Monday, October 25, 2010

Beam me up, Scotty!

     Before I continue with my semi-depressing yet swear-on-my-life-it-will-have-a-happy-ending post titled "Falling in love with life again", I want to interject with my rant on some recent events.  

I'm on the verge of never leaving the house again... 

     Having just returned from another glorious 14 hour road trip (both ways) to Los Angeles, I can honestly say that traveling with even just 6 of them totally sucks. Someone needs to invent that thing on Star Trek so we can beam ourselves everywhere we want to go. Travel would be fast, and we could even check in on our left-behind teenagers from time to time. But, alas, it's me and a car full of whiners.

     Now, I have to interject with something because I can already hear you saying "If life is so hard with this many, then why did you have them?" Fair question. We did this to ourselves. We aren't like Jon and Kate who got thrown 6 at once. We could have stopped this nonsense many humans ago. So for the record, I adore these people and my life absolutely rocks because of them. I would have it no other way. That said, if you have kids and don't think they are a total pain in the ass at times, then you're doing something wrong; have them tested for lithium abuse. I come here to vent about the moments of pure chaos, not the in between times when they are perfect angels and doing everything right. Let's face it. it's just not that interesting, and no one gives a rat's ass about a child getting an 'A' on her spelling test. It's moments like being flipped off by your tween as you drop her off for school this morning that are entertaining. (Oh, yes. that happened.)

     But where was I? Ah, yes. Traveling. Having lived for so long away from the place I truly call home, I am trying to get out to the real South Bay as often as I can. My best friends live there and my Mom and Dad are a stone's throw away. We've managed to make the trip about once a month and this last weekend was the October installment. The plan was to leave at 9am on Thursday getting us to our hotel in Torrance by check-in time at 4pm. Reality-11:45am we got on the road. This was a failure of parenting 101- lower your expectations. We did manage our best time yet of 6.5 hours door to door due in part to a gadget which allowed me to plug my electric breast pump into the cigarette lighter. Side effect of doing so? Every trucker on route 5 has seen my boobs. And not a pretty version of them either (does that exist after 8 kids?), but rather them being contorted into the shape of a cone as they are sucked into a vacuum. Serves those boys right for looking. We stopped once for food which was In-N-Out and gave Declan a tummy ache. There would be many more stops from this point on. 

     Check in is never easy. Even without the dogs, who were supposedly being watched by my idiot 17 year old (more on this in a bit), our car was brimming with stuff. How many things does Avion need to be carried in or sit upon? Apparently quite a few. We got a pretty decent room on the 2nd floor overlooking the pool. This would prove to be a negative, however, when the 3rd noise complaint came through on day 2 and we were forced to move to a ground-floor room in a different building. The woman below us didn't seem to appreciate the drum beats the boys were making with their feet. Go figure. 

     Thursday night was perfect. Sushi and karaoke with some nearby friends and a trip out to Hermosa 2nd street, where I basically lived every summer of high school. There's something about being on the beaches of the Pacific; the vast empty grey stretching out as far as your eye can see while the wind force feeds you its salty perfume. Almost heaven. ( I totally want to write: "West Virginia. Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah River" If you're under 35, just copy and Google.) 

     Now, for some reason the kids have started to really use what every parent obnoxiously calls "Potty mouth". So a good portion of the weekend was trying to curb things like:

     Taren to me- "Shaylon won't stop grabbing his junk" 

     Ok. The first time I heard it, I laughed, too. But after the 4th or 5th time, it was getting a little too white trash for me and time to call it quits. Declan said the 'F' word and then tried to tell me it was the other F word, quickly making up a random series of "ffffffhiieehrr" noises. He took a time out. Now I know what you're thinking. How can I expect them not to use bad language when I have my moments right in front of them? Simple. I am the Mom. It's not an equal world and somewhere along the line we as parents forgot this. They can't do the things you do because they are kids! One of the perks about being an adult is that you get to do whatever you want and they don't. Didn't you wait all your life for this moment? Don't you remember when you thought you would eat cake and ice cream all day and night once you were the grown up because you could? Well, saying fuck is my cake. And they can't have any. It's not like I use it on a regular basis. I don't pick them up from school and ask "How the f**k was your day?" But I don't deny myself the occasional slip. They totally understand that you can't say those words and for the most part, the don't. Declan prefers the all annoying "Uuuuuuuuuuuuugh" (Insert rolling eyes and crossed arms here) and Shay just likes to whine. 

