Why I Am Done After One

 

Murray Family
I’m the bald baby who is almost cut out of the shot. Amazing photog, whoever it was.

“Pass the bread”, my father requested. As my sister reached for the bread basket, the rest of the table held their breath, shut their eyes, winced and prayed for a clean delivery. Nope. As her arm moved in slow motion across her dinner plate, it innately collided with her glass of milk, turning it over onto the tablecloth and undoubtedly drowning someone else’s pork chops and apple sauce, causing chaos and dismay throughout our dining room. This happened almost every night for probably more than a year. We’re not absolutely sure why but we chalked it up to subconsciously looking for some sort of attention from our very busy, very stressed-out parents. When you are one of six children, you sometimes had to pull out the big guns to get noticed. Good grades, bad grades, runaway threats, expulsion, broken limbs, car accidents, awards, parts in plays, visits from the local police or small sectors of the FBI. You had to make yourself known if you were going to stand out. My sister’s was the spilt milk, mine was the visit from the small sector of the FBI on the night of my older sister’s wedding rehearsal but hey, no one’s keeping score here. Growing up in a big family was empowering and degrading at the same time. If you weren’t taking care of your shit, no one else was either so you had better learn to use the washing machine early, pour your own damn cereal and bribe your older siblings for rides from point A to point B if you ever wanted to get anywhere. It was survival of the fittest in a clan that size and while it made me who I am today, it is also one of the biggest reasons I decided that my first born would remain my one and only. Here are the reasons from my own experience that helped me shut the garage door after birthing my first and only offspring.

My mother would forget my sister and I (and occasionally a friend or two) almost every Friday after swimming class at school and we would have to go on to wait in the school Convent where the nuns would serve us up warm diet coke and brownies and continuously call my house only to receive a busy signal as our crib was teeming with phone disorder-laden teenagers. Eventually, one of us would make an emergency breakthrough on the line and tell my mother that she forgot us. How could she not realize her two youngest babies had never arrived home from school? I mean, she called me “Whoever you are” after running through everyone else’s name so maybe that explains it but in her defense, she was pregnant for 10 years straight with only quick smoke breaks in between each pregnancy. How was she ever to rid herself of “Pregnancy Brain”? Truthfully, she never did.

  • My child’s life – I arrive everywhere at least five minutes early, with prepared snacks and water in case of immediate hunger and inability to make it the ten-minute drive home. She won’t have to wait in a convent ever, for many reasons but it’s really the warm, Diet Coke I’m trying to avoid here.

I was fourteen years old the first time I ever flew on an airplane. Exotic was hitting up Avalon instead of Stone Harbor, NJ during the summer months. I would beg my parents to go to Disney World and my father’s response would be, “As long as I am paying six private school tuitions, you’re probably not going to meet Mickey”.

  • My child’s life – My kid is four and she’s already explored the likes of Mexico (twice), Italy (twice), Spain, Australia and bits and pieces of the U.S.A. She has an annual pass to Disneyland. If we had another kid, we’d have to rent some furniture during the summer months and call it “The Summer House”.

Nilla Wafers were a real treat. Do you remember those? Yes well, my mother would pick up a box of them every Sunday and we’d house that box in 20 minutes or less and then there would be no more “treats” for the rest of the week.

  • My child’s life – We talk about whether we’ll hit CoolHaus Ice Cream or