Monday, September 27, 2010

The Reality of my Reality

    I'm on the verge of entering the unknown...

      I think the original reason I started this blog was to keep a record of all that is currently going on in my life so that one day when I'm rich and famous ;) I can look back on the journey. The back story is a way of making it all make sense as well as a little bit of therapy for me on the side. I was going to save a lot of what I'm about to write for later when I had more certainty, but I think if I am being true to this process and an active part of this journey, I am just going to have to let things hang out as they come. That said, the following is the story of my current collision course with reality television.

     Of all the questions I get from people regarding the size of my family about religion and sex and various other astounding things, I think the one about when we are getting a reality TV show might be the least offensive. Let's face it. If you met a woman with 2 kids you wouldn't dream of asking her if they were all from the same man, would you? Or if she was Catholic? In fact, if a woman has (only) 2 children, those might actually be offensive things to question. For whatever reason, people abandon courtesy in exchange for curiosity when you have a family the size of mine. Another favorite is "Are you done?" as if the absolute offensive nature of my overpopulating the world can only be curbed by my promise to quit doing so.
And for the record, I don't know if I'm done. I feel like I might be. We have very little money and very little time left, but the idea of #9 doesn't make me want to rip my uterus out. (It might make Mark want to rip my uterus out, but...) So with that I shall say maybe. Things would need to change quite a bit first, and I would try like hell to get a little girl (oh, yes, there are some ways) because the testosterone level in this house is starting to get ridiculous. (And girls have cuter clothes.) But I'm getting way off course here. Back to reality.

     I'm pretty sure Camber just sat down next to me and said "Your mama".

     Ok. So "When are you guys getting your own reality show?" I hear it all the time. Just read the following conversation between myself and an old band mate of Mark's with whom I have just reacquainted:

Patrick Henry Tom September 15 at 8:33am Report
Hi Dia, thanks for the well wishes. Hope everything is great on your end. Wait, how many kids do you have now?

Cheers, Patrick
Dia O'Brien Smith September 15 at 12:32pm
LOL! 8! And Mark and I are grandparents!!!! CRAZY!
Patrick Henry Tom September 15 at 7:52pm Report
There's a hit TV show right there. Mark & Dia + 8 and then some - OR - 40 and Grandparents.

     The funny part is this was the first time someone mentioned it to me since the reality of my reality began.

     Now when was it? I suppose it was the weekend of my high school reunion the 14th of August. Don't I look adorable???

     A little sun burnt from the southern California beaches and a little tipsy, but not quite as drunk as the folks behind me! By the way, that's Lee and Rose with me and I think the 3 of us are aging quite well, agreed? So it was the morning of the 14th I got the first message via Facebook. It was from a production company interested in our family for a reality show. I remember getting the message really early in the morning because I have a hard time sleeping in a new place the first night so the hotel bed and I weren't getting along. I took one look at my phone and thought "HELL NO!"

     Now you may wonder why. And it's simple. I want to keep custody of my kids. Can you really imagine letting your parenting be seen by the masses? Maybe if you live like the Duggers, ok. But if you're normal and battle through the poopy asses and screaming, crying angry little flesh balls from day to day counting the hours until you feel it's ok to crack open a bottle of wine and drink til you like them again, then yeah, you have to think about whether or not you want this filmed. There are days when the Pamper on the baby weighs 5 lbs because I forget to get to it soon enough. I think my sons fingernails are longer than mine right now. It's a challenge to raise kids. It's a challenge to find yourself while you're raising them, and sometimes it shows. Luckily it's behind closed doors. So did I want to dance with the Devil? I paused. For a while. I didn't even mention it to Mark until later that day because I was already resolved not to do it. When I finally did tell him, we laughed a little and just set it aside thinking "Yeah, right."

     That night, we went to the reunion which was fun and odd at the same time. People my age are weird. For those of you who don't know, I'm 38 on the 16th of October. This was my 20 year reunion. (YIKES!) People just act a little strange. Everyone wants to impress everyone.. well, maybe I shouldn't say everyone. But some people did. And here I am just smiling and saying "My house is being foreclosed on and I'm finally happy after 3 years." It's funny the perspective you gain when you really get stripped down to your core of what matters. I remember answering someone who asked me why I had so many kids with: "Because I like sex" only to be looked at like I had the plague and walked away from. Once the alcohol started flowing people got more real, at which point I got buzzed and had a blast! Best part was watching one of the most popular stuck up girls in high school get tanked and seeing her husband trying to get her sloshy ass out the door. Classic. I found an old friend with whom I doubt I will ever lose contact again and so for that reason alone, the $204 I spent on tickets (!!!!!) was well worth it. Still, all the while throughout the evening, the message I received earlier lingered.

