Another Fourteen

I missed your birthday once, because of a very noble and solemn situation and also stupid Donald Sutherland, and I swore that I would never again not be there to say goodbye to the child I was tucking into bed for the last time, nor miss greeting hello with a small birthday cake and a kiss the new child I was meeting the next morning, another day older and wiseasser. 

You seem to have forgetten this, mostly I believe because at 11 you don't realize you're supposed to be keeping a running tally of all your parents' failures for your future blackmail and/or therapy. I doubt I will be so lucky in life twice, however. 

I left for Montreal yesterday, earlier in the morning than the sun even begins to wake, and so I will never know how you spent even a moment of your last day as a 13 year old. I hope you had fun. I hope you cruised around on the skateboard I bought you (with a little help from my friends, who love you as much as I do, and I just want you to know that they do) and felt like the king of the world. As far as I am concerned, you are.

I hope you enjoyed the movie your grandmother took you to see today, I hope you enjoyed talking to your father this afternoon while we sat on a French Canadian porch and tried to sort out what happens next with us. I hope you enjoyed getting your first anime books at the bookstore today, and I hope you enjoyed your first ambulance ride this evening. 

I suppose old women falling off of curbs and breaking their feet isn't the worst thing that can happen to a kid on his 14th birthday, especially if that means he gets to ride in an ambulance to the hospital with said old woman, spazzing out six year old sister, and totally-unable-to-process-current-events 12 year old brother. 

I also, with all the sincerity in my heart, would like to thank your grandmother for going to such great lengths to make sure that you'll never, ever forget your 14th birthday. You know, the one I wasn't there for. Well played, Grandma. WELL PLAYED.

I hope you know that I have laid in my hotel room bed each night and taken inventory of every minute of you. I hope you know that you are the single greatest catalyst on earth, and that everything I became when you did is because of you. 

I want you to know, even though you will think that it is oh my gawd sooo naaaasty mawm that when you fall asleep on the couch because you are so quickly becoming a man that your body simply cannot keep up, that in those moments I kiss your temple and smooth your hair and whisper in my ear that you will always be little to me, and always be loved by me, and always be every good thing in the world as far as I am concerned. I whisper that you hold a place in my heart that no one else ever could, that I don't care how quickly you are trying to outgrow my heart - it will just keep getting bigger to accommodate you. I do this because you would probably punch me a little if I said it to you awake. 

Moms always get their way eventually. We know where you sleep

You are one half of one inch away from being as tall as I am and most likely already wiser than I will ever be. You are funny at all the right times, and funnier at all the wrong ones. You have discovered the person that you would like to be, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life being able to feed and nurture and support this discovery. Every moment I know you, I stand in total and complete awe, whether it be of your aspirations or your compassion or your intelligence or that smell inside of your hats. 

When I laid in a hospital bed 14 years ago, swollen and beaten and tired and terrified, I thought I had given birth to my son. What I didn't know is that I had actually given birth to pure, unadulterated wonder, and that I would get to spend the rest of my life watching it radiate outward. 

I marvel in you. And I always will, even when I'm not right there. 

Pinky promise. 

I Can See Where Helmets and Kneepads Might Come In Handy

Every night over dinner, we all take turns saying what the favorite parts of our day were, telling about something we learned, and reading our Chinese fortunes. On the nights when baby daddy is home for dinner, we end up going off on all these tangents about the stuff they're learning because their father is a walking encyclopedia. Can't fix a garbage disposal to save his butt, but can give you a blow-by-blow recap of the war. All of the war

So we're at dinner tonight and we're talking about Shay's Rebellion which, of course, led to the creation of the Constitution which everyone knows led to the branches of government which naturally leads us to my dinner table.

My husband asks the kids, "So, who knows the name of the highest court in America?"

My 13 year old answered with no hesitation at all, "The Extreme Court."

The best part of waking up is disdain in your cup.

We overslept this morning, because it's the first day of school for a lot of you and since we're already two weeks in, which is like twenty months in school-years, we figured we'd do you all a solid and go ahead and realize that nightmare you sat up having all night, that you'd oversleep and miss all the buses and the crying and the separation anxiety this morning.

We're givers. You're welcome.

So I'm driving my sons to their junior high school this morning and we're lined up at the light that is always backed up 16 3/172 of a mile to go straight onto the highway, but what we need is the turn lane that is about to get the green signal and has exactly zero cars in. Unfortunately, we are stuck behind the white Ford dually that perfected Freudian marketing to Caucasian heterosexuals which is completely cock-blocking me from catching the turn signal, and since I'm sitting there next to a rather large church, behind a huge, bulging pickup, I do what any attendance-office fearing woman in my position would do; with arm outstretched to heaven, I start singing spir'tuals in my verybest baritone.


My 13 year old heathen turns to me, rolls his eyes and says, "Mother? Sometimes you disappoint me."

