On not taking what was never mine.

I'm having to learn to subdue the things I share.

It's a hard lesson for me, really. I have – for years now – been fairly unabashed about being totally frank about almost all aspects of my relatively insignificant life. I've talked about sex, boobs, money, illness, fears, embarrassment. Mistakes. Disappointment. I've lain myself bare over and over. It's been therapeutic, and I've never regretted anything I've said.

This year, though, my big kids entered the social stratosphere. Phones and accounts and the whole nine. Text message mothering is in full swing at the Steen/Marsh household, guys, and it's a beautiful thing.

But now that school is in session and I've realized how anything that I say can no doubt circle back full force on the kids, I feel a little…lost.

This blog is so special to me and I will never fully leave it behind, but the stories aren't just my stories anymore.

My kids deserve a face and a day to day that isn't sifted through for things to talk about, analyze, or recount. I want them to know that I, above all people, respect their rights to be who and what they are on their own two feet. They have always deserved this, and if I have violated this trust in the past then let this be my apology.

 

I will not go away.

I will still be a proud mom and I will probably still embarrass them with birthday posts or letters or general weirdness.

But I am saying this: Max, Ava – I will not steal your rights, whatever they are. Whether it's an experience, a breakthrough, a learning moment, or even a joy…

I will let you tell your own stories.

I hope that you do.

 

Sitting on go

I am unacquainted with standing by.

Apparently.

Since I have finished school, I've found myself at kind of a loss. For…well, anything.

I sit at home and listen to the alternate fighting and love of my children. I think of all the things I should be doing – laundry, writing, reading, cleaning. Making things to hang on the walls since they are all presently blank. Also, there is a strange conglomeration of 8-9 nails on the wall above my couch and I spend more time than I care to admit sitting and wondering what could have possibly ever hung there.

 

I've thought about grad school. But…what? What could I do? I'm thirty four damn years old and really I have no more idea of what I want to be when I grow up than I did when I was nine.

I thought about teaching. Praxis testing is expensive. And what happens if I do all that work and find myself in front of however many kids…and then I hate it?

Problem is, I got used to school. I got used to being occupied. I also have the fortune/misfortune of being married to a man who is always on the go, so many nights the kids and I find ourselves at home, existing through the night. I don't mind it, though. I have time to watch King of the Hill, talk about movies and games with Max, play 4,000 games of various substance with Lucy, or decipher Pretty Little Liars with Ava.

Then I think about what I'd want to do, given the chance.

I'd be creative, I'd have a different outlook on every day. I'd solve and make and do and be.

Or I'd be Beyoncé.

Anyway.

Enough. Enough with the thoughts.

 

In twelve more years, or the last of the offspring birthdays for the year

(Max was twelve on June 14th. Happy birthday.)

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In twelve more years, things will not be as they are now.

In twelve more years, you will no longer be my twelve year old son.

You will be twice as old as you are now.

You will no doubt be taller, broader, more of the you you’re growing into.

You will be my oldest, still.

My son.

The first to make me a mother.

maxflyIn twelve more years I wonder if I will look back to now. I wonder if I will remember your shoulder shrug chuckle and your constant interjection of usually random input. I wonder if you will still need to be told to take a shower and if you will remember your passion for Minecraft and Mario.

I hope I do.

But for now, while you are still my twelve year old son, I want you to know that I am proud of you. That I may never accomplish anything greater than I did when I gave birth to you and your sisters. That you are one of my greatest moments.

In twelve more years I will be just as proud. Prouder. Thank you for allowing me to be your mom. I will spend twelve more years watching you become a better person every day.

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Helpless

I am going to do my best to not come across as petty and whiny in this post. I realize that I am lucky to have a healthy family with a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I am grateful for this.

Davasurpriseisclaimer over.

For Ava’s birthday on Sunday, we bought her an iPhone. Not a new one, not even the next-new one. But it was perfect for her and it was exactly what she wanted. She was thrilled to be able to look at Facebook and send wi-fi text messages and take pictures.

The surprise was executed flawlessly. She was surprised and thankful.

