to mention how impressed we were with how accessible the wagon is size-wise. We are happy to know our investment will help us for years to go as Harvey grows because most other strollers they have already outgrown.
What else makes the caravan a helpful product in this way, specifically for your child’s needs?
I can give a very specific circumstance of how the caravan delivered for us: We all went to a local arboretum together. There are just miles and miles of breathtaking gardens in addition to elaborate water fountains. There is a fountain show where they will play to music (which we were all super excited for).
For context, what you should know about Harvey’s two medical conditions is that, when they are overstimulated they will join forces to create a perfect storm for them. They will obviously be more prone to having a breakdown--which is totally normal for any kiddo or adult that is overstimulated, let alone someone with Autism--but Harvey will also have a seizure and lose consciousness. So often we find we are fighting the clock when we see overstimulation starting.
So back to the fountain. We were excited for it to start, Harvey in the caravan and the first few little fountains because to play with music. Everything is going great. Then the music hits crescendo and the fountains shoot way up into the sky and the wind blows sending little spritzes of water to blow into us. This was not good for Harvey and was far too much stimulation without warning and they lost it. We quickly pulled the canopies down (making it darker), threw on the headphones (making it quieter) and (while running away from the fountain rain) threw on the rain cover (making it feel safe and dry).
These are the types of moments that I, personally, long for. Give me all your silly unexpected forces of nature. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Harvey and, while we want them to continuously learn how to cope as they feel necessary, we also want to provide safety, comfort and love first. This is just one example of many where this wagon has helped us give them that comfort they physically need.
In a similar vein, what have some of your biggest joys and challenges been in raising a child on the spectrum? What do you wish others understood about the experience?
They make us more patient and more understanding. They make us question the way we may have done things before. We think outside the box more and that is such an underestimated tool to have. It is a struggle to raise any child. Being a parent is hard, but just like with any child, with every challenge comes a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment too. I/we are learning so much from Harvey every single day. It helps us be better in relationships, in our jobs and to just be more empathetic in general. This may all be easier to say now that they finally sleep through the night (after four years of getting up 10 times a night). So maybe it’s the rest that makes the answer more “rose coated!” I think we all have also learned to give ourselves grace too. Accept that perfection isn’t something that we want anymore.
If you were to ask my older children, they would likely tell you that they are pretty sick and tired of hearing the “Ghostbusters” and “Hamilton” songs played 403 times a day but that they wouldn’t change Harvey for the world. And I agree.
What are some of your go-to parenting resources?
We have learned so much from so many I am not sure where to start. We are a science-based family so I would certainly say that we put faith in the experts in health and medicine when it comes to those types of things but honestly we source our parenting styles from example. From the family and friends around us. What are children if not just future adults and, really all we want is for them to be happy, safe and kind to others.
It’s been a very unusual year and a half for families. Do you have any parenting insights that you came to during the pandemic or advice for other parents?
You got this. It doesn’t always feel like it, but I promise you do. Get help when you can. Take rests when you can. Never forget to tell your loved ones how much you love them every day.