Thursday, November 3, 2011

A very brief update

Pathology called. There was nothing notably wrong with the baby. I suppose I expected this, but it feels strange to hear it. Did I want something to be wrong? Would that have made it better? Or is the fact that nothing was wrong the thing that gives me peace? There is a U2 song that keeps playing over and over in my mind. One part in particular where Bono says:

Home. Hard to know what it is if you've never had one
Home. I can't say where it is, but I know I'm going
Home. That's where the hurt is
And I know it aches and your heart it breaks and you can only take so much
Walk on
Walk on
You've got to leave it behind

Every time I feel myself getting really sad I sing that part in my head and it helps. He's right. Walk on.

Thank you all for the kind words and well wishes. Your support has meant the world to me in this time. Mark deals with things much more quietly and so there is not a lot of talking between us right now. It is who he has always been and I accept and love him for it. Writing my story and sharing it has been extremely therapeutic for me. Time to walk on. I've got to leave it behind. Now, let's have one of my kids do something really stupid so I can make fun of them here!

Oh, and one last note. If you only read the very first posting of my blog yesterday (around 11am PST) and it seemed to cut the story off, it did. I had to go back and fix my settings so the story is now complete.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Misconception of Miscarriage

I'm sure this is a no brainer, but I suppose I should disclose to you before you begin that this isn't going to be a funny, opinionated, in-your-face story about shitty kids or difficult teenagers. Instead, it is the sad story of a baby I really wanted that is never going to be, and how I very nearly lost my life trying to hang on to it.

Miscarriage. We hear this word so often that I don't think the weight of it ever hits those of us lucky enough to never have experienced such a thing. Miscarriage. If you haven't ever been through it, the word is paper thin. Something that just flies through the air, in one ear and out the other leaving behind a subtle thought of "Oh. I'm sorry." before moving on entirely. It isn't because we're cruel or heartless that this word is so baseless for those of us untouched by the tragedy. It's just that everyone knows someone who has had one. In short, it's just normal. And I suppose, medically speaking, it is. But in a mother's heart, this is not supposed to happen. There is nothing normal about losing your baby. And there is nothing normal about the things I saw and went through that day. The desire to hold on overcame rationality and as I lay there completely alone in the hospital all I could think was "What have I done?"

Ironically, the day I knew I was going to lose this baby was the very same day I met my new midwives; a Thursday. They were wonderful people and tried to reassure me that many women spot in the first trimester and go on to have beautiful full term babies, but I knew that this was different for me. It started out as pink staining in my underwear and progressively throughout that day changed to a light red blood. The fact that the midwives were unable to hear a heartbeat was only adding to my uneasiness, but by 7pm that evening it was still much less than a regular period and so I was hopeful... if only slightly. It was the following morning when I knew and finally began to accept what was happening. The staining looked more like the onset of a true period and that's something I just could no longer deny. I remember feeling sad and scared and wanting Mark to stay home from work. But less than 2 weeks later I had plans to go to Chicago to see all of my friends, and with the amount of time he needed to take off from work to allow me to do that, his departure that morning was inevitable. So I waited. Waited for it to happen; for the bleeding to worsen, the cramps to give in and, worst of all, I waited to see my tiny 12 week old baby. But that would not happen on Friday. It would not happen on Saturday. It would not happen on Sunday.

By Monday morning I had decided that since my body had given birth 8 times, this was going to be pretty easy for me. Or, that the baby inside of me had died at such a very early age that a majority of it had been absorbed back into my system and that, again, this was going to be pretty easy for me. Nevertheless, Mark and I let Taren stay home from school that day as an extra set of hands with the little kids and... just in case. Looking back I can't decide if it was a good thing for her to be there, or if the events of that day have traumatized her in ways she can't even talk about yet.

The morning was like any other; breakfast, school, naps, etc. I lounged around a lot watching tv with Taren, and tried not to lift Camber or Avion except when necessary. At noon, Avion went down for his nap and I plopped back on the couch to try and catch one myself. It was about 30 minutes later when all hell broke loose.

Fair warning: things get graphic from this point on.

I felt something coming out. No pressure, no pain, more like something was falling out from the inside. I hurriedly ran up the stairs to the bathroom but was unable to make it in time. Things were streaming out of me, down my legs and onto the floor from the bottom of my sweat pants. When I finally made it to the bathroom and removed my clothes, I was shocked by what I saw. The blood was just everywhere. Wall to wall in pools on the floor. I soaked 4 towels and was going through pads at the rate of about 2 every minute. I was terrified. I screamed for Taren to bring my phone, telling her not look as she handed it to me through the doorway. She, of course, looked. I don't know what this did to her. My bathroom literally looked like the scene of a murder and I was slipping and sliding through my own blood. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Call 911!" and those, in fact, were the first words out of my mouth when Taren reached me. But something started to happen at that moment. Things seemed to be stopping. i knew I needed to call someone so i dialed Mark. "You have to come home right now! You have to come home!" He could hear the sheer panic in my voice and tried to calm me down. But unless you could see that room I was standing in, even the words "Murder scene" just sound like an exaggeration. Finally, Mark calmly told me to call my midwife and that he was on his way home. "Yes, I thought. Call Ellen."

Her voice was calm, yet curious. She asked me a few basic questions then, upon learning that I was home alone with little ones, she simply came over. I managed to bring myself to wipe a towel across the bathroom floor as the sight and smell of it were making me faint. Then, I locked the door from the outside, wrapped myself in a blanket that Taren gave me and waited. Waited for Mark to come home, for Ellen to arrive, for the bleeding to return. I could feel my heart racing in my chest.

Ellen sat by my side for 45 minutes. She walked with me every time I went to the bathroom and looked to make sure that all was ok. Though she agreed that the bleeding had been much more than usual, the fact that it was tapering off left her feeling good as Mark arrived to take over. By this time I was nearly asleep. I could hear her give him specific instructions on what would be considered an emergency, including loss of consciousness, then she kissed me on the forehead and left. I began to doze off.

It was about 40 minutes later when it all began again. This time with a vengeance. I could feel my insides slipping out of me and the blood was simply everywhere. Each time I came out from the bathroom I would just lie in a ball in the hallway and pant. Now I know what you must be thinking here. "What the fuck, girl? Go to the hospital!" And looking back, I should have already been there. I can't tell you the exact reasons I was still holding on, but I do remember wondering if this was normal? Was this just what women go through? I was beginning to feel quite a lot of pain at this point and finally, after a long time on the toilet, the inevitable happened. I came out, looked Mark in the eye and said "I'm down", and fainted. Mark dialed 911.

The first indication that things were really serious was when they took my blood pressure. I can't remember the exact reading that first time, but I do recall all of us being alarmed. The EMTs had a better game face than I did. I was strapped to a gurney in my living room and wheeled out of my back yard. neighbors were lining the street hoping, I am certain, that one of my little ones did not emerge. As the back doors to the ambulance slammed shut I could hear my husband tell me he loved me and one of my kids scream "Mommy!"

The ride to the hospital, complete with flashing lights and sirens, was quick. The EMT working on me did a small battery of tests, put in an IV and informed me that I am not diabetic. "Um.. ok", I thought. My heart rate was weak and rapid and my blood pressure was falling. I did not bleed the entire time I was in the ambulance, but I knew it was coming. My entire body was shaking from head to toe. Was I going into shock?

We arrived and I was quickly given a room and more tests. The blood pressure cuff and saturation thingy they put on your finger were constantly going with loud beeps heard outside my door when something was a miss. I hated those beeps. I was now informed they were planning to do a pelvic exam as the nurse wheeled in a small table with a bunch of medieval instruments on them. "Kill me", I thought. And then it began again. More blood, more of things I never want to see again coming out of me. They wouldn't let me get up and go to the bathroom so I was passing things right there on the gurney and occasionally into a bedpan. The nurse had to change me constantly and that damn blood pressure machine kept yelling at the nurses to come check on me.

