Summertime, when the living’s easy…or could be.

by Janelle Hanchett


I love summertime. I love camping and music festivals and warm nights.

Sometimes the hue of joy is slightly tainted by the sound of bickering children and my soul being sucked from my body as I look around the endless laundry pile and CONSTANT FUCKING MESS-MAKING, but the truth is we also have a pretty good time these couple months, and I have photographic evidence. Thankfully the photos are done in Instagram, where all the things look cooler, and the bickering disappears into filtered perfection.

Still, we’ve been up to some fun.

There was a camping trip to the Yuba River in the Sierras (that was the vomit trip) and one this past weekend, up north to one of the most sacred places in the world (to me, at least): Mendocino.

The best thing to happen on the trip to Mendocino was that my Ava, eleven years old, turned back into an eight-year-old for a day. She played in the creek by the campsite, built a complex fairy house for hours, proudly showing me the couch and table and walls. She spent a good nine hours over the weekend rigging up a chipmunk trap, and waiting for the damn thing to come. A couple times, it did come, but the trap didn’t work quite right. She kept trying.

I watched her like she was the best movie in the world, but one that only plays once. So remember every scene.

I have the best friends in the world.

I have friends who tell me the truth.

I have friends without kids (“childless?”) who guide me with mine, laugh and fill me up and keep my family moving along.

I have friends with kids that I love like my nieces and nephews, who I want to watch grow over years and years so we can remember trips like this one, when they were just toddlers.

I’m so grateful for my people. It isn’t lost on me what it means to have love and friendship in your life like we’ve somehow found…

building a dam, of course

girlfriends by the fire

Ava found a banana slug. She named it “Strong, Independent Slug.” She also kissed it, and put it on her face, but I saved you from that one.

dancing in the creek

so much curiosity

selfie with son

I just can’t.

chipmunk trap

blonde and beard and hug

do not get between G and her heirloom tomato

as it should be

And there was our favorite bluegrass festival on Father’s Day, at the Nevada County fairgrounds in the Sierra foothills. There were banjos and fiddles and dobros among the soaring pines and sunshine, and my little Georgia ran around in tie-dyed pants, barefoot, shirtless, dirty, in heaven.

She danced like there was no tomorrow. Ms. Joplin would have been proud.

My boy got his daddy a harmonica for Father’s Day and then the daddy said “give me a kiss” and I caught it in a photo and felt my heart explode.

Then I felt really guilty for flipping out at that daddy for forgetting a blanket. Damn, I am an insane person sometimes, you know, blowing it at precisely the wrong time, when family moments are supposed to be good and wholesome and pure…or have the potential at least…

But then there’s me, the imperfect mama who loses it for no reason, irrationally, maybe just one too many nights of not-enough-sleep, or one too many thoughts on the mind, not taking care of herself.

I realized that day that if I don’t take care of my own basic needs (health, nourishment, sleep, stress reduction) I have nothing to give my family. I guess I never understood that not taking care of myself is a really SELFISH act: I don’t feel like doing it and therefore you must suffer. You, my family. I’m impatient and irritable and you get to deal with it.

That’s selfish.

I’m going to try to turn that around this summer, when the camping trips and festivals are poppin’, and the living’s easy. Or it would be, if I’d just lighten the hell up a little more often.

We’re going to Lake Tahoe later this week, and then there’s the 4th of July, then camping again. This is good shit, people.

And I’m trying, you know, to hold all this as it is, to see through the clouds of my own exhaustion the beauty of these days, or the outline of them at least, cause that alone is sufficient to take my breath away,

particularly when there’s bluegrass involved…

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let’s make it easy.

21 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | June 24, 2013
  • Heather

    GORGEOUS pictures! Beautiful family! Wonderful summertime! I have been torn between my kids driving me insane with the “I’m bored’s” to really enjoying being able to jump in the car and take off to the pool on a hot day with no schedules. Plus…it will be over before we know it and back to the grind. Your pictures make me miss Cali so so much! I will always be a BAY girl at heart. <3

  • Heather

    and that little tomato girl is the BEST!!! Makes me want a tomato now…

  • Paula Howley

    I hear ya sister. Same goals this summer. I home school and school is out as of today.
    btw, my 7 year old daughter put a banana slug IN her mouth last month trying to crack up her brownie friends.

