Grandmother 

I remember swirling dishwater around your stainless steel sink, standing on a stepstool and holding a tiny wooden mop. 

    

Andes mints in the stiff and prim living room, dancing to “You Can Fly” and “Bare Necessities” while you clapped and watched. I think of you every time I watch Peter Pan or Jungle Book. 

Digging mud rivers with your flatware, rivulets of water and slopped mud into pie tins with clover and grass for garnish on top. I would bury piles of pennies wrapped in Kleenex – and then when I went digging to retrieve my treasure I would never be able to find them. Once you let me be a tree surgeon to get sweetgum sap and even though I’m pretty sure I killed that tree, you were never anything but proud. 

You always cleaned me up and gave me something else to do. You bought me clothes and you were a person who actually used the powder in those big frilly tins people keep on their bathroom shelves. 

  

You taught me to crochet and I made chains upon chains, garland for my room and decor for your mantelpiece. We pressed flowers and went for walks. You would always tell me about the things that would be mine when you were “gone,” even though I never really understood what that meant. 

You turned 92 this week. 

You don’t know us anymore. 

We gathered around your hospital bed last night, singing happy birthday. You sang along and watched us all, happy we were there but without a clue as to why. You wore a tiara and smiled at us. Someone had painted your fingernails pink. I’ve never seen you with painted nails. 

I don’t visit you like I should. I know that. It’s selfish of me. But I like to think you understand. If there’s any part of you left inside, I hope you can see why I would rather hang on to you as all sass and instructions. 

  

I’m probably wrong. You’d probably tell me to get my bottom to that nursing home more, show you pictures and tell you about my kids. And then when I didn’t you’d throw your hands up and shake your head, like you used to do when I made a mess and giggled about it. 

I love you. I’m sorry I don’t tell you more, but I think somehow you know. Happy birthday. 

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.

 

Because of my heart

Years later, I still wonder about us.

How we’ve made it work, even when it hasn’t.

How I can possibly despise and adore you, sometimes within minutes – seconds – of each other.

Every year I remember how lucky I am to have had you for another calendar spin. With every tick of your old man clock, I am reminded of what we share every day.

People are in our lives. Everyone has people. People you see daily, people you talk to and interact with and share whatever.

But I get to share your life. Night times, deadlines, events, accomplishments. Anticipation, elation, worry and disappointment. Dirty socks and broken shoes. Car trouble and bill paying, raises and check cashing. Frustration and forgetfulness, small victories. Large victories.

Curly blond fireball tear fits, video game lessons and front seat companionships.

First tries, second tries. Last tries.

You are the first person I want to tell about anything, everything.

You are the opinion I trust and the approval I seek most.

In everything I do I see you.

We have experiences ahead. Things that will be difficult and things that we never thought we could do.

But when we do them, it will be together. And I’m so lucky to have that.

 

You’re my best friend, you’re the love I never thought existed, and it’s your birthday.

I love you.

Happy birthday.

 

 

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

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

maxtommy

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.

maxgraffiti

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.
image

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.

image

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

Three years

I have three kids, you know.

The youngest is this strange being who is perpetually tiny and soft, sweet, and totally liftable and cuddly.

Except- she's not.

Today my baby is three.

Three as in too many scoops of ice cream, too many sugars in your tea. Numbers in your credit score.

I never thought I'd have three kids – and then I did. And now the one I never expected is getting to be an actual person. Thoughts and feelings and personality out the wazoo.

Lucy, you have done so much for me. For your daddy. For our lives. You took everything I expected and turned it on its head in ways we never thought of.

For all the ways I fall short – I don't know what to do with curly hair, I don't really put much stock in matching socks, I let you marinate your stinky feet in rubber galoshes and I probably introduced you to Family Guy way too early – I'm sorry. I try to be what you need, because you were and are everything our family needed to be complete.

I will spend the rest of forever helping you become whoever it is you are meant to be – because you have made us all everything we are.

Happy birthday, Lucy Grace.

 

We love you so. I can't wait to watch who you will become.

 

The rest of away

It’s taken me a bit to somewhat process this past weekend.
(Side note, I’m watching Teen Mom 2 and this is the second one of these dumbass girls I’ve watched act like an invalid after her boob job. What the actual hell is the matter with me, watching this nonsense?)
Anyway, we spent the weekend at my first comic convention. I was prepared and not prepared – I mean, I’ve watched the documentaries and the sitcoms and read articles, nerds are weird. I know this.
But it was a good opportunity for the podcast, so I went. With Prozac. Prepared to network and schmooze.
While there’s lots to tell you about the weekend in general (like hello awesome food!, and being in the same room as Billy Dee Williams’ pee, and the time I thought I might see a man die and I acted anything but admirably), right now I want to focus on the actual event.
How it was stinky. Crowded. Germy. Confusing. And absolutely spectacular.