When the doctor arrived to do the pelvic he took one look a the blood, now dripping on the ground and said "Nevermind. Get her to ultrasound and prep the OR." I was in panic.

The most terrifying moment came when I got to ultrasound. My blood pressure crashed and I lost consciousness. When I came to I tried to ask the doctor what had just happened to me, but nothing coming out of my mouth was audible. My brain knew what it wanted to say, but the sounds I was making were like that of a person severely handicapped. I thought "This is it. I'm having a stroke and i'm going to die right here all alone." I was absolutely terrified. After about 60 seconds of not being able to speak my English began to return. Slowly at first; my jaw feeling heavy like someone had just unclamped it and my muscles were getting used to movement again. There was a lot of commotion in the room now and they were pushing the fluids in to me as fast as they could. My blood pressure began to climb. i heard the doctor talking about a seizure.

The ultrasound was finished and now, from all the pushing on my abdomen, I was in severe pain. Back in the ER, I was given a very powerful drug and told that before I go to surgery I needed a blood transfusion. How did I get here? What have I done to myself? I thought about my family, my children, the baby I do have. I wanted Mark, my Mom, a friend. I wanted anyone. They brought in the paperwork for my consent and I frighteningly signed away my rights to sue if I caught anything including HIV. It felt like such a big decision, but it also felt obvious. It took longer than you might imagine to get the blood going in my veins. I was typed a second time and there was a whole lot of formality as two nurses came in and read me all of the instructions, repeating numbers on the bag back and forth to ensure they didn't give me something that might kill me right then and there. All the while, the nurse is changing my robes and sheets. I could not imagine they could get it in me as fast as it was leaving. At this point I actually wanted the baby out. I just wanted to survive this.

I was in full blown hemorrhage as they wheeled me up to the OR. My blood pressure was stable and I had been given a second transfusion when it finally happened. In the elevator between floors 1 and 2 at Alameda hospital, my baby arrived.

It was sad and tiny and so unmistakably human. I leaned over the sheets and looked down at the little body just lying there so lifeless and wondered is it a boy or a girl? I met my baby on a hospital gurney in a bedpan surrounded by blood instead of warm and nestled in my arms 6 months later. And it all hit me. The sadness of this death. The death of chubby cheeks and a bald head. The death of Christmas mornings, ballet recitals or little league. The death of hearing "Mama" for the first time or helping learn how to ride a bike. It was ideas and plans that lie in that bedpan that night. It was hope and love and desire. It was me and Mark. Right there in front of me. It hadn't died a long time ago, that much was obvious. This was recent. What did I do to cause this? What happened? This wasn't normal. Nothing about this miscarriage was normal. At that moment 2 simple things existed. This was my child and this wasn't normal.

They whisked me into the OR and knocked me out. When I came to it was over. The baby was gone. In every way I could imagine. I could feel it. The emptiness in my womb; the space where he or she once lived. Finally, Mark managed to make it to my side and held my hand, but I had already endured the worst of it alone. I hoped I could forgive him for that. Just a short time later I was actually allowed to leave. This surprised me, but I guess once you're out of the woods, you're out of the woods. My girlfriend who is a nurse feels they gave me poor care, and I am inclined to agree, but what does it matter now? I was glad to be alive. I was glad the ordeal was over. I was glad to be going home.

I want to close with this. I am ok now. Physically I am doing fine. Emotionally, I have my moments. I feel very empty at times. I do have a profound belief that something was wrong with that baby and that The Universe/God knows best. That thought does give me some comfort. But other thoughts I still have to work to suppress. Did I cause this being the biggest one. I want to thank you for allowing me to share this story here and for listening. I hope that it can offer some comfort to others who have been there and perhaps even guide someone to make decisions other than I did that day. As for having more children, i am simply not going to say right now. So many people have told me they think I should never get pregnant again, but this is a decision for Mark and I to make and no one else. If we ever do decide, I hope you will only support us. This is our journey and we love it!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guess What?? You're kids aren't fu*king perfect!!

I've been wanting to write about this one for some time now, but never really knew how I wanted to phrase it. That is, until this week. I've been thinking a lot lately about why, after moving from conservative Barrington to ULTRA liberal Alameda, I still have no Mommy friends. Now, don't get me wrong. Go to Lucky 13 any night of the week and ask the people on the back patio of they know Mark and Dia and guaranteed you'll get several takers. The issue is not that I don't have friends. i just still lack Mommy friends. I think I've now nailed down the "why".

After 8 kids some things that were once your fear in terms of raising kids just become truths.

Truth: Your kids will lie.
Truth: your kids will steal at least once
Truth: Your kids are capable of falling to peer pressure and trying any and/or every drug under the sun.
Truth: Your kids will hate you for a good portion of their childhood.
Truth: It's likely your teenager is having sex.
Truth: When he says "It's not my weed, I was holding it for a buddy." It's his.
Truth: The kid with the chocolate on his face not only ate it, but he blamed his little brother and planted the wrapper under his pillow.
Truth: You are going to fuck your kids up over and over. They will need therapy, acupuncture, Prozac and possibly a helper monkey just to get over the damage you caused. This, my friends, is the truth.

This, people, is why I have no mommy friends. Because SOME (not all... I have 3 best girlfriends each with 1 child- oh wait, one has 2 now, at any rate, these woman all just kinda get I'm not generalizing) SOME moms have this mentality that "My kid is right, just, truthful and kind". To which I say...


Let me now share with you how this all came to light. It was this past Wednesday and I wanted to take the kids to the park, so I told Taren and Declan to meet me on the playground of their school (super nice park with a small park for younger kids completely enclosed with one small opening) I guess I should back this up just a moment.

Last year Taren had a girlfriend she was super close to. Let's call her "Lessie" and let's call her mother "Manet". As you can see, I thoughtfully changed the names to protect the not-so-innocent. So Lessie and Taren are friend. Manet is a complete weirdo, but I'm game. i live in NorCal, after all. She's kinda a space cadet but seems nice enough. She was really cool to my family and had Taren over often last year. Then, the talent show was happening. Lessie decides she and Taren should do a duet. Taren agrees. This is where my kid was a fuck up. The DAY BEFORE she decides Lessie is a shit singer and she won't perform with her. Now, maybe some moms would force their kid to do it, but I didn't. What I did was tell her the consequences of her choices either way she went and gave her the option to make that choice. She decided Lessie was still a shit singer and so Taren opted out, learned a new song that night on her own and sang the next day. Well, this pissed off Manet and that was the last I knew of their friendship. No call to me, no conversation just "See ya!" and I was ok with it. Again, consequences, right? So this year Taren and Lessie are in class together. In fact, they sit at the same table. As a result, they've mended bridges and are friends once more. DO I care? No! It happens. For you women out there, I'm sure you relate to a time when you had a falling out and then built the bridge again. It's not uncommon. Girls are like that. So then I start hearing things from Taren like "I can't go to this after school program because if I got Lessie can't." Of course I ask why. "Lessie's mom hates me." This goes on and on for a bit and then.... this last Wednesday....

I show up at the park at 2. The kids had been out for 10 minutes but they knew to wait for me there. On this day I had Taren, Declan, Shaylon, Camber, Cian and Avion. Not an easy group, but we went to the small playground and everyone knew they had to stay put. I sat down in the sandbox with Avion and Taren comes over to me, a little sad as far as I can tell.

"What's wrong?"
"Babe. Tell me. I can see something is wrong."
(Big sigh) "Lessie's mom said that she can't believe we're having another baby because you can't even take care of the ones you have."


So I took a deep breath and looked at Je.. I mean Lessie and asked very calmly. "Did your mom say....."
She shrugs. I breathe. Lowere tone, firm tone but under my breath. "Did she say that?" She nods her head.