     The next day we took the whole family to meet some friends at the Redondo Beach Fun Factory (a must see for anyone who wants a simulated acid trip) and I mentioned the message to one of my best friends, Jeff. I think this may be the turning point. He seemed all for it. His attitude was that no one on TV is like us and that we may be able to strike a chord (is it cord?) with people that other reality families don't. He said I am more like "Roseanne" and would you believe it? I laughed and took it as a compliment. I began really thinking about doing this thing.

     A few days later, we did a Skype interview. My family was typical. Crying, interrupting, laughing. I think I breastfed the baby on camera. Winnie busted out her "Butch" character who is a lesbian supermodel with a pet iguana named Angie. You know, the usual. The interview went well and the everyone seemed to really like us. The project was going to be a one time deal and I figured if nothing else,  it might get Ashley out to visit from Germany. And that was it. A sort of "We'll be in touch."

     The next week was crazy as I struggled to get 3 kids enrolled in their new schools. Not all of the records I had were complete. Winnie needed to see a dentist. There was the usual onslaught of supplies to be purchased: crayons, scissors, glue, backpacks along with classroom items such as Kleenex and paper towels.  Their schedules were all over the place for the first week and we were also heading back to Los Angeles for a wedding the following weekend. I did manage to get out the photos of my home that they requested:

 Prep area of kitchen

Dining area

Our bedroom (Cam's crib in back)

Boys' room

Back yard

Living room

     It was at this point I didn't hear much from them at all. 

     Life went on.  

     On Monday, the 13th of September I received word that they were perhaps interested in more. I think something inside me always knew that things would eventually go this direction. Does that sound arrogant? It isn't meant to be. I just know how totally kooky this group is. How utterly real, and odd, and hilarious the people I am surrounded by really are. And how I, as the person responsible for making them, am the biggest nutter of them all. And most of all, when you really break it all down, how truly unique and special this family and my marriage are. Once in a lifetime.

     So Mark and Dia plus 8 (plus 10??)  I am guessing it will be a pretty different show. For one, we have 8 kids of various ages, which gives us teenagers, a tween (can you say pain in the ass?) and a newborn along with a grandson in the mix. Second, and I think the most important thing about why we would be entertaining to watch, we are pretty damn liberal. (Duh.) We are raising kids in San Francisco, teaching them tolerance for all people and raising them to understand that gay marriage is the civil rights movement of our time. We don't go to church but if we did, and we may, it wouldn't be a Christian church but a completely non-denominational church that truly accepts everyone. We are home birthers but not hippies. I like the idea of organics but my wallet likes the idea of ramen. However, even with all of this, we are still completely normal and completely real.  We occasionally swear and flip out in front of them. I yell, I cry, I drink, I laugh. I have learned how to tune-it-out to the extent that it should be considered an art form. My husband stresses more than me and is by far the more uptight of the two of us, but I think at times it's what strikes the balance. And yeah. He can really piss me off. We laugh and say completely inappropriate things, but most of all, we crazy love each other. (Except for Taylor. He occasionally thinks we're swell.) We  have been to hell and back and made it to the other side. America could end up watching us lose our house, but we aren't alone. All of these things put together could make for great TV, don't you think?

     So there lies the account of the reality of my reality. I can't say much more for now until the deal is sealed, (cross your fingers) but I will continue to reverse and tell you all more about my past life as well as keep you current on the day to day craziness that is the Smith house.  If we are signed, I will be free to blog away and plan to tell you all then everything that is going on. I hope you enjoy!

     One last note. I've been through a lot in my life. I am grateful to have this man by my side and these children at my feet. The past 3 years almost robbed us of all of it, but we are standing tall. This could really change our lives. We hope it does. Maybe this is our time; time for a nice warm current to come our way  in what felt like an ocean of sadness, distance and pain. We hope you will support us as we take the plunge!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Calgon, take me away!

 I'm hiding in my bathroom on the verge of beating my head against the wall...

     Shaylon is screaming and making Camber cry. Avion is refusing to eat and because he has thrush I have horrible open sores on my nipples so I can't nurse him (TMI???) but he hates the bottle and the formula so he's wailing. Winnie is singing like a damn cat in heat from upstairs while Taylor "Sings" in his bedroom. (This consists of low guttural grunting and screaming sounds on top of obnoxiously loud.. ehem... music.) Declan is in the worst melt down mode of them all. He is so tired from not being able to sleep last night and is just yelling about everything. Apparently the card game is stupid and my parenting is unfair. This is being chanted at the decibel level of a mac truck overturning on the highway. Taren is quiet. I think I will give her a cookie. 5:37pm. Is it too early to start drinking? And how much wine is inappropriate to chug directly from the bottle? Does it make me any less of a lady? All I know is that Mark is taking me out for a bit tonight, end of story. Oh. Excellent. Someone is yelling that they are now "Telling" and the sound is getting closer by the second. My hiding place is revealed. Shaylon has been kicked in the throat. Time to go. My TV has been hijacked, but on a good note I did manage to hear Tim Gunn say, just as Taren was tuning in "Sunny with a Chance" on the Disney Channel, that Jackie O would never have a camel toe. That's enough to get me through bed time!