We had preordered our tickets (which was my first time ever to use Passbook on my phone, and I totally felt like the Jetsons with my virtual roboticket), so there wasn’t much of a wait to strap on some armbands and stand in line with pretty much every variety of person on the planet.

Seriously, this was as good as people watching gets. Costumes and pajama pants, stilettos and flip flops, and absolutely everything else imaginable. Spandex. Sequins. Feathers. Rubber. Metal. Cardboard. Want to wear some ears and a tail? Awesome. Top hat? Help yourself. Flippers with no other hint of a costume? Have some nachos.

And yeah, they stunk. Some of them did. Some of them smelled fantastic – particularly these two chicks who I’m fairly absolutely concretely certain were prostitutes. But they were all so… connected. It was such a community of all these people who mostly didn’t know each other. There was trust in so many iterations – from the toddler in his Iron Man outfit who won a sword fight with a Stormtrooper to the mom of two in her steampunk corset and bustle who didn’t give a shit what you thought about her cellulite. It was freeing just to be there, to be able to take in the attitude of acceptance.

And also…the talent. It was a grab bag of you-pick-it eeney meanie miney holy balls. I have never been in tossing distance of so much ability in my life. It was amazing and humbling and completely exciting. I still don’t really have the right words.

I am not and never have been what anyone would call a cool person. I’m not with it or hip or anything the kids like these days. And in theory, neither were these people, right?

I mean, according to the movies and high school and anything I ever learned from band camp, these are the punch lines, right? The nerds, the geeks, the people who don’t fit in.

Except these people were amazing. They were real and colorful and…themselves.

That’s it. That’s what it was.

There was no apology in any of this past weekend. No one was sorry for being whoever it was they wanted to be. It was open and obnoxious, and the most authentic experience I’ve ever had.

I met some amazing people. Made some connections I will treasure. Hopefully some of the people I met will take a turn to post here sometime soon, and I’m excited about that.

For now though, I’m still sorting through everything I learned this weekend. About myself, about my world. About comic books and zombies. About how lucky I am to realize that just because there’s no one like me doesn’t mean there’s anything to change about me.

***all photos used with permission, courtesy of Keith Reed, whom I found on the Twitters.

 

Embracing the kook within

Historically I have never been what you would call a joiner.

It's all too much, man. Too much work.

It's why I don't have friends. It's why I find my own things and bury myself in them. Hell, it's why this blog has not died a raging fiery inferno death – because I do it whenever I please and big middle finger when I don't.

But my husband, he's a joiner. He gets all up IN all kinds of shit. And he does it because he's good at it. I support that. How could I not? It makes him happy. Happy him, happy me.

So in a grand gesture of solidarity and total outside-my-comfort-zone-ness, I am donning my brand spanking new JustUsGeeks tshirt, hauling around my weight in purple bluish memefont flyers, and going to a comic & toy convention.

Yeah, that's right. You heard it here first.

 

But you know what's crazy? I'm excited. Like, stupid excited.

So by the time you read this, Josh and The Guv and I (Catch that? Did you? Yeah, I said my name and his name but not Lucy's name. More on that later.) will be tooling off toward Kentucky. Or, well, Friday morning. So whenever you read this in relation to Friday morning. Because I think I'm going ahead and publishing this tonight.

 

See it? It's already happening. DARING.

Wish me luck!

And lo, in the year of our lord 2013

 

I thought about this post all weekend, but I failed to come up with anything particularly spectacular.

Last month my sister had a baby.

This is nothing new, I mean I have a niece and nephew already – and not to sound too crass, but I mean, my kids are the shit so my nieces and nephews can't be too far from.

My sister recently(ish) remarried. A nice, normal guy who loves the piss out of her and is nice to people besides her, which is sometimes a rarity. He's a good egg. And when I found out they were having a baby I could not have been happier – for her, for him. For me because babies.

Children are spectacular, we all know. But having a child with someone you love with all your being and who loves you right back? That's…not even something words can touch.

I wanted that for her. And so when news of little Parker came along I knew what she was in for and I couldn't wait.

The weekend after her son was born, we went to visit.

He was everything I wanted him to be.
He was tiny, he was sweet.
He had her fingers and feet and his daddy's mouth.
He snuggled in my niece's arms like he already knew where he belonged.
He was – he is – perfect.

So for now I'll spare you the tales of my empty uterus and how SURELY I might have another little boy and holy crap he'd be so amazing and cuddly and little and ohmahgahbabies.

No, for now we can just say that my sister's family is complete. And that there is a little bundle of squiggly baby sized love who knew just where he needed to be, and he will probably never know how much joy he brought with him into the world.