My next moment was like my life with Ja.. I mean Manet flashing before my eyes. Has she ever even been in my house? Have we ever hung out together with my kids? IS THERE ANY BASIS TO THIS? No, no and NO! So I calmly look back at Lessie and say "I'm calling your mother tonight. This is unacceptable and you cannot say those hurtful things to my daughter about her family. Lessie runs off crying. A mother sitting about 3 feet from me asks "What was that about?" to which I responded that I have a very large family and some people, for whatever reason, just can't handle it. This mother, again 3 feet away, didn't even hear the conversation between Lessie and myself. Fast forward 7 minutes.

I'm swinging Camber in the bucket swing. Shay is jumping in the sand, Cian is running in circles, Dec is nowhere to be found and Taren is at my side. Manet comes STORMING into the small playground. My kids are right there as well as other parents. She is LITERALLY SCREAMING and wagging her finger at me. "DIA!!!! Don't you dare yell at my child ever again. You are a goddamn mother and you should know better!!!!" Had she not said my name I would have thought she was a crazy person in the park. I look at her and said quietly. "I didn't yell at her." To which, of course, she insisted I did. Remember, friends. Perfect child. I then said "Would you like to go talk over there (private place) so we can have an adult conversation?" Manet screams "NOOOOOOO! I don't ever want to talk to you!" I then say " so why are you here then? You won't listen, your screaming at me in front of my kids, God and whole fucking park (oh yes, I said fucking) so are you done? She then continues with her assessment of the situation that just occurred.  Again I say " I never yelled at her." She then starts in on how horrible Taren was last year and how she made Lessie cry. i'm now putting the pieces together. Lessie cries, mom comes running, Lessie's story is the only one that's true. So I then tell her I'd like to talk to her off to the side so she hears why I "Layed into her kid" because at this point we've agreed I didn't yell but that I "Layed into her. I know, I know, but what do I care??? Is it Layed or Laid? Eh. On with the story. So I get her off to the side and finally have a chance to tell her what happened:

Me: Do you know what your child said to mine?
Manet: It doesn't matter.
Me: It really should!
Manet: You should never speak to a child the way you did
Me: You weren't here, and when you hear what your child said, maybe you'll understand.
Manet: Fine, What did she say?
Me: SHe told Taren that when she told YOU that I was having another baby, you told her that I should not be doing so because I can't even care for the ones I have..
Manet: (Interrupting) Taren lied.
Me: Well, that's the funny thing. I actually turned to ask Lessie if you said that and she told me to my face that you did. To which my response was that I was offended, that it was inappropriate for her to say such things to my daughter about her family, and that I was calling you (her mother) that night.

Ok kids, this is th emoment of the big apology, right? "God, Dia. I really had this wrong. i'm so sorry for coming at you like this and being a crazy fucking whack job who needs meds... I will talk to my daughter about her little lying mouth."

NOPE! I got: "Well, Lessie must have misunderstood something. I want you and your daughter to stay the hell away from us." My only logical response was "Gladly."

This is my BIGGEST PET PEEVE. You are an IDIOT if you think your child is perfect, never lies and is the fucking victim every single time she comes crying to you. Again, you are an idiot. This is why I have no mommy friends. I've learned what pieces of shit kids can be because I've had 8!!!! I'm not the mom with a diaper bag full of goldfish and apples and some organic crap in a squeezy tube that you paid a dollar nine for which you could have put in a ziploc and cut a hole in with the jar of applesauce you got from costco to the tune of 6 cents a bag. I don't own "your baby can read" because I seriously need them to shut the fuck up for as long as possible. So yeah, I have friends and they're mostly childless.. because they kinda get me and where I'm coming from. And I think they appreciate the honesty. As I'm sure you good people that read this do as well. Parenting is hard, stressful, rewarding and beautiful all at once. If your child comes to you and says "She did __________" You might want to calmly look at your kid, assess the situation and then decide whether to pursue things or not. And should you pursue things, try talking with other parents. Looking like a crazy bitch never bodes well..... just saying :)

Oh, and for whatever reason I can no longer edit posts, so this is raw and probably riddled with typos. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oh Baby!

     My womb runneth over.

     Yes, folks, it's true. Last Friday, after a night of karaoke and drunkeness, I discovered via my friend E.P.T. that I now have a baseball team. That is if we created athletes rather than artists. But still, if the Cubs wanted to play us in about 5 years we could at least cover our positions. Now I know what you all are thinking. Stupid shit like "Do you know what's causing this?" or "Don't you guys have a t.v.?" The answer to both is no. So if someone could please explain to me how babies are made and if someone else could send me a new LCD (50" + please) it would be very appreciated. The truth is that if it weren't for little things like money, a sizable house and keeping food on the table (forget college, those little shits can borrow the the US the same way I had to!) we'd have even more. The biggest challenge in all of this may be surprisingly basic to you, but it has me concerned. My car. With Ashley and Taylor out of the house (more on this later) having an 8 seater has been perfect for family trips. We are now going to either have to buy an additional car OR rent one every single time we want to go somewhere as a family that we can't reach via public transportation. This sucks. I seriously need to win the lottery! Other than that, I really couldn't be happier! It's been a long time since Mark and I lived in the same house while I was pregnant (6 years to be exact) and when he sat on the couch next to me last night watching The Office with his hand placed softly on my belly, I felt so at home. The only thing that will be horrible about this birth is pushing the head out of my vagina. That's really something I thought I'd never have to do again. It's going to take some psyching up! So how did we get here??

     Life has taken a few twists and turns since I last wrote. The first of which is the eldest son, Taylor, moving out and back to Chicago. I wholeheartedly support this decision, but unfortunately he didn't want my support. It seems that all the fights and bullshit that happened between us finally got to him and he made the decision to cut all of us out of his life. This was heartbreaking for me. I found myself spiraling back into that dark place of depression. For you mothers out there, I'm sure you can understand how hard this would be. You think about so many things. The baby you nursed, the little boy you did science projects with, the grown man that played with his little brothers. Every day I woke up with a hole in my heart and I was never truly able to seal it up. It took so much out of me and so much away from those I loved the most because it was all consuming. The worst part was I didn't know how to shut the pain off. Everyone would say "He'll come back." And Mark would remind me of how truly horrible he had been to us as well and how he is just in the blaming process and not taking any responsibility for himself, but it didn't help. To make matters worse I had taken a job.

     Now don't get me wrong, I love working. For several reasons. First of all if you had to spend 24/7 in this house with these people you'd want the hell out too! I can only take so many "Mom!!!! He hit me and called me stupid!" shouts throughout the house. School has started so getting the routine together has been a challenge. I really should just remove the Wii from my house! So getting out from time to time and chatting with grown ups is often welcome. The problem became 2 things:

1) It wasn't time-to-time. They began scheduling me 5 and 6 days a week for 6-8 hours a day. In the first 2 weeks i worked 76 hours. IN essence, I now had a full time job. I asked to cut back but was told that until they hired someone new I just had to suck it up.

2) One of the owners is a royal fucking prick to work for. Never in my life have I been treated as badly as I was at this place. Once he even grabbed me by the back of my arm and marched me through the restaurant while chastising me within earshot of about 1/3 of our customers. I cried. Unfortunately AND fortunately the money was pretty awesome so the reward was being aboe to do things with my kids on my days off that I haven't been able to do in a while. Little things like a trip to the city. We went fishing. We went out to dinner. But between the sadness of Taylor shunning me and the way I was being treated at my job i was being pushed into a dark cave and depression was creeping, no, SLAMMING back into me. My life felt a lot like it did in Chicago. I worked too much and never saw Mark or my kids. The kids were taking care of each other so I could do so and I remember thinking this can't last. I kept telling Mark that should I come home early from work one night he could just know that I had either snapped and quit or snapped and got fired. Well, it din't take long for that theory to come true!

     Ironically 2 things happened at once. After weeks of sending Taylor emails and getting nothing in reply, the thing I wanted more than anything in this world finally happened. He responded. It was short and he said he still harbored some hurt feelings but that he loved us and was happy to be on his own at last. It was all I needed. Now you would think this might make going to work a bit easier on me and raise my tolerance level enough to get by, but this isn't at all what happened. Maybe it gave me a boost of energy to stand up for myself. Or maybe I finally didn't feel like the piece of shit I had felt like before so when my boss talked to me as such I refused to take it. Nevertheless, this is the short and unbelievable story of my demise.