Past Future Perfect

I carried you under my skin and muscle and bone and flesh and I imagined counting the wrinkles of your hands, the crevices in between your fingers and your toes. I stared at the floor without blinking once until all the tiles swirled around and whirled into each other and when everything else was gone I was certain I could see your stocking feet pittering across the floor. When you pressed so hard against my body that I could see you tiny hand raise away from me, I would dig into my muscle to grab it and squeeze as hard as I was able so I could catch a glimpse of what it would be like to hold you.

I can't unremember that hand.

I cannot account for you in anything but centimeters and heartbeats.

I ran my hands across the crystal ball that housed you safe and warm inside of me and I dreamed visions of you a child, soft and wide eyed and wondrous. I dreamed you a man, dark and bold and tall. I dreamed you all the things I never was and never will be.

I never dreamed of this.

I cannot account for you in anything but lullabies and sonograms.

I held you every day, measuring your growth against my bones, laid bare for you. I whispered truths into your perfect ears while you slept - that you were a God, the beginning and the end, moving mountains with mustard seeds. I wrapped my battered hands around your angelic face and memorized you with every one of my senses so that I could never lose you. You push against me and I pull into you as we waltz across the rooms of our life together.

I could not recognize your hand the last time we crossed a street together.

I cannot account for you any longer.

Last night, I woke you up at 15 minutes until midnight to say my goodbyes. I climbed into your bed and stared into your sleepy eyes and thanked you for a wonderful yea...a wonderful stage of your life. I said the same words I have and will say to you every April 13th at your bedtime, that I cannot imagine a life without you, but I cannot wait to meet you new in the morning. You smiled at me the way you have and will every April 13th at your bedtime, that I have done right by you and you know with everything you are that you are truly loved.

I wrapped my battered hands around your angelic face and tried for a moment to memorize you with every one of my senses so that I would never lose you, and when I kissed your wondrous, wide eyed face for the last time I realized that the man you are becoming is greater than anything I ever could have dreamed, because you are everything I never was and never will be.

Happy 13th birthday, my son.
Portrait of a Teenager

Christmas Cards Make Everything Shit

I find myself as of late completely unable to do most of the things I've always done with effortless efficiency. Like, cook, or write, or take a picture.

It's like one day I woke up and couldn't walk. This has happened before. One day, 18 years ago, I woke up and I couldn't play the piano anymore, and I'd been playing the piano for about 10 years previous, daily. I loved playing the piano, I taught myself and was hideous to watch but delightful to hear, and I just realized that playing the piano is exactly like having sex and funny, because I woke up one day eight weeks ago unable to do that either and oh my god fuck my life.

But the weird thing was that one day I could do it, and the next day I just couldn't. I couldn't read the notes, my fingers couldn't find the keys, the peddles made no sense to me. It was selective amnesia and the part that was selected was the Theme to the Incredible Hulk sheet music. Maybe the world is better off for it, I don't know.

Lately, everything I've cooked has come out all kinds of wrong, and I've blamed the change in altitude and stocked up on Hamburger Helper just in case. And then my camera broke one day, but it didn't break in the traditional way, it broke in the I fucking hate you, motherfucker kind of way that means it actually works perfectly fine, I am just incapable of operating it anymore. Of course, I thought the settings were all jacked up and happily blamed it on that and swtiched my my phone's camera until my brother could come save the day with his amazing skillz of a hacker but oh no, he tells me it's me.  35 years, eight months and 27 days he's known me, and he still thinks it's smart to tell me things like, "It's you, Shannon; you fucked it" like I'd put clip art on it or something.

But it's me, Shannon. I have a brain full of clip art. It's shit and I can't take a damn picture to save my life right now. This is only inconvenient in that it's Christmas-time and if I don't send my inlaws a picture of my children, whom they haven't seen in, oh, years, they will team up to make my life more miserable. So I finally found one night when no one was getting grounded for the next five weeks and no one was biting all the other someones and no one was painting his toenails black and listening to Distingration on loop and I bribed them with treats to put some goop in their hair and stand almost touching each other for a few minutes.

Of course, it didn't work out so well for me, because, yeah. I can't take pictures anymore.
This one would have been really awesome if I'd only remembered how to focus on something. Anything. One thing.
And then this one was pretty awesome with the utter disdain on the face of 1/5th of my family. If only everyone mirrored it. And I'd had the right lighting.
I love this one. I love it so much I want to kiss it. She just decided we needed to pray half-way through, which is only funny because I don't exactly so much believe in god and she's seen me pray exactly never times. But, yeah, completely unsalvageable. Which, #@*%.
Or This
And this one would have been precisely what I was going for. All I had to do was make some really awful joke about myself, throw in one of the more colorful words my kids wish they could say without gnawing on a whole bar of Ivory after, and voila! Shiny happy children! Giggles and laughter! And no ones chonies were showing! It was made of WIN except it's complete shit and I can't use it.

But I have to use something. So you get to vote for one of these two:
Family Christmas Disaster #1
Family Christmas Disaster #2
I know they're not fantastic, but have you ever tried to get a five year old girl to do anything twice? These are what I'm stuck with. Which one sucks less?