When Life Punches Your Pumpkins

Someone out there needs to read this, right now: your creative dream is worth it. We believe in you, even though it seems no one else does. 

A picture of some rotting pumpkins in Colorado

These are some of our poor porch pumpkins that have frozen, thawed and yes, been punched, by sweet little girl hands.

What you paint or draw or write matters. It’s creation, it’s beauty, it’s art.

The world needs what you make. Otherwise, the cesspool that is currently passing for our entertainment culture will continue to devolve. You need to fight the good fight.

So, hear these words, friend: Lift up your head and keep going. Write another page. Sketch another character. Write another verse. All of us in the creative community, we’re rooting for you.

Jonathan and I know creative disappointment. People ignore our emails; editors take months to respond to proposals; often the answer to our labors of love is “no.” We get it. But we keep going, and you need to, too. Even when you are exhausted and discouraged.

Take a deep breath. We recommend a good walk (Jen) or a thrashing run (Jonathan) and then get back at it—-the screenplay, the novel, the poem, the picture. Your dream is so valuable to this world.

Don’t hide it; keep going, dear dreamer. We’re with you, all the way.

Love,

Jennifer & Jonathan

We’re Jennifer and Jonathan Fenske and we write children’s books and novels, and once, we made an app for iPad. We also make baby girls, with some regularity. Visit our online store for modern art for kids, FatandAppy.com. 

Housework: I Am Not the Maid

We have this thing in our home where little pink and polka-dotted socks roll inside-out and then beach themselves all over the house, apparently in a last-ditch effort to enjoy life before succumbing to a long, slow journey to the laundry.

I find these socks, these mournful little piles of cotton, in all rooms. It’s heart-breaking. Who will take a stand and care for their lost plight?

A picture of a sock on a floor

Sometimes, pedestrians walk past without a second glance. Cold, unfeeling monsters. In cute pajamas.

photo 2-4

Oftentimes, the socks stick together against all odds, defying the inevitable, and link hands, for one last fling.

A picture of brown socks on a couch

This is life from here. Lots of little girl socks. All over the house. And a lone woman crying, “I am not the maid!” This falls on deaf ears. And naked feet.

A sample illustration from Guppy Up! by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

An excerpt from Guppy Up! by Jonathan Fenske (Penguin USA, 2013)

In Sketching Our Children I Find a Fleeting Freedom

It seems a fruitless task, the sketching of our children, for how can I in anyway capture adequately the beauty of the child that sits or sleeps in front of me?

A sketch of a sleeping child by Jonathan Fenske

P asleep

So interesting, and against my perfectionist nature, to know that my attempts will be subpar at best. But in this realization there is a release of sorts: the usual pressure to perform subsides, for these sketches will not be masterpieces, but moments thrown down to revisit at a later date, tangible proof of a special point in time after so many other points are lost to life’s too-quick passing.

A drawing of Jonathan Fenske's middle daughter

C in a rare moment of stillness

This need to capture these moments is my challenge and motivation. There are the technical aspects of course. Twenty minutes, tops, is not really much time before the daughter in front of you asks once too often “Daddy, how much longer do I have to sit still?” and you realize creation is crossing into torture for both sitter and artist.

A drawing of a child by Jonathan Fenske

Preschool P

The sleep sketches are even freer of predictability: five, perhaps ten minutes, the knowledge of a coming change pushing my pencil rapidly along. And then, the change made manifest with a snuffle and a roll, and deep sleep recovered in a different pose.

An infant sleeping by Jonathan Fenske

F, thumb firmly in mouth

But for these small swatches of time I get to look unabashedly at my children’s faces, studying, remembering, tucking away the geometry of their features. Features I now recall when they are at school, or I am on the road. Features I hope to still recall when they leave their mother and me and stretch toward the horizon of adulthood.

Sleeping child drawing by Jonathan Fenske

Yes, that is C’s ubiquitous flower blanket

As you who are parents well know, at the end of a hard day, full of sassiness and scuffles, whining and tantrums, there is a voice of despair that tells us we are underappreciated, that our failures outweigh the successes of our parenthood. Sketching my daughters is one of my releases from this voice, for as I study the peacefulness that attends their slack mouths and soft faces, I find in their letting go I am able to let go myself. Today’s slate is wiped clean. Tomorrow’s is as smooth and unlined as the calm brows of my lovely children.

Wet headed daughter sketch by Jonathan Fenske

A young P at bath time

 

A quick sketch of a sleeping baby by Jonathan Fenske

Sometimes they move too quickly

A sketch of a surprised baby by Jonathan Fenske

Sweet P

Sweet Cake

I have a thing for cakes. I really love them. It seems every story I write involves some kind of cake. My novel, Toss the Bride, had a good share of cake scenes.

Up until she rudely moved for something like family reasons, we had an amazing cake maker we called upon for every sort of occasion. Since then, we’ve drifted a bit. But we got back on track for Baby #3’s baptism party. It was a cake by Cakes by Karen and it was fabulous. They also nailed my over-the-phone instructions for “saturated colors/but more of a focus on orange and aqua/hippie-dippie/very poppy.” I mean, could I be any more of a baker’s nightmare? But like I said, they absolutely got it perfectly.

The postscript to this cake is that at 2 a.m. the day of the baptism and party, Baby #2 was rushed to Children’s with a fever that just wouldn’t abate. Diagnosed with pneumonia, she and Jonathan returned home at 5 a.m. Then we were up and dressing, ironing and wrestling the baptismal baby into her heirloom gown for a 10 a.m. service. The sick one was brought to church just to stand up front with her family and then rushed back home. The party was cancelled, of course.

And the cake? Sliced up and given to our church family. A few slices were set aside for us, and we enjoyed them immensely back home.

In Which A Visit to the Museum Is A Study in Fickleness

Denver is ridiculously blessed with wonderful cultural opportunities. We are members of the stunning Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the kids love to go there. We set out last week to see the new Lizards & Snakes exhibit. Expectations were high with our two eldest girls. Lizards! Snakes! What’s not to like?

Plenty, it turns out. Within minutes, we heard cries of “This is boring!” from our eldest who was doing her best to channel a 13-year-old (she’s six).

I am the type of museum-goer who wants to read every single word on placards and such. Regrettably, with three small kiddos, those days are long gone. By the time you read a paragraph on, say, illegal alligator poaching, your kids could be two floors down and running for the gift shop.

Nevertheless, we forced—ahem, encouraged—the girls to tour the entire exhibit. And then we headed for their favorite spot in the museum, a beautiful atrium that overlooks Denver. All in all, a good trip.