Boss: (Insert a tone you would use on a really horrible child who was bullying other kids on the playground) Dia. What table number is this ticket? I can't do anything if you can't remember simple things like your table numbers."

Me: "Oh. I'm sorry. That's table 45. It must have just slipped my mind.

Boss: "Jesus Christ we're in week 3 here. You need to get it together.

Me: "I have it together. It's a simple mistake."

Boss: (Now visibly aggravated at me turning to talk to me face to face in a crowded kitchen full of staff) "Listen to me. We are 3 weeks into this and these are things we went over in week one. You can't.."

Me: (Interrupting) "I got it. All you have to say is "Hey Dia, you forgot your table numbers." and I will remedy it.

Boss: (Shouting) "Don't you tell me what to do!!"

Me: "Im not telling you what to do, I'm just saying I got it. I understand and you don't need to keep going and make me feel like a child about it."

     I was sent home. The next day without even a phone call I walked in and saw that I was crossed off the schedule. When I went back tot eh car without someone even bothering to speak to me, Mark who had driven me was LIVID! He walked in, told my boss what a horrible manager he was and they began debating how to treat employees. If you've ever argued with my husband you will know he won. He runs a huge team of people and treats them all like human beings. My boss didn't stand a chance. The last thing mark said to him is "Go back inside and run your business... into the ground." LOL! It was worth all of it to see someone stand up to this asshole the way Mark did! We had a moment of stress over money, but my last check was cut for me right then and there so we would survive until Mark got paid. 4 days later I found out I was pregnant. Let's be honest folks. The last job I left when I was 4 months pregnant, I told my boss off so badly and said horrible things to him that only made Me look bad. Sure, he was an ass but assholes exist in every work place. With my new hormonal surge it would have only been a matter of time before I snapped. At least this way I still saved face. All of my fellow employees know it was him being a prick and that I shouldn't have been fired. The next day at the server meeting he told everyone that the reason I was let go is because no one is going to question the way he does things. No one. Way to run a business! So now I'm pregnant, jobless and happy as can be!!!!!

     So this is just a quicky update. I do still kinda need a job, but I really don't need one like the last one I had. I have some leads and will see what comes of things. As for the kids, Ashley is here for 3 more weeks then heads back to Germany. This is the last time we will take her back into our house since we will soon have 7 kids living under one roof. I hope she finds what she's looking for and I know I will miss her and Cian when they are gone. Taylor and I talk in short emails, but at least we talk. The weight of that situation and the enormous sadness has vanished. Winnie is trying out for volleyball and as always is my high maintenance, stong willed handfull of a daughter. Taren and Declan are doing great in school. Shay started kindergarten this year and loves it. This means that on mornings like this one, while Blue sleeps in a little and Camber is eating oatmeal watching Caillou, I get to sit here, write to all of you good people, drink a little coffee, daydream about baby names and plan what's happening for dinner. I get to just be a barefoot and pregnant Mom knowing that Mark will be home tonight and that the burden isn't mine alone. As a result it really isn't a burden at all. It's just love and joy. And I like it that way.

See you next time!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"How Do You Do It?"

I'm on the verge of telling it like it is...

     One of the best and worst things about having a family this large is the questions you get over and over and over. Questions that are often nosy and even more often borderline offensive. Luckily, I generally have a good sense of humor about this and take the questions with stride. The other thing that people don't "get" is how much more self sufficient a child in a large family is than, say, and only child. I thought it might be kinda fun to explore a few of these questions and situations so you get a better idea of just how this whole thing works. I will give you the most popular questions I get first along with my favorite answers (most of which are me just being a bitch; tired of answering the same things for well over a decade:)

1) Are you Catholic or Mormon? Simple. "No."

2) Are they all from the same man? "We aren't sure." (This is my favorite one.. the look on people's faces is priceless. I also like "No. there are 8 different fathers, I'm trying to create the perfect human being.")

3) Do you know what's causing this? I get this all the time, but someone asked me this once at exactly the wrong time. I was 3 weeks overdue with baby #4 and desperate to go into labor. I was aching, tired, fat and irritable. All I wanted was some goddamn deli meat from the grocery store. The woman in front of me asked "When are you due?" I said "3 weeks" (she didn't need me to add the "ago"). Is this your first baby?" Please call her number so she can get her provolone... "No, it's my 4th." "Your 4th! You don't even look old enough to have one!" I giggled. It was fake. And finally.. "Don't you know what's causing this?" I took a long breath. "Yes. I do. My husband and I had sexual intercourse and he ejaculated in me at the same time an egg was being released from my ovary into my falopian tube. The sperm from his ejaculate met the egg, thus creating a zygote, which embedded itself into my uterine wall; growing over the course of 38 weeks into the fetus you see in my belly right now." My Mom was with me. I thought she might need a Poise pad after that one. Lesson? Don't fuck with an overdue woman.

4) And this brings on number 4. How old are you? My answer is always the same, the truth of course, but the reaction to my answer has changed over the years. Now I get "I thought you were in your 20s" which isn't so bad. Back in the day when my answer was, say, 25 and I had 3 kids already, the reaction was more like this:
"Wow. You started early." To which I would reply "Well, my body told me I was fertile at 12, so actually I waited quite a while.'

5) How do you do it? I'm going crazy with just ____ (insert number less than 8) This is another simple answer. "You just do." there's no secret recipe to having 8 vs having 2, except that you're 4 times busier and 4 times broker (my computer is not a fan of the word "broker" in this sentence:)

     This is a really nice place to interject with some scenarios and take a break from the q&a. There is one thing about having a bigger family that people really should understand. We aren't like smaller families in that we simply cannot do everything for our kids. It's just not possible. So our kids have an element of self sufficiency that seems somewhat off putting to many bystanders. In addition, Mark and I are probably a lot more relaxed than most parents. One common answer I give when asked how I do it is that "I don't sweat the petty stuff like I used to." So let's give some specific examples of the above.

     A friend of mine once brought it to my attention that I wasn't worried letting 2 of my kids go to the bathroom on their own in a restaurant even though they are 4 and 6. This is true. Think about this folks. If I have, lets say, the bottom 5 (if I have all 8 then I have helpers to take kids to the restroom) and Declan and Shaylon need to use the bathroom, it is ridiculous to attempt to pack up my whole table and go to the bathroom all together. In addition, this will likely not be the last time during that meal in which I would have to do this. So you are talking about packing up diaper bags, car seats, anything of value brought to entertain them while the food cooks, etc. If you are nursing, you are talking about unlatching a baby and taking said baby along with the toddler who is perfectly happy to poop his pants to the bathroom so the 6 year old can pee. So my kids know how to get to a bathroom, go pee, wash hands and return. There are, of course, exceptions to this. If the restaurant were big or full of shady customers or if the bathroom was very far from the table, I would consider packing everyone up, but more likely would opt to pee them all before we sat down and unloaded camp. (Even then, they will likely need to go during dinner. Shay has a thing for peeing 5 times during a restaurant trip.) But if we're at a decent restaurant in a nice area and especially if there are customers in the place, I am fine. Let me say here, that I am not worried about kidnapping under those circumstances. I was a latch key kid at age 5. I literally had a key to my house, walked home from school and let myself in. I made a snack and did my homework. I knew what a stranger was and to avoid them. I was always walking in a group and locked my door when I got home. I also grew up in a safe neighborhood in Southern California. Kidnapping is very rare, folks. And when was the last time you heard about a kidnapping at a busy restaurant with 2 kids in a buddy system? But for some reason, this really bothers people.