    So overall, despite a few typical set backs, the actual time in Torrance went off without a hitch. As usual, we robbed the hotel blind on their free breakfast and spent a lot of time at the pool. And then came the dreaded repacking and drive back up to San Francisco. 

     Sidebar- Are handicapped stalls only for the handicapped? It says "Handicap accessible" on the outside, not "Handicap only". Are you with me? We stopped at McDonald's somewhere in the God forsaken San Juaquin Valley because Taren and I really needed to go. There were 3 stalls and one was occupied so she and I took the other two; hers just happened to be the handicapped stall. When we got out, there was a small line which included an elderly woman with absolutely no upper teeth. This is irrelevant to the story, but kind of funny for visual imagery. She isn't in a wheelchair, she's just waning toward decrepit. So there we are drying our hands under the air blaster when I notice she's talking in my direction. I then wait for the blower to cease only to be bombarded by her complaints regarding my daughter's use of the handicap stall. I kindly said "It's ok to use them when there is no one else here." She kept going. I told her for a second time that there was no one in the bathroom when we arrived and that my 8 year old really had to pee. More complaining. If she had no bottom teeth would her gums actually make a flapping sound? I finally told her that she could have been done going to the bathroom by now and happily munching away at her Big Mac (It's ok. I think it's soft enough for her) back at her table with whatever pour soul brought her here. She then begins to rummage through her purse telling me she has her sticker with her like I actually give two shits. When did I become the bathroom police? And when did they start requiring you to present a sticker in order to pee? Finally, she looks at me and with all sincerity and says "Well, you made me wait!" To which I replied "Yes. It's called real life." Slap me if I act this when when I'm 90.

     Dinner on the way home was at some odd pea soup place with a windmill and a bathroom larger than my whole house. The kids got spaghetti and ice cream sundaes. We found two hairs in them. Time to leave. Tipped 15% for the first time in quite a while.

     Ok. New segment. Lesson- Tipping is a standard 20% and should go either up or down from there based on performance. Yes, folks. 20%. If the service is over the moon, go up to 25. If it is so-so (i.e. hair in your ice cream, no discount on said ice cream, but otherwise decent service) down to 15%. And for those of you that don't tip. You suck. You should work in the service industry at least once in your life. Done.

     Now the fun part of the trip actually came when we got home. Teenagers are assholes. Period. Ashley has outgrown her assholishness, but Taylor is livin large in the thick of it. Out of either hope or sheer stupidity, we allowed him to stay home alone for the weekend and take care of the dogs. Win-win. He gets to prove himself and we get our dogs looked after. He had a few chores he needed to do (clean the kitchen, empty the garbage and then maintain things), but otherwise, the house was his. I was about 2 feet in the door when the smell hit me. It was a sickening combination of Axe body spray and rotten food making my eyes actually water as I held back the urge to gag. The kitchen was destroyed. The unemptied garbage still contained raw sausage from Thursday morning. I knew where the rotting part of the stench came from. The Axe, on the other hand, was coming from the living room where he attempted to use it to spray what I can only describe as a North Korean-sized army of ants into demise. When this didn't work, he turned to Pledge. The floors are now 1/2 inch thick with oily lemony ant carcasses. Shaylon slipped on his butt. And where's Taylor? Oh, he's sleeping. Wake him up, tell him to help unload the car which he does quickly in order to return to his room and get on his computer. Mark notices that said computer, bought for him as a gift by another family member quite recently, is different. Douchy tells him he sold that one. BTW- it isn't even paid off yet. By now I'm growing furious at the condition of my kitchen and tell Mark to just make Taylor come up and deal with it. Taylor refuses, citing stress. The talking turns into yelling and Winnie and I can make out words like "I don't care" and "Asshole" coming from his room. I opened the Barefoot sauvignon blanc. Mark and I decide that it doesn't matter. We will clean it up and never leave him alone again. This morning I found a used condom on my bathroom floor.

     Well, at least he didn't make me a grandma again.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Falling in love with life part 2

     You know, the downside to raising your kids to handle hearing the word "penis" without freaking out is that said child will use the word penis any and every chance he gets. Yesterday:

Declan at 8am looking out the car window- "That dog's penis is bouncing."
4pm at Trader Joes- "Mom, if I have an itchy penis do I need cream?"
6pm at home. Singing at the dinner table. "Penis penis penis."
Time to ban the word penis.