Then, the next day – Monday – she went to rehearsal at the local community theatre.

Where her phone was stolen.

I found out about this on Tuesday morning, where I proceeded to worry for the entire day. I still haven’t stopped.

I felt powerless. I was – I AM – furious.

How dare they? How dare someone see something that belonged to my daughter – something she had waited for and hinted for and waited for some more – and just TAKE it? Her BIRTHDAY present? Something that had made her so happy?

And I can’t do anything about it. Nothing.

I realize this is a teaching opportunity. A chance to show that the world kind of sucks and things aren’t fair. A chance to enforce that things are JUST THINGS.

But she’s ten. It was a special birthday. There’s nothing wrong with being ten and having something you want, or being happy that you got it.

I was happy that – for once – we had the capacity to give her something we KNEW she would want and enjoy. And that’s okay, too – isn’t it?

Just once I would like to be able to not try to find the bright side. Just to be able to say that my kid is brokenhearted and I can’t fix it and it sucks.

A decade of you

Ava, tomorrow you will be ten.

Ten. A decade.wpid-Photo-Apr-28-2011-315-PM.jpgavapark

I remember being ten. It was strange and awkward and I was not a teenager but I SO was not a little girl anymore thank you very much.

You are amazing. You inspire me and worry me and make me so proud all at once.

I’ve said before how when I found out you were a girl I was so worried. Worried because l was so bad at being sure of myself and confident and true to the amazingness I knew I had within myself.

I won’t lie, I see some of that in you sometimes. I see you pause, unsure of your next step and timid about your choices. And in some ways, of course that’s good. You’re supposed to pay attention and question yourself.

But before it becomes too much of a question in your head, let me tell you again:

You are enough.
You are smart and capable.avaagain
You’re a leader.
You’re creative and funny, strong and so sweet.
Of course you’re beautiful, but beauty is the last thing I wish for you.

For you, my first daughter – I wish for you the imagination to find your dreams, the courage to claim them, and the strength to follow them. With every discouragement I wish you a lesson learned and the determination never to give up.

I love you, and I hope beyond hope that I will never see you doubt it.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl. I love you so much and I am lucky to get to know you. I cannot wait to watch who you become.

To my kids

As a mother, I will never think I’ve done everything right. duo

I will always worry that THIS PARTICULAR choice I’m making is the choice that you will remember in twenty years, facing a nodding voice of reason before you fill prescriptions for Zoloft or Prozac or whatever they have by then.

I will always regret the missed milestones.

I will always fear your next step.

I will forever quake in terror that you have to make your own decisions and live for yourselves.

I will eternally wonder what would have happened if….x,y,z. Fill in whatever scenario, I have wondered about it.

I will always marvel at how smart you are.

photo credit Talley Images

photo credit Addie Talley

I will always want to be your friend.

I will always respond. To letters, to texts, to phone calls.

I will always help you. Even if I’m furious at you.

I will never stop trying to make your world better.smooch

I will never understand your fashion choices.

I will always want you to be happy.

I will do whatever it takes to make your life happy.

I will love you.

Whatever may happen. Whatever you may think.

You are my heart.

Love, Mompark

First in the birthday rumble.

I am terrible at being timely with important posts, like birthday posts. My kids’ birthdays all come like ticks on a clock, so I am starting this terribly late.

Lucy. Just a few weeks ago you turned four.

FOUR.
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I would tell you how much we love you, how much joy you bring all of us and how much you shine. But we tell you every day, so I want instead to tell you about a conversation.

You told me not long ago that you had decided you wouldn’t cry anymore, because you were growing up and growing up meant being big. So no crying.
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Appreciating the sentiment but not wanting you to become a bottle of unspent emotion in your thirties, I tried to reason that line of thought out with you.

“Everyone cries sometimes, Lu. Even big people. Sometimes things are sad, or sometimes you get hurt and need to cry. Sometimes crying is good.”

You pondered this for a moment, swaying in one spot and watching your skirt swish around your scabbed knees.

“Well then mom, we can make a deal. When you need to cry you can tell me and then you can cry. And I won’t tell anybody. Then when I need to cry I can tell you and you won’t tell anybody either. And then we can both still be big.”