Case in point:

     I took the 5 youngest kids to a burger place here on the island a few months back. It is located in a nice outdoor mall in an area with many restaurants. The layout was quite small and open; a rectangle with many tables and chairs and a soda machine on one side. Evey seat was visible from every other seat in the house. The only table large enough for my family was immediately on the left when you entered the building. It was the kind of place where you order at the counter, take a number then pick up at a window when you're number is called, so I got all the kids situated, strapped Camber into the high chair (Avion was still strapped into my gigantic beast of a stroller next to my seat) and walked about 2 feet to my right to place an order. I was given our drink cups immediately and allowed my 3 bigger kids (Taren, Declan and Shaylon) to go one at a time to get their soda, approximately 35 to 40 feet from our table in full view. Once the three of them were finished I sat them down and told them I was getting drinks for myself and Camber. I could see them the whole time and hurriedly filled our cups. I may have been away from the table for a total of 2 minutes, but in clear sight the whole time. When I returned, Taren informed me that the man 2 tables away from us who was with his wife and older daughter chastised me loudly enough for Taren to hear him. He said it was "awful that she leaves those kids alone." Now, I'm used to this, but when my child hears it I will admit, my blood boils. So I asked him politely "Did you say something regarding my parenting loudly enough for my daughter to hear you?' He got defensive, and a little embarrassed even, telling me that if it were him he would worry about leaving them there like that. To which I said "Worried about what?" He got really flustered, thought for a moment finally settling on "Well the unknown, I guess." Cop out, I thought. Let me also add here that the soda machine, though in full view of the restaurant, was tucked in a tiny corner of the building. I wish I could give you a visual on what this man wanted me to do. Walk 4 kids and navigate a gigantic stroller though other patrons in a fairly small building. Most if this would need to be done single file. Then, he wanted me to fill my soda cups while ensuring my kids are not picking food off of other people's plates, fighting, running around or scratching their balls in someone's chili cheese fries. I'm then to take my full soda cups and somehow get back without spilling on anyone all the while ensuring said balls remain chili-cheese-fry-free. My children know to sit tight at a table for a moment while I get things for them. When our food arrived, I got up to go to the window (closer than the soda machine) and looked directly and the man and said "I'm just getting their food. Let me know if they get kidnapped". I think what I hate about this more than anything is that A) it's really none of your business unless I'm doing something blatantly illegal. And B) You honestly ruin my fucking lunch when you do it. I'm just trying to take my family out for a meal.. not an easy task. Could you possibly keep your opinions to yourself so I can just enjoy it? The lesson here is think twice about what your judgments are. Ask yourself if my children are really in danger or if maybe you just aren't used to seeing children behave so well under those circumstances. The family must have felt bad because they complimented me on the kids' behavior as they left. Gee. Thanks.
And on with the questions.

6) Do you own a television? This is a very age specific group that asks this, namely 70 and up. If I were to try and pinpoint the origin I would say it must have something to do with a time when not every family owned a television set. I never say anything smart-ass to this one. Old people are cute :)

7) How many siblings did you have? 1. This seems to strike an "a-ha" in people as if my lack of multiple siblings made me want a large family of my own. But I think that if the answer were anything other than 1 or 2 they would also say that it's due to my large-ish family that I wanted a bigger one. The truth is, I don't know why I wanted this many kids. It has nothing to do with my own family or my brother. Mark and I never really gave it much thought. It all just happened and here we are. Sometimes things come to us we never really planned for and it turns out the fit is exactly right.

8) When are you getting your own reality show? HA! I just laugh at this one. Soon, I hope! I think we'd make for interesting TV, but I may be a little biased :)

9) Are you going to have any more? As much as my mother might not like to hear this, I can see us having more. I mean really. The odds some of them turn out ok get better the more I have, right? ;)

     So there you have it. The answers to perhaps just a few of your questions. If you have more, feel free to comment them and I will get back to you. As for now, the sun is shining for the first time in days so I'm going to go play a little baseball with the boys :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Falling in love with Life.. the final chapter.

I'm on the verge of embracing this sleepless place I call night...

     I've tried to come here and write often lately, but there are just too many things to say. This unfortunately translates to my saying nothing at all. I had 5 separate drafts going when I came here tonight, all of which were just senseless ramblings that waxed and waned between narcissistic and self deprecating. I'm hoping I have something of value this time around.
    It's so fantastically quiet in my house right now. My eyelids are heavy, but no matter how hard I try, sleep eludes me. My mind won't shut off tonight, so I thought that since it's been a while since I shared, I would just come here and lay it all out. My thoughts are everywhere; I have a feeling this post will reflect that. I will make every effort to organize things. Here goes!

Let's call this first part "Awake"

     Waking up in my own skin is starting to really feel good again; comfortable and yet so completely foreign all at once. I think I've finally pinpointed why this is. I am learning to be the person I want to be; the one I imagined actually being rather than the one I was. I was never meant to live in Barrington. This becomes increasingly more obvious as time in the Bay Area passes by. I lived in a place I loved... it just didn't love me back and in that I got lost. For 11 years I just kinda went with the flow. I had a lot of kids, I cooked and cleaned and baked. I sang karaoke. I kept up with the Jones'. And with every passing year, the young girl who wanted to be an actress, and the headstrong young woman who fell in love with a drummer that opened her eyes to live music and the Sunset Strip just kinda went dormant. Barrington is a wonderful town if you can fit in. Money is important, being liberal is frowned upon, cultural diversity in non-existent. But it's safe, the schools are wonderful, and for 11 years I watched people form friendships and a sense of community that I would have loved to have been a part of. When Mark left, that desire only magnified and so the last 2 years of being alone found me craving the southern California climate, both the physical and social, so much that I was hell bent on not moving up here to San Francisco at all. This decision of mine was tearing us apart. Mark wanted his family back. I wanted my life back. How would we ever find both?

This part is called "Alameda"

     The plan for a while was to move back to southern California, Redondo Beach specifically, and to rent a small and affordable apartment so that Mark had money for his own life and airfare every weekend. I know this sounds insane, but after seeing each other every couple of months for a weekend here and there for two fucking years, every weekend sounded pretty damn good. Mark is also a bit of a work-a-holic, so this felt like it could make sense. All I knew was that at 38 I didn't want to restart my life again. I just wanted to go home to my friends, to my sick mother, to something that could make me happy, something that felt familiar. Of course Mark and I argued about this often. Looking back, I was being incredibly selfish, but I will give myself this one. Remember folks, I told you I was feeling sorry for myself, an innately selfish place to be. It became quite obvious after a while that to make Mark live without his kids one day longer than he was required to would be the most evil thing I could have ever done to a man who gives me everything he has. And so, as we women do, I let go of the dream to go home and tried to wrap my joy around the fact that I was going to be in California at all. In April of last year I came to NorCal for the first time to visit as well as to finish my childbirth education training... and I fell in love. Mark and I had a little vacation. This was all paid for by the good graces of his company for the purposes of our finding a home and was included in his relocation package. Hotel, car, spending money, all paid for. A friend of mine offered to babysit (can you imagine? Talk about brave) and my mother graciously paid for her to do so as well as paying for my childbirth education classes. I think everyone close to me in my life started to rally around Mark and I finally putting our family back together. It was an amazing weekend. 

Our hotel in Los Gatos

The beautiful drive from the South Bay to SF

A dramatic change in scenery as people become packed in like lemmings

The streets of SF

The White Swan hotel in SF- lovely

Pregnant me :)

     San Francisco was a beautiful city with so much to do. It actually overwhelmed me the first time I got here and I sat on the edge of our hotel room bed and cried. Not because I loved it, but because it terrified me. I felt so small. How would I ever find home? How would I ever be a part of a community in a place so large?

     It was on the plane ride home when I met a woman who would change the course of everything in my life. She was very nice, articulate, had a few kids and a husband who worked in the financial district. She was beautiful and said "fuck" a few times during our conversation; I liked her. She was going to Chicago on for business and when I asked her where she lived she said "Alameda." I probed her for more. It sounded great. 

