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This summer

 

#wish

My lil freshman

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Brother selfie : )

Here's what we made with some of that lovely produce. #summerDiveDog waiting for his daddy to come back. He has to wear a correction collar so I can keep him from jumping in after the seals & sea lions. He's obsessed. #Monterey #boat #doginaboat

First day, 7th grade <3Power struggle over the middle seat.

uploadSome summers are lazy (I’ve heard). This wasn’t one of them, but we did sneak in a week at the beach right when it started at the end of June. I can’t even remember everything we did, but I do remember getting up a 4 a.m. two days in a row for Willow’s softball tournament and driving around Lake Tahoe to the fields as the sun came up. Ace went on the boat with us in Monterey Bay and swam around a little, kept an eye on the birds and sea lions, slept on my feet while we waited for Scuba to come back from his dive. Lex graduated from high school. Sophie quit soccer. My brother and his family came to visit. I went to New York for work, started going to yoga at 6 a.m. again, quit drinking booze. Read The Goldfinch and Happiness for Beginners and All the Light We Cannot See.

We took the girls camping, rarely saw the boys, didn’t eat dinner outside as much as we did the last two summers because we kept running out of daylight. Discovered pickle-flavored popcorn and talked about moving to the coast. I worked a lot, Scuba worked more. Ace finally lost a few pounds, so when I take him to the vet later this month I won’t be in trouble. I guess that means we walked him more often?

It’s still summer for a few more days, but we’re mostly into our fall routines now. Alex starts school next week, the rest went back a month ago. It’s dark when I wake up, and I had to grab a sweater and put on socks to go to the kitchen and make my coffee this morning. I have two boxes hidden away and partway filled with Christmas gifts and I bought an ornament on Saturday. I love this transition. My favorite time of year. I haven’t written much about the hard stuff that’s been going on around here (or anything at all, obviously), but I feel like I’m starting to get my footing back, maybe. Just in time.

Parenting requires much more of me than I ever anticipated, and parenting teenagers is amazingly complex. Sophie isn’t shy about discussing her particular challenges, but I’m choosing not to go into much detail publicly. It’s not for me to tell. But I can say that today she started at a new high school after being out of school for over two weeks, and that I’m hopeful this fresh start will give her what she needs to do the work she needs to do to find her footing, too.

Tough, love.

prayers

Toward the end of last October, I thought to myself, This is the hardest month I have ever had. In November it became the hardest two months, December three. Where are we now? Month seven?

I was making sandwiches this morning for the kids’ lunches — pb&j because I read someplace that’s what nutritionists put in their kids’ lunchboxes (haha, sure they do) — and I thought about that some more. Has this really been the hardest time I’ve been through, ever? Is parenting a child who is struggling emotionally (to put it mildly) and having far too many difficult and scary moments and days worse than being the mother of a tiny four pound baby, born too soon? Is it shittier to not be able to help my child right now than it was to not be able to help my father when he was so frail and dying and in constant pain? It’s just busywork to distract myself, this comparing and ranking. I know it doesn’t matter. I am here right now.

I am so tired. Dramatic but true: It feels like my skin is made of glass and I’m hollow. My eyes hurt. Sometimes I walk through the grocery store and my legs are so heavy I feel like I can’t possibly take another step, that I should just puddle onto the floor and sleep until everything is better again. But I don’t, because I’m stubborn and sort of practical. And because Scuba calls me on his way home and says, Don’t worry about dinner. I’ll get it. You relax some, okay? He texts me, I’ll pick up the carpool on my way home tonight. He is holding my hand when I wake up in the morning, and he booked a beach house for a week for us this summer.

I don’t think things happen for a reason. I don’t think the universe puts challenges in my path over and over until I am freed of them by learning their lessons. But I do know the feeling of having my heart crack open and break. Horrible, yes, but at the same time, what comes rushing in to fix it is so tender and surprising. I’m completely worn out and wrung out right now. Sometimes all that’s left of me is the part that loves, and it takes my breath away, the strength of that piece and how it’s inverse to how awful I feel.

Last night for an excruciating hour I stood hovering in my child’s bedroom doorway, unwanted. At one point I thought about my heart, how it’s pumping blood, still, even though I am sure it’s broken. You know that thing you learn in science class about how if all your veins and arteries and capillaries were stretched out end to end, they’d wrap around the earth four times? I thought about that, and about how someone sitting in the same room can actually be farther than 60,000 miles away from you sometimes. Even if they live in your heart.

Happy, New Year

IMG_4943I miss our Christmas tree. We went up to the mountains and the kids picked a perfect one. There was no resisting the opportunity to recreate the photo I took few years back at the same tree farm, so I posed them. The original, though? Not posed. I said, Hey! Lemme take your picture! and then got so much undeserved shade from each one of them.

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IMG_5410We had a really great Christmas this year – hosted at our house both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It was an awesome blur of cooking and eating and cousins.

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I’m mad at myself for not taking enough photos.

A few days after Christmas, my sister’s first baby was born. He is ridiculously cute.