     I am still on the verge of falling in love with life...again...

     When I ended my last blog by saying I've never looked back, I wasn't entirely accurate in that statement. Aside from obvious connections to friends in Chicago, the only even remotely sad part about walking away from my old life and putting my family back together is the loss of our beautiful home. (God knows I won't miss the weather.) Foreclosure sucks. I try not to think about the damage my credit score (once 750) has taken from all of this. Perspective, Dia. We are all together. But 614 Division St. in Barrington, Illinois is a little slice of architectural heaven. The saving grace in this is that we decided to leave. Unlike so many unfortunate Americans, the foreclosure is not a decision the bank made for us. But the outcome remains the same.

     2 weekends ago we had a yard sale. Having moved a 5 bedroom with a full basement into a 4 bedroom with no basement had left us a little cramped, and so it was time to shed the layers. It was also time to let go of some of the things that were holding me to that house more than I needed to be. After all it is just stuff, right?

     We started unpacking the final boxes crammed into our currently unusable laundry room Friday evening. Since we had been here for more than 4 months, the basics for living had already been unloaded. These boxes held the magical nick-nacks and miscellaneous items that turn one's house into a home: Plaques that read "Dream" or "Believe", shelves that once held tiny pictures of a first kiss, or a first bath. Countless Polynesian pieces painstakingly acquired over several years to create the perfect island paradise in my girls' room. Initially, everything went into the "keep" pile. It felt good to put them there. But even I knew the time was coming, and when Mark finally said we had to whittle it down, I reluctantly dived in. The thing about my house in Illinois is that it was 100% me. Not only in terms of style, but I mean literally, I built every cornice, sewed every curtain, painted every wall. I even built the ornate wainscoting in my bed and dining rooms, and installed 2 toilets, 2 sinks, 2 floors, a dishwasher and a water line. And when I say I did this... I mean I did this. Often while PREGNANT! Don't ever let Mark tell you he's the handy one :) I can use a miter saw, a circular saw, a jigsaw, a nail gun, I know what Teflon tape is for, I understand how to install crown molding. Properly. I built the planters under our outside windows and painted the shutters the periwinkle blue I became so fond of. I planted a garden, built and installed a children's playset and helped my dad add our 5th bedroom to the basement. It was my baby and I loved it. Just typing this makes me miss it so much. If I could have one wish right now, it would be to transplant it right where I am sitting so that I don't have to lose it. But it's not to be, and very soon, the foreclosure process will begin. 

The small umbrella cherry blossom tree is planted over 3 of our kids' placentas. It blooms the same time of year they were born.

It only took me 11 times to paint this room. Yes, I said 11. Apparently I don't like green.

My bedroom where both Shaylon and Camber were born.

The girls' room.

Dining room

Boys' room

Mark and I had several fights building that thing! LOL!

My favorite time of year in our home.

     It's weird. Just looking at these pictures makes me feel like that is my home. I have yet to feel that way about the actual building I currently live in. After all, it isn't mine. In any sense of the word. 

     But for a long time, this house was my enemy. I hated it with a passion because it was the thing keeping us apart; my life's burden, my shoulder weight, my fall from grace. And on May 21st 2010, I didn't even shed a single tear leaving it behind in the rainy blackness of a cold Chicago morning. Good fucking riddance. (Maybe I do like the "F" bombs??) But I immediately missed it when the vastness that is San Francisco began to swallow me whole. 

     There was still a place of darkness between O'Hare and Alameda; a lingering depression I just couldn't shake. Years of being beaten down pressing against me and the sadness of picking up what little life I had and relocating it was more permeable than I had imagined. Saying goodbye is never easy and there are some incredibly beautiful people living in Chicago this very moment. People I found it almost unbearable to be apart from during those first couple of months in my new home. Pulling through it was going to be harder than expected...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Falling in love with life part 1

I'm on the verge of a perfect life... again...

     The day Mark left I remember thinking "I can't do this on my own." And I was right. Man, I really fucked up a lot of things over the last 2 years. I'm not one for the "F" bombs, but in this case, there just isn't another word for it. I get really torn at times because the fact that we all made it through and are on the other side is pretty astounding. On the other hand, the road was long and hard and at times completely polluted. All I can do at this point is move forward and put the past behind me.