     As you all know by now, Alameda is an island just on the other side of the bay. This meant a very short commute for Mark. It is also home to the largest same sex family community in the country. This meant it was liberal. It also had its own school district with many achievement awards. This meant a good education for my kids. Could such a place exist? That evening, I found our home on craigslist. Mark was out to see it the following weekend and the gears that were already in motion for our move sped up by about 1000 times. I would be leaving Barrington in less than 3 weeks. But was Alameda going to be all that I hoped it would?

     This last weekend I went to a birthday party for a child at our local park. As soon as I arrived I was handed a glass of red wine and immediately welcomed into many conversations, being introduced by the people I already know as "The Smiths, you know, with the 8 kids." No one blinked, scoffed or said an ill word. I am growing into my community. I am involved in a halau (hula school) girl scouts, cub scouts and now baseball, and though I don't have tight friendships yet, I have a lot of acquaintances who all seem to genuinely like me. They are democrats in their 30's and 40's who drink a little, swear a little and raise awesome kids. I also have a community of nite-lifers to sing karaoke with, shop at the farmer's market and occasionally grab dinner out somewhere with. At the party on Saturday I met a man whose son plays baseball with Declan and as we got to talking, I said something I never thought I would: "It is an absolute privilege to live here." I haven't felt that way in a very long time. Am I really finding me again and could it be that I'm actually finding a better version?
     My therapist asked me this week after another hour of me basically telling her stories about my life "Why are you here, Dia? What do you get out of this?" I know what she means. She sees me as this really exuberant and happy person with an immensely chaotic yet captivating life. She went on to tell me that she hopes I'm not there solely to entertain her. Well, I can tell you that I am not. But I think I have decided why I love going there so much. She opens my eyes to who I am at my core; how uniquely special and individual I am; how completely plain and normal I am. It's like when Simba looks down in that pool of water and Mufasa tells him from the giant lion cloud in the sky "Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. You must take your place in the circle of life." Ok- I'm fairly certain you could Google that shit right there and find out that I did that from memory.. verbatim. This I am not proud of. So my therapist is my Mufasa and she's reminding me to take my place in the circle of life. Best. Analogy. Ever. So what does that mean?

We'll call this part "The Circle of Life"

     I'm going to start with music. I love music. And I'm quite certain that a lot of you will say "me too", but for me it seems a little more intense than for others; like a gateway to my soul or a direct line to God's office phone. Maybe you all feel that too. I'm not gonna get all Charlie Sheen here and act like I'm better than the rest of you. How rad is that breakdown by the way? Of all the things I like watching celebrities do, career suicide is my favorite. But I digress. Back to the music. I think I mentioned this a while back. Music, songs, even U2 seemed to disappear the day Mark moved to California; as if he packed it all in his suitcase with him and took it on the plane. But United must have fucked up and lost his bag somewhere because I know that music disappeared during those two years for him as well. Hm. I just thought of this. Maybe Mark and I sort of are the music in each other's lives. Maybe that's why it's now back? That's actually a lovely and inspiring thought to me. So if we're still in my completely insane Lion King analogy then the circle of life, for me, is finding myself; the authentic self that resides in us all. If I could match the woman I am to the girl I wanted to be but forgot along the way, the circle would feel complete. Ok this is going to sound arrogant, but I'm not holding back here because I have always been honest with you all. The reason why people find me either interesting or exhausting (sometimes both) is because I have a lot of things that make up my authentic core: actress, mother, writer, philosopher, wife, friend, cook, baseball fan, childbirth educator, soccer mom, comedian, liberal, cougar (oh yes- latest victim is Nick Jonas and I have absolutely no pride whatsoever in revealing this to you. It's borderline Mary Kay Laterno.) And I will go with you all right here that many people are multi-faceted. I just think a lot of my facets are somewhat at odds with each other so seeing the juxtaposition is often what makes you either love me or hate me. So for a long while I have only been a handful of the things that really make up my core, and part of that, I think, is because I just didn't know how to be all of them at once anymore. Do you know why I don't have a career yet? Ok, aside from the fact that only neurosurgery could possibly take care of my day care bill.. it's because I want to do so many things that I end up doing nothing at all. I have started 2 novels, I am certified in childbirth education, doula work and as a lactation specialist. I've wanted to try stand up, and for most of my life I wanted to be an actress. I've also entertained a number of other ideas from going into medicine to pursuing an astronomy doctorate and working for JPL. It's like there's just so much of the world to explore that I get overwhelmed and hide. But Dutch, my therapist, is teaching me how to remember who I am. How? By letting me see myself through her eyes. When I talk to her I can see the me she is seeing and even though I'm still a little bit stuck in the mental place that had me feeling like shit for 2 solid years, the more I talk to her and the more I see what she sees, the further out of it and into my new self I become. So 3 really small things happened simultaneously.

We'll call this part "3 really small things that happened simultaneously"

     I found the actress again. And not in the traditional sense. I didn't audition for a play or make a Youtube video. I started seeing films again. Not just any old films, either. I literally saw every one of the Oscar nominations as well as some extra documentaries and other indie projects in between. Berkeley is a pretty damn fantastic part of the world for a wanna-be avant-garde hippie such as myself. It's funny. There was a small piece of me feeling a bit out of place as we began doing this, but the more I have reconnected with that artist/actress inside, the more I remember her. But she is different now; grown up. No longer in need of starring in her own T.V. show, she is content to watch thoughtful, awe inspiring films and to discuss them over Thai food afterward with her beautiful husband. The second small thing that happened actually happened on my way to one of these outings with Mark. As I was driving to the Shattuck Cinemas to see a screening of some new film being offered up to Sundance this year, a song I'd never heard by the Fleet Foxes came on the radio. And 2 separate lines really caught my attention. The first was this:

I was raised up believin'
I was somehow unique
like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes
unique in each way you can see.

And now after some thinkin'
I'd say I'd rather be
a functioning cog in some great machinery
servin' some thing beyond me

     Then the third thing happened: I found the philosopher again. I think I have always wanted so much to be unique and different that the thought never once occurred to me to absolutely love the idea of being part of the greater picture. This may shock some of you, but I happen to really feel strongly about God and the Universe; energy and metaphysics. Being a part of the greater picture actually suits me just fine. I think this reminded me that God is there; here on this journey with me. It was awesome. The second line that moved me, to the point of tears, was this:

If I know only one thing
It's that everything that I see
of the world outside is so inconceivable
often, I barely can speak

Yeah, I'm tongue tied and dizzy
and I can't keep it to myself
what good is it to sing Helplessness Blues?
Why should I wait for anyone else?

     How easily we forget.

     So I think I may be ready to stop singing the Helplessness Blues. Because life fucking rocks. I have something to offer, and the Universe is equally giving to me. There is a long way to go in this process of reconnecting with my authentic self, but that's all part of the journey, isn't it? One that should only end the moment we actually become part of the greater picture... and maybe it doesn't even stop then.

    There is much more to talk about including a post I have been planning for a while answering my favorite (and least favorite) questions about raising a large family, but for now I think this is a fitting end to the "Falling in love with life" posts. Because I'm finally really here.

Let's just call this last part "Sleep"


And in case you want to hear it- 


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nature Vs. Nurture & Women Vs. Women

I'm on the verge of slapping every Mom out there who thinks she has it "right"...

     I know it's only been a short time since my last post, so I forgive you if you aren't all caught up. Before I get into the subject hand, I thought I would give you an update on Casa Smith.