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Even (especially?) when he sneezes.

The day he was born I sat next to my sister’s hospital bed and held him for hours while he slept and we talked. It’s been such a long time since my kids were babies; I was a little nervous at first to hold him. It’s different holding a newborn now that my first baby is eighteen and getting ready to start college. I couldn’t help but say that it paradoxically all goes by too fast — eighteen years in an instant made up of so many days where it felt like bedtime would never arrive and the clock dragged through impossibly long afternoons.

Tile crush

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Paris Metro 1 terracotta tile from Tabarka Studio 

I can’t remember how I got to the website of the place that makes these tiles, but it’s now open in at least one tab on my different devices that connect to the internet because I cannot stop scrolling through the choices they have and picturing all the different ways I can use them in the house so that I can look at them every day. Like, we need to build some stairs to somewhere so I can put all the different Paris Metro ones on the steps, like this:

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And, of course the kitchen:

I’ve decided not to look at how much they cost, because I don’t think this tile fixation is about that kind of reality — it’s just a healthy, terracotta painted in deliciousness, soothing, mental escape, that I want to put on the wall around the fireplace in the living room and on our bathroom floor. And walls. Also, the kitchen backsplash and embedded into the countertops around the kitchen sink. And the entryway floor. OMG.

There’s a showroom near us, in a dog-walking friendly town, so maybe I’ll get Scuba and Ace to go down there with me tomorrow, and maybe they will sell me just one single tile and I can put it on my desk and set my coffee cup on it every morning. It just might change my life.

Day of the FacePaint

Happy Halloween!

A photo posted by Jenifer Monroe (@jenmonroe) on

Willow was having a hard time figuring out what to dress up as this year, so we hopped on Pinterest to find something we could DIY at the last-minute. I’d ordered some very inexpensive basic t-shirts in a few colors for myself a few days before, and the white was like tissue paper and totally see-thru so I happily donated it to her costume. About five bux worth of face paint from Affordable Treasures and that was that.  And, since we had the face paint here, I went ahead and did my own face.  

Face painting #harderthanitlooks

A photo posted by Jenifer Monroe (@jenmonroe) on

After I’d done that, thinking we’d be staying home and handing out candy that night, Scuba was all, Let’s go get tacos! So, I went with him out for tacos with that face on. It was a little weird, and sort of fun, but next time I’m making him dress up, too.

After I voted today

I looked up late this afternoon and saw the moon, almost full and very bright and low and big. A few geese flew across the pink sky far away, above the treeline and just beneath the moon. Probably they were different geese than the ones who live in the parks here all year long. I think those geese just chase little kids and leave the soccer fields covered in poop and get in my way when I try to run on the creek trail through the park. They’re pretty much jerks. With wings.

When I see geese flying like I did tonight, on their way someplace warmer like normal geese, I always think of Houston. Probably that’s not what pops into *your* head when you see geese flying, but maybe that’s just because you weren’t there with me that one time when I stepped out the back door of my dad’s house in Houston just as a very intense formation of geese flew over the roof of the house behind me. I think they were flying north; I don’t imagine that geese would need to fly south from Houston. I bet it was getting warmer back home and they could finally go back. I didn’t know they were there, but we did this seamless, choreographed (though not) thing where I opened and stepped out the door just as the first one flew over and the sound made me look up. I saw them and stopped and they flew over so low, just barely skimming over the top of the house while I was totally still except for my chin tilting up toward them as the last ones in line flew over. It was just a second. I could feel their focus, though. Those geese were serious and determined and headed to a specific place. When we were working with a trainer with Ace, she said when I walked him I needed to be in charge of the walk, and that it would help if I had a picture in my mind of where we were headed. If I thought about that, Ace would sense it and know that we were headed somewhere and that I was in charge. He’d follow me. That’s what that migrating goose vibe was – the dogwalker vibe.

So maybe it was their collective focus down so low close to my head, or maybe it was just that I’d never seen geese so up close before, but something carved those couple of seconds into my memory. It was humid and the sun was going down. It was just a really cool thing to see and to feel.

We spent a lot of time in Houston looking up at the sky. At storm clouds and lightning, at that sun. At the stars. My brother and I used to sometimes lay on the top of our dad’s silver Buick to watch thunderstorms roll in or the sun set. Or we’d lay the lawn chairs in the back yard all the way back to look up at cloud shapes or an electrical storm or fireworks on the Fourth of July. The sky is more of a presence there. More active than it is here in California, at least weather-wise. Like, you wanna keep one eye on it for trouble. But it’s also just thicker and heavier. The humidity sometimes demands your full attention and you can’t help but squint at it convinced that you’ll see the wet fog and clouds that you can feel in your lungs when you breathe.

This year

 The Camera Shop in Santa Fe. They were nice and didn’t rip me off when I needed a new lens cap.

This year I was all, I’m *totally* going to NaBloPoMo it up! So of course November the first comes and goes and blogging doesn’t cross my mind one single time. Whatever. It’s okay. It’s November! Let’s blog (pretty much) every day! Yay!