For your enjoyment. Must have sound :)

Wait a minute.. back this thing up!

     So I have to catch you up don't I? There really won't be any sense going on from here unless I can fill you in on where I have been. (Long sigh) I really do hate talking about the last 3 years. Before I go there, let's cover the basics. I'm Dia. 37 years old. I have 8 children and a great marriage to a fabulous man named Mark. I'm not Catholic or Mormon, I own several television sets and yes. I totally know what's causing it. They're all mine and as for a reality show......??
Only time will tell. I grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles (Though, according to Daniel Tosh, Torrance doesn't really count) and moved to Chicago 11 years ago to a small town in the Northwest suburbs called Barrington which is slowly becoming the suicide capital of the country. Seriously. There are many other gossipy tidbits about the general ins and outs of my life, but why open all the presents at once?

     Until 3 years ago I pretty much had it all. Kids. House. Picket fence. One dumb cat. A minivan. Yearly vacations to Disney World and so on. And then some asshole (can I say asshole here?) decided he clashed too much with Mark at work and fired him just before the total collapse of the economy. We had just had our 6th child and purchased our second home. Mark looked for work but hey, if you aren't aware of how shitty things are for people right now you are either related to Steve Jobs or a Canadian. Luckily, I possess a fabulous skill that allows me to find work even when the economy slows. The ever glamorous job of waitressing. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's great work; fast money and you get to meet a lot of cool people, but at my age you start to feel like the old hag at the diner that just never really amounted to anything. Also, I'm starting to hate people the older I get so it just doesn't feel like a good line of work to be in anymore. But times were tough and so I needed to be as well. I hooked a job at the Improv comedy club in Chicago and off I went. One note here. It's not really in Chicago it's in Schaumberg but that just sounds terrible so they erased the 30 something miles between the building and the city and called it what they liked.

     The first year of the last 3 was ok. Mark and I seemed to handle it and he was interviewing all the time so the prospects looked good for him. Oh. I suppose you need to know what he does. Mark is a pornographic film producer..... just kidding. He makes video games. Hold on a second. There is a child whining at 1am so I either need to start drinking or start swinging.

     Ok. I am back. I put bad Dia away and read a short story to him, kissed him good night and shut off the light. See? I can be a good mommy! Where was I? Mark's job. Ok. So the industry is really prominent on the west coast and as a result he finally got hired, after a year of searching, by a company in San Francisco. On May 7, 2008 he packed a bag and moved. I stayed behind with the kids and the house. Oh, and I was 4 months pregnant with #7. Now, before we all start judging... the one given in all of this is that I have kids. And I am always pregnant. Got it? Nothing is funny if that information changes so lets not ask questions as to why I was still having children under those circumstances. I just was. So Mark left and the falling apart of my life began. Oh and just to make things more interesting, our 16 year old daughter informed us the night before Mark left that she was having a baby. Yippeeee!

     So year 2 started off with a bang. Literally. My daughter was having a child. My husband was gone. And now the house wasn't selling. Enter baby #7. Mark made it for the birth and left 9 days after Camber's arrival. I got depressed. I drank too much. The kids and I started fighting. My eldest daughter moved out and then back in and I think out and in once more before she had her son. The boyfriend moved in too. So in case you're a little slow here, that's me and count 'em... 9 kids! I worked pretty late most nights (such is the life in a comedy club) and sleep was a thing of the past. It was hard to cope with all that had changed in my life. And we were stretched financially as well. I worked too much and the older kids had to take care of the younger ones so I could do so. Blah. I bought a dog.

     By the beginning of the 3rd year of the collapse of my universe I think I was clinically depressed. I hate winters. Chicago is not a good place to be for a person like me. Mark and I were fighting. The kids and I were fighting. My friends and I were fighting. I was fighting with my boss (Yes, I recognize the common denominator here) and so on. Folks, it really sucked. Mark made it home every other month for just a few days and in hindsight I realize that I felt very abandoned during that time. Very alone. Very unappreciated by everyone. Can I go as far as to say I felt sorry for myself?

    And then damn U2. That's all I can say. Mark and I are really big U2 fans. (More on HOW big later- it's like nerd big.) Mark came home one weekend and we went to the 360 concert. Some wine, some Bono, some lovin and enter #8. Woops! Never a dull moment. The pregnancy is really when things hit bottom for me. I was miserable by this point. Can we just leave it at that? I was miserable. I wasn't the best mother I could be. I wasn't the best wife or friend or even just the best Dia for that matter. Let's leave it there.

     And now for the upside. In May Mark and I decided to give the house back to the bank and reunite our family. I left Chicago on May 21st and made it to Alameda, Ca on June 7 with an extra human to boot! Avion was born 15 days early and added quite an adventure to our move. As I said, never a dull moment. So this is enough to get us all going. Now just sit back and enjoy the ride!