     I started therapy, and it rocks. Turns out that just being able to talk to someone really helps. It's all about letting the past go; learning from it and moving on. Let's see, what else? Eldest daughter moved back in for the holidays with the grandbaby, fought with all of us, moved back out January 28, will likely be back soon. Eldest son, upset that said daughter moved back out, got angry with us, fought with everyone, left for a week, tried kicking my car window in. Thank you Chevrolet for making strong glass. My parents came up for Christmas, I worked my ass off to make a fantastic holiday dinner, hit a home run on gifts, and blew the whole "Santa" thing for my 12 year old. (Yes, she still believed. That is, until her dumbass mother asked "When did you stop believing in Santa Claus?" Apparently that was the moment. In my defense, I did her a favor. You can't be the 8th grader who believes in Santa. It's just not cool.) I spent all our money, cleaned my house for the 8,000th time, got a break from Cub Scouts Girl Scouts and hula and tried like mad to entertain all of them while the rain pounded relentlessly on our little island. On January 3rd, I celebrated when they went back to school. January 4, go to the doctor for some crazy shit on my arm that looks "suspicious". They removed it, burned the area around it and now my arm hurts.  That evening, I slipped in the bathroom on the wet floor and slammed my face into the sink splitting my lip open (I now look like a duck) and busting part of a crown off. January 6, dentist's consult didn't go too well; I may need surgery. (The crown was only ever meant to be temporary. The dentist is shocked I got almost a year out of it, so this whole procedure is long overdue.) January 7, sat at my computer only to see a post from a Facebook friend that got me all worked up. (Apparently the rest wasn't quite enough.) It's not important to quote what she said (and seriously, I'm not starting a fight with a friend on my blog) but it did get me thinking a lot about mothers... 

     You know what strikes me as completely insane? That we, as women, don't support and care for one another. What a force we would be if we could just put our own insecurities aside and lifted each other up through this crazy thing we do called parenting. This shit is hard, people. Really hard. If you think you have all the answers, you could be setting yourself up for a very rude awakening. And, for the record, I wouldn't even consider listening to your version of parenting the right way unless you have teenagers who are fabulous and they got that way without the aid of the "fear of God". But I digress.

     Funny story- Do you all remember when Jamie Spears (yes, Britney's little sister) got pregnant? I just Googled this for accuracy. The announcement came on December 20, 2007. (God knows I don't want you to think I have that date memorized!) Let me remind you where my life was at this moment. It was perfect. Ok, not 100%, but it was: white picket fence, kids in school and doing relatively well. It was: "Don't smoke, do drugs or have sex." It was: "I have a wonderful open relationship with my daughter and she tells me everything. If she says she's not having sex, then she's not!" I actually thought about writing a parenting book at this stage of my life.This just made me laugh out loud. I thought I had it so together. I was doing it right. And aside from the fact that Mark was still looking for work in Chicago, our family was doing really well. Of course, we all know that it didn't stay that way. Life went to shit. The kids became rebellious and the attitude from others became: "Well she must have done something wrong." But you know what I think? I think they were going to become them regardless of, or maybe even  in spite of what I did or did not do. It all just happened to coincide.

Nature Vs. Nurture
          The biggest proof I have that nature accounts for much of who we become is... ME! Let's look at where I came from. The only information I have on my biological parents comes from my mother's side. She was 18, enjoyed sewing and singing. Her hair was brown, she was about my build and she held odds and ends jobs. I did have a little bit more information on her parents. My maternal grandmother was a songwriter while her husband was a lithographer. In all, they appeared to be much more creatively driven than scientifically inclined. 

     And then there are Merilyn and Bill; my real parents. My mother graduated from an Ivy league school (the very same that Barack attended, though she will never claim this as something she is proud of. Yet another of our differences.) Her major? Chemistry. My father put himself through college. Not like worked his way through college, like left his home on the farm in southern Illinois and put his ass through school to make a better life for himself without so much as a "good luck" pat on the back. His major? Electrical Engineering. My father worked for Aerospace or Hughes or JPL or something tremendously impressive before going into business for himself. My parents both had something to do with the first Apollo missions. My Dad knows how to operate a wire EDM machine. I don't even know what one is. (I just wiki'd it. I think I'd rather read War and Peace than that definition.) Eventually, my mother started her own business which they ran together until selling it and retiring a few years back. They read the newspaper every day and if you were my Dad's daughter, you would know that as a child you should not ask what makes a rainbow unless you want the real answer of how the atmosphere bends and some crap about light curving and prisms and... oh I don't know. Whatever the answer was I know it isn't the story about the leprechauns I tell my kids. 

     Which makes a nice transition into the "about me" portion. In the event you don't already know, I started performing very young. I took ballet and tap and good God, my mother had me play the accordion. I will give you a moment to soak this in. The accordion, people.


     If only I'd known how big Weird Al would get I might have stuck with it. I joined a performing company at age 9 or 10 and toured all of California, and even some of Canada for the World's Fair.

     I worked for Disneyland for 10 years as every character from Mickey Mouse to Peter Pan's Wendy; Alice in Wonderland being my favorite.

     I majored in theater, I excel in creative writing and am currently working on a novel. I can sing pretty well and if I was forced to, I could likely paint something fairly impressive given enough time. Ok. I'm not bragging here. What I can't do is math, science, or history. One of the only 'B's I ever got in college was in Astronomy 101 because no matter how hard I tried, I really couldn't "get it". I remember my dad getting really frustrated with me (Like "Goddammit, Dia!" frustrated) while trying to explain the Theory of Relativity for the 50th time. I finally just settled for memorizing it on a flash card rather than understanding it, thus ending my dream of one day visiting Mars ;) I made it all the way to consumer mathematics in high school (oh yes. It means I was taught how to balance a checkbook) and literally cannot help Winnie with her 7th grade math homework when she needs it. Seriously. But neither can Mark, for that matter; damn film major/drummer who ended up making video games for a living. When it comes to homework help, our kids are kind of screwed. And here I am writing and laughing and waiting for the next karaoke night out so I can sing "Comfortably Numb" one more time with my hubby rather than hitting the books so my children can have a better chance of getting into college. If you don't think there's something about nature that trumps nurture, I say you're wrong. And, same as I did on October 16 1972,  my kids brought some of their own shit into this world with them. Taylor brought ADD, Ashley brought her stubborn attitude, Winnie brought, well, she brought Winnie, and so on and so forth.

So, now, the comment that got me all worked up on Facebook was as follows: 

     "Dear parents, if your kids are fucked up, it's your fault."

     This went on to list a whole host of things we as parents did or do wrong. First of all, let's define "fucked up". Are we talking didn't get into a university fucked up or Oakland crack whore fucked up? Isn't this rather subjective? In her post comments, she actually listed teenage pregnancy as one of the many traits one can have in order to obtain such a remarkable status. Hmmm. Well, as a (once) teenage mother raising a teenage mother, I can tell you that it's not ideal. It certainly wasn't the first thought that came to my mind when they put Ashley in my arms. "Dear daughter. I hope you get pregnant at the ripe age of 16 and live in my basement." But as a teenage pregnancy success story (I hope) I have to say that these stories are, as of yet, untold. Give it time. As the conversation continued on her Facbook page, the issue finally came around to ADD. How it is misdiagnosed (I agree) and how it is a cop out (I disagree, and for anyone raising a child with special challenges, it is a slap in our faces to tell us nothing is unique about this individual we know better than anyone else on the planet.) I could go on and on about the ins and outs of this post, but it really isn't important. Oh, you should also know that she has one daughter who is 2. (Insert very wicked laugh at the sight of her screaming at her 15 year old daughter she has just caught ditching school and smoking a joint with her newly dyed jet black hair in her back yard with her college aged high school drop out boyfriend.) So on to my real argument.

     Good Lord, the absolute cutest guy just came to my door wanting money for some environmental group that is trying to eliminate plastic bags in our grocery stores. Screw the environment. Let's overpopulate!!! 