  • Lisa

    Oh Janelle. . . . If I get one pic, only one pic of myself with my daughter when she is Ava’s age and we look half as happy as you two do. . .. I will call it a complete success! Well hell, if we all make it together ’till she is Ava’s age (just kidding, I know we will, it’s just hard to see it some days!). You guys are beautiful and so lad you arehaving these family times together.

    And Mac and Rocket and the Harmonica. . . . . LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    To your whole post – If I say “it just doesn’t get any better” it seems like I’m judging. Like I’m saying, love it because you have to. But I’m not. I KNOW how the Mommy gets tired and not feeling cared for some times and wishes she could do a little more for herself and lives the moments a little strung out, a little blissful, a little hopeful for more rest, a little hopeful for more um, not-needingness? Not a word. Oh. Well. Not. Needingness. Sometimes.

    Thank you.

  • Tiffiny

    Beautiful! This made me cry, in all my pregnant hormonal glory and then I hate myself a tiny bit for being “that girl”.

  • Momtothree

    You’re such a hippie, girl. And I luv’ ya.
    All of ya …

  • Momtothree

    And you are soooo right about getting the self-love bit straight. I’m gonna work on that this Summer, cause is there is no reason why my crew should have to pay for the fact that neglect myself. Thank you for posting that …

  • Tina

    Those pics are precious, and the amount of dimples in your family astounding.
    I too find it hard to look after myself. How I’d love to have some me-time once in a while, but do I ever? Nope. What do I do instead? Be miserable, lounge about, waste time, and not being fun. Why do i feel guilty for every half hour I get to myself? I work 40 hours a week, and that makes me feel like I spend so much time away from my family, that I should spend every free minute with them. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? I do realise that half an hour quality time with a relaxed, patient, fun mother is worth ten times more than 3 hours with a grumpy bitch from hell. But it’s just so hard to leave that guilt behind! Bloody mama-guilt…..
    Janelle, thanks for your writing, beautiful and true as always. I wish you great camping trips and fun times with your family and lots of time for yourself, so you can be the mother you want to be.

  • Kateri Von Steal

    Blonde and Beard and Hug… is my favorite picture.

    I love your wee ones tie dyed pants!

  • Stephanie

    Looks like fun. At least you’re done with school, you don’t have anything looming over your head. I haven’t been camping in years. I used to really enjoy it.

  • Bee

    I love seeing photos of your beautiful family – stuff like this makes me want to dig myself a little deeper in the madness that is motherhood and squeeze out every last drop of the crazy.

  • Roxanna Smith

    wahhh…beautiful. thanks for writing…love it

  • Lana

    Rock on!

  • Breezy

    You have a beautiful family! Happy summer!

  • Ansley

    Favorite post, mainly bc of the pictures of G dancing!

  • lisaeggs

    Every picture is great. I want to comment on each one but that would be insane. I’ll just say that I love these pictures, especially Strong, Independent Slug and Georgia dancing. I am very guilty of not taking care of me. I’ll try too. I’ve tried before and failed many times, but I’ll really try this time. xoxo

  • Bridgette

    Beautiful, as always. Joyous, dirty, wonderful summer.

  • Shannon

    Isn’t it great when the pre teens go back to being little kids with not a worry in the world? There are sooo many times when my 11 yr old and I just do not get along. Then there are the times when that little girl, who isn’t worried about anything, comes out to play and i just look at her and think, how lucky I am! Damn you pre teen hormones! I want that little girl back!…I feel like since I’ve been all mushy in this comment I should add some sort of curse word but I don’t know which one, damn it! 🙂

  • Louise Allan

    Am loving the snippets of your family life, and am really loving your honesty. My kids are a slightly older than yours, and I’m enjoying reliving their younger days through your blog. Mothering is a tough job.

  • Kim

    Ok, don’t take this wrong but I love you! I found your blog yesterday and have spent most of my spare minutes reading and laughing my ass off. You are awesome and hilarious, and your family is pretty freaking cute too. That’s is all.

  • Jessica

    So glad I found your blog. I have four of my own 11,9,7 and 4 and was trying to go back to get my MA in teaching when I had what can only be described as a breakdown in January. That not taking good care of myself thing. I’ve read all the books and worked so hard for so long to be what I judged to be this great mother, wife, daughter, etc. Then when it comes down to it I’m still me, the party girl who spent 5yrs as an undergrad to get a Social Work degree. Anyway, keep posting your blog is like the glass of wine I feel I desperately need sometimes but know I can’t keep in the house:)