I’ve been blogging for twelve years, and this is the first time I’ve been tempted to put a photo of my butt on The Internets.

Scuba has been skateboarding since elementary school, and he surfs and used to spend a lot of winter weekends snowboarding, so when he says that the bruise I got on my butt this weekend is the worst bruise he has ever seen on a person, ever, then let’s agree to all agree that it’s an impressive one. He said it looks like I have a big purple kale leaf stuck to my ass.

We took Ace on a five or six mile walk up to Lexington Reservoir Saturday morning before it got too hot. He likes to swim around in the lake, so we walked down the (no longer used as a) boat ramp to the water. The boat ramp is COVERED in gravel that goes from grit-sized up to golfball-sized, and we were both slipping around some, when I fell, hard, onto my backside. Onto a big rock sitting on the cement. I did not cry. Instead I got up and watched our LochNess Retriever swim around.

By the time we got home, I had a pretty good bruise going, but it was nothing compared to how it looked that night. I hiked up my dress to show the girls and Willow was all, ACK! I don’t want to see that! and Sophie was like, SHOW ME AGAIN! THAT IS AMAZING!

Anyway, no photos of my butt today, though I did tell Scuba he should take one close-up enough to not be able to tell what specific body part it was of. He just rolled his eyes at me.

That same night we had Sophie’s 13th birthday party, and I will admit that it was fun. (PROTIP from Scuba: Set up some charging stations if you’re throwing a party for teenagers. They will adore you.)

I love that photo of her with her pile of donuts. Here she is on her first birthday:

And her fourth:

Her sixth:

And her seventh:

We got her a little powder blue Fuji Instax that takes 2″x3″ instant photos. She got it out at the party and took a few shots. She got a really great one of Ace, and it was so fun to watch how happy it made her. I know that feeling very, very well.

The next day, Scuba and I were on our own, so we took Ace to the beach. On the way home Scuba surprised me by stopping in at the Pearson Arrow shop and buying me a fantastically gorgeous new board. I am wholly unworthy of it. Time for me to get more serious about having fun and get my arms in paddling shape.

new board

What makes me happiest about this isn’t the beautiful surfboard – it’s that he wants me to be able to surf with him. That’s the best I love you, ever.

I’m such a sap

My sister got a ridiculously cute puppy.

Tonight at dinner I was so tired. I sat there after everyone got up, just kind of looking at the dishes and trying to do the math of how I could get up and wash them. Scuba did a chunk of them and then I kicked him out of the kitchen since he still had other things to do and he’d already done a ton of stuff in the yard when he came home from work.

Anyway, the kids were in the dining room, all crowded around an iPad, watching a totally inappropriate video and figuring out the dialogue so they could come up with a script and act it out. I didn’t ask them to help me wash up, because they were getting along really well. Before we know, it Lex will be out of the house probably and they will all do so, so many dishes in their lives. So, I kept at it, listening to them, appreciating their togetherness in that moment. When I ran out of room on the counter to put anymore washed dishes, they were winding down, so I made Lex come and dry. He didn’t complain, he never does. He dried all the bowls and put them away, talked to me for a little bit. This is all I need to be happy.

Don’t forget to validate your parking ticket and your parenting style.

This opinion piece that ran in the NY Times a couple of weeks back is so up my alley.

I am not, by nature, much of a punisher or rewarder, which is mostly exhausting, but maybe I am on the right track? At any rate, I’ve read this through two or three times, especially the parts about guilt and shame, modeling generosity, and expressing disappointment rather than using punishments. I don’t have anything to add other than my agreement and the acknowledgement that, YES, it sure does feel great to find examples of some of my (sometimes very unpopular) parenting choices being backed up.

On Saturday, Scuba and his mom and Willow and I went to see the San Jose Giants play.

She made it onto the Jumbotron a couple of times and absolutely went berserk. I had to get out my phone and text her best friend’s mom so she could let her know. Twice.

After the game, which we sadly lost after 11 innings, the littles got to run the bases.

Watching that kiddo have a great time is the best. I get all verclempt and stuff.

Sunday Scuba took his mom and my mom and me out to lunch and the opera for an early Mother’s Day celebration. (On the real Mother’s Day, we have to be at soccer at 8 a.m., and then we are driving 143 miles to take the girls to see five or six bands at the fair in Roseville because it’s close to Sophie’s birthday and her favorite human, Ed Sheeran, is performing. Taking one for the team (the kid portion of our team) this year means that next year I can probably line up breakfast in bed AND some kind of indulgent spa time, right?) Lunch was really good, the opera was even better and not just because I was the youngest woman there. I’m not qualified to bust out an opera review, but I can say that the performers were all really good actors with amazing voices and the sets and costumes were lovely, and the guy who played Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant, was especially funny. I loved it.

Near the theatre parking was $30 for the day, but we went to a garage around the corner charging $5, which is great, because have you ever bought a giant foam finger? Shit sets you back, I’m telling you.