Women Vs. Women
     We all have these stories. As mothers, we all have them. You know the one. Some asshole Mom looks at you sideways for grabbing your 4 year old by the wrist as if it's child abuse, even though said 4 year old has just emptied a carton of milk in aisle 10 and is now mopping the floor with his brand new Gap coat that put you back a cool $65, trumping your need for that haircut you haven't had in over a year. The looks get even better when you actually raise your voice at your child who has now sat himself in the milk pond, soaking his jeans on a day when it's 10 below outside. The baby is crying right in your face thanks to those devices that literally strap them to your chest (seriously, people, I'm trying to get rid of them...), the 2 year old (on a leash no less) slips and falls into the milk pond as well. Why did this grocery store abandon those car-carts?? You were up all night with a coughing 6 year old, your husband actually tried to have sex with you at 2am, and you're pretty sure that thing on your foot is getting bigger. You're still in your comfy sweats with the hole in the crotch and your hair was washed... hmm. When was that? The coffee burned this morning, there were no clean socks or underwear (please God, let Declan make it through the day without showing off the fact that his mother put him in his sister's Tinkerbell panties) and your kids were lucky to get a cold pop tart during the morning carpool. 2 doctor's appointments and one stop by the elementary school because someone forgot her lunch later, and all you want is some fucking milk and a frozen pizza from the grocery store. Now, here you are with Miss Holly-Homemaker giving you the evil eye of supreme parenting 2 aisles down. You're really starting to lose it now and it shows. Grab the kids, throw a milk and pizza in the basket and just flat out ignore the one dumped out on the floor until you get to the checkout where you can tell someone without Holly's disapproval. Breathe. It's almost over. Ohhhhh, but is it? Of course not. Holly now feels it necessary to not only publicly scowl at your circumstances, but to offer her parenting 101 words of wisdom. It usually goes like this: 

"Boy, you've got your hands full."
Judgmental and observant.
"Oh. Well, they're tired and it's been a long day."
Please leave me alone.
"Well, when my son, Travis, acts up I just take him home and come back for whatever I need later. It's actually better than disrupting the entire store."
"Well, we need milk for the baby, so..."
"Why not just hire a sitter for grocery shopping?"
"You know what? You're right? After having 8 kids, it never occurred to me to have someone help. What's that word again? Sitter? What is this you speak of? I am so glad we have good Moms like you around to remind the rest of us of the things that we just so stupidly forget. Like the fact that I could actually have someone come over and take care of my kids for me so that things like going to the doctor and grocery shopping are easy... no wait... dare I say joyful? Now why didn't I think of that myself? Oh. I know why.......... 

     So my question. We've all been through this and we all hate it, right? Why, then, does this keep happening? Why are you/we so quick to judge another woman who is just trying to get through the day same as you? You know, when Ashley got pregnant I actually had someone ask me where I went wrong. That's so unreal to me. Does she expect my answer to be: "Well, I'm not sure where I went wrong. Maybe it was that night I gave her boyfriend Rufies and said "Knock yourselves out" that did it. Here's the thing, folks. Ashley would have gotten pregnant no matter what I did. She's smart. She knew where to get birth control. She knew she could talk to me. She made her own choices. Mark and I didn't throw condoms at her and say "As long as you're safe, honey", nor did we tell her that sex is something only for married couples. I talked with her openly about protection, being in love and waiting for the right time. And of course this girl understood pregnancy and children. She's the oldest of 8 kids. She's seen birth more often than most OBGYNs. 

     And so as not to put this all on Ash and make you think of her as the bad seed or something ridiculous, let me add that Taylor has his own shit to deal with as well. He struggles in school. Not like the normal I hate school teen angst bullshit. He struggles. For every day, for every grade, for every un-lost homework assignment. He struggles. And so he is now enrolling in an adult school to finish high school (or get his GED) in an environment that he can focus in. I had another friend once ask me how I was going to do better with the other 6 children given that my eldest got pregnant at 16 and my second eldest can't finish high school. You know what? Suck it. Being a teenager is hard work too. Did you forget what it was like to be called fat or ugly or a slut? To be offered drugs and sex like they were free samples in the perfume department at Macy's? And if that wasn't your life in high school then you were lucky. Being a teenager isn't the walk-in-the-park many parents treat it as. I used to make horrible choices in the name of feeling secure with who I was. I had sex because I thought he loved me. I had no idea how incapable of real love a 17 year old boy was until I raised my own. Taylor can't walk past his sister without lifting a leg and farting in her face in some sort of prehistoric animal marking ritual. He can't possibly love a girl the way Mark loves me. Every day these kids walk in our doors they have faced things you and I have long forgotten about. Pressure. And not the kind of pressure we have as adults, but the pressure to make ridiculously stupid choices. To lose your virginity, to be in the right clique regardless of the sacrifices you will make. Pressure to try drugs they would never consider and are even afraid of. I actually used chewing tobacco because it was cool. CHEWING TOBACCO??!!! And I haven't even added in the pressure of pleasing your parents. What I'm saying here is that every day your teenagers says "no" is a battle won. Every day they walk into your house sober, happy and secure, they beat the odds. And occasionally, shit happens. A baby, an inability to make the grade, an angry fight with an enemy whose taunting has been relentless. My kids aren't fucked up. Life is fucked up. Why don't we, as mothers stop judging and start supporting? 

     As it happens, I've come up with my own theory as to why women do this to each other; a theory that has been formulated over years of being around women, mothers and children from all walks of life. We do it to make ourselves feel better. If the woman next to you is a shit mother, you can feel like a fantastic one. So making her into a shit mother has big benefits. I experience this kind of "leveling" all the time in a different avenue of my life; my choices in how I give birth. Some women are very quick to tell me what a dangerous thing it is to home birth, or how they had to have their cesarean birth because the baby would have died otherwise. They do this without being provoked or even so much as asked their opinion on the matter. Most of the time I just sit there with my mouth closed, letting her yap away until she's gotten it all out of her system and can move on with life. Over time, I have come to feel that the need to tell me why they had to do it their way or why my choice is dangerous is because my home birth challenges them to think about whether or not they had the birth they wanted. I realize this sounds like I have a superiority complex, I really don't. Quite simply, I loved my births and not every woman can say that. So when I do, they have to justify why they didn't get that experience for themselves. And sometimes that justification involves chastising me for the choices I made. Oh, I know this is stirring controversy so I will end it on this. My daughter had a medicated hospital birth and was very satisfied with it. This isn't about "home birth is better" this is about why a mother would find it necessary to criticize my choices rather than lift me up as a woman for having the right to make them. Bringing me back to parenting and the nature/nurture argument.

     Shit kids come from great parents and vice versa all the time. I'm not denying that we have the power to influence our children greatly, of course we do. I'm just saying that there is this core of who they are that you did not create. The Universe or God or whatever you believe in created that. I couldn't stop Winnie from wanting to perform no matter how hard I tried. If you have a gay son or daughter it isn't because you made them that way. I didn't so much as sip a beer during my pregnancy with Taylor and he has ADD. Ashley is maybe the smartest person I have ever met; totally mathematically inclined. (And that didn't come from me.) Sure, if your Dad was Charles Manson, then yeah, you might turn out like shit because of that. But these are not the people I'm talking about. I'm talking about every day Moms and Dads like you and me who are just trying to provide a good life for our kids; who love them more than anything in the world and hope for nothing but the best. And who, in spite of everything they did, sometimes have big challenges with those children. I know a lot of you have very small children and can't foresee a time when they will tell you to fuck off or that they hate you. But it happens. And it won't be because of something you did wrong. And for the record, you're going to do a lot of shit wrong. Like daily. So before you scowl at the woman who is losing it on her 3 year old in the middle of Baskin Robbins, consider, for a moment, that we all have our bad days and help her carry her ice cream to the car. If your kid turns out "fucked up", love them anyway and accept that they made their choices in this life. And on that note I have to say right here that I love Ashley and Taylor with every ounce of my soul. I am very proud of both of them for walking some tough paths in life and making every effort to do it with grace. I love my grandson dearly and wouldn't want the world to not have him. I used them as examples because both ADD and teen pregnancy were mentioned in my friends post and that's what set me off. It almost felt like she wrote it just for me. This blog is not to point out their shortcomings, but to point out ours, as the adults, for being so immature as to blame and put down other mothers rather than lifting them up. We all have great parenting ideas. We all have good days and I'm pretty sure we all have bad days. But we aren't fucking them up. We're raising them. The best way we know how. Take care of our fellow mothers. It's hard enough raising kids without others judging us.