     I think in order to understand it, you have to put the whole picture together. Life was shit. I haven't written about this very much because going back is pretty damn painful. Starting with the basics, my husband was gone. I stood there on that curb at O'Hare just sobbing and begging him not to leave me. Knowing what I know now, I should have just gone back home and packed up the family right then and there, but that's easy to say from this side, isn't it? I was 5 months pregnant with Camber and everything had just been tossed upside down. Ashley dropped the pregnancy bomb the night before and I was reeling from that news.

     Sidebar here. I took some grief from a few people regarding the way I reacted to my daughter's pregnancy. This news was absolutely devastating to me. Of all the things I thought I had done "right", talking to her about pregnancy was at the top of my list. I was the Mom she could go to when she was ready to go on the pill, or so I thought. After I found out, there was a period of mourning for me. I lost that tiny 6lb 14oz baby to whom I sang to night after night in an old wooden rocking chair. In an instant, she was gone and in her place was a foreshadow of a woman in a girl's body. I had to mourn those hopes and dreams for my daughter's future; of standing in the back of an auditorium as she received her bachelor's degree at age 21. Images of a job in perhaps medicine or law as she had once talked of. A wedding in the not-so-near future and shopping together for baby clothes sometime in my 40's. Not barely graduating high school and living in my basement while I try and figure out how to keep our family together. I was derailed from a path I saw myself going down and thrust onto a new one in the blink of an eye. And let's be honest folks, her timing SUCKED! It took me time to adjust, time to grieve, and time to accept. But I got there and in the end took in not only her, but her boyfriend and baby as well. I am proud of her and love her very much, but it was a struggle to accept this new life I was being forced to live.

     Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes. Sobbing on the curb at O'Hare, watching my husband walk away for an undetermined amount of time. Something I would get all too used to in the years stretched before me. God. Remembering those days is bringing tears to my eyes. Mark made it home briefly over the coming months and years. A long weekend here and there; an occasional holiday. He would miss every birthday, every recital, talent show, soccer and T ball game. Each time he left the kids would fall to pieces. We all cried. Mark would lower his sunglasses as he took his bags from the car, kiss everyone goodbye and walk off. Turning around for one last look became agonizing and we just quit doing it. I was a single mother. In order to fill in the gaps in income from supporting both households, 2 really shitty things happened. 1) I went back to work almost full time. I did this at night so that I could still care for the kids during the day and left Ashley and Nick in charge of the family. I know this took a toll on everyone. The house was constantly messy, the kids fought all the time and everyone was stretched in their new roles. I hated coming home. The joy had all been sucked out and flown to California with Mark. The second shit thing was that we went on food stamps, and the free lunch program. We lived moment to moment. Paycheck to paycheck. My ego was gone. I took help from anyone and everyone willing to offer. But I was falling apart. As year 2 dawned I was drinking way too much. I shut down a lot during that time and a lot of my friendships were suffering. Everything was a struggle. Money, family, work. I lost hope. There was simply no light at the end of the tunnel.

     Now I want to interject here with a sort of "list" of things so that you get a better idea of all that was going on. You have the big picture now, but the smaller picture fills it up to the point where the bubble comes frighteningly close to bursting. So allow me to just highlight some of the other ways in which life was taking its toll.

  • Fights were regular. At times the police were involved.
  • No one worked but me. My shifts regularly ended past midnight, but I was still responsible for getting up in the morning to run car pool; often while everyone else slept. Everything became an effort to not argue and so I just stopped asking for help.
  • The house was so messy it was hard to tolerate. When we would get notice for a showing we were given 2 hours to make everything spotless. The burden of keeping things "show" clean while having 10 people living in it was tiring.
  • I stopped talking to people. Several fights erupted with friends. One friend ended our friendship entirely and 3 other friendships suffered huge blows. I could barely care for my own life and family. Caring for other people fell to the bottom of my list. 
  • Mark and I barely talked. He was depressed and lonely, I was overwhelmed and bitter. There was little to say.
  • I couldn't afford anything. It was bare bones and paycheck to paycheck. We never got to go out, see a movie, or eat in a restaurant. 
  • My kids friends were committing suicide at an alarming rate.
  • My Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

     That's just a taste of how low everything had fallen. A very far cry from the 2 glorious weeks we spent in Florida a month before Mark lost his job. But never fear! I walked away from my house and the life of the past 2 years on May 21st 2010.

     And I haven't looked back...