Deal. That’s a deal.

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I love you, my four year old. Stay this way.

Things I’ve Missed, part first

Since it’s been a sizable amount of time since I wrote regularly, there’s been some stuff that I haven’t mentioned. Big things that have come and gone and I’ve just lived through. In a way, that’s good – because now I can look back and attempt to be objective about how great, how indifferent, how scary.

My first impulse was to write a huge post and recount everything I could think of.

Then I realized that a wall of text might not be so appealing and plus BONUS, I might get some not-just-one post action out of it.

I’m relearning this stuff, guys.

Anyway, we moved.

 

Josh, me, the kids. The cat. We left Dan’s and we found a house that we think qualifies for us as the home we need.

It wasn’t an easy decision. We went back and forth and hemmed and hawed and what if’d and then that. Screenshot_2014-05-04-23-33-21_1

So much of how I saw my family had become so encapsulated in our living space. We were all so close and so present and all so CONSTANT. It was foreign to think of that as changing. But it did.

Adjusting hasn’t been easy. It’s been five months and I still catch myself thinking in terms of smashed-into-one-room living space, and there are still things that we just don’t have because we didn’t need them for four years.Screenshot_2014-05-04-23-32-57_1

Lucy’s adjustment was what I’d worried about the most, really. She had spent her whole life in our compoundish circumstance. Dan’s home was the only one she’d ever known.

I need not have worried. Once she realized that we would have a whole house of our own AND that she could still go see Dan pretty much whenever she wanted, she hasn’t looked back.IMAG0166_1And now we have formed our own unit. We are what we were, but somehow more so. My son has his own space, my girls have theirs. We are more together because we can be separate.

It was a good decision.

 

Only a month late

I’m sorry, Max.

Your birthday was over a month ago and I’m just now mentioning it on this chronicle of my thoughts.

Which is not to say that I didn’t think of it. Quite the contrary.

For eleven years, I’ve thought of you every day. It’s inescapable, really.

My firstborn. My son. It’s all very poetic.

Except lately it’s been quite obvious that you’re growing up – turning into a teenager, exerting your own brand of independence, testing waters and boundaries.

All in all, you’ve been kind of an asshole.

I know, it’s your birthday post and I shouldn’t say that – but let me expound. You are your own person. You are so like both of your parents that we are often blown away, but at the same time you’re so foreign and strange to us that we wonder what we’re doing wrong.

But then we realize that without a safe place to be an asshole, things could get kind of bad for you. For anyone, really.

Because that’s what family is. What home is. A place to let go and be awful and be unbearable and to know without a doubt that everyone there will let you be you. And love you no matter.

We do, so much.

You’ve grown so much in the past year. Your sisters adore you, even though they won’t admit it.

Your dad…you’re just like him.
Josh…I don’t know what he’d do without you to infuriate.

And me? You drive me crazy. Crazier than I already am. And I am, at the same time, simply amazed by you.

Amazed that I had any part in producing you.
Amazed that I get to know you.
Amazed that I get to see where this goes.

I love you. You are a stressful, grating, mindbendingly wonderful person. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Not forgotten

A week ago yesterday, my first baby girl turned nine.

Normally I’m on top of this kind of stuff. And Ava, because you are my daughter, you will one day look back into the troves of Internet history, you will see that in 2013 I didn’t write a post about your birthday until over a week after your birthday. You will inevitably read into this many things – neglect, ill will, suppressed resentment.

None of that will be correct. The sad and less interesting truth is that I am busy and I’m incredibly skilled at putting things off when I don’t want to face them.

And I don’t want to face the fact that you’re getting older.

I remember being young. And I don’t want you to have the moments I had. The times of being convinced that no one understood, no one cared. The preteen-erotica and angsty-poetry writing hours.

I know feeling that way is normal. And necessary.

But you’re so fantastic.

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I never want you to doubt that because at some point the way you think about yourself becomes a key part of your identity. Right now you know how amazing you are.
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Never lose that.

You’re perfect. You’ve made my life better for nine years now.
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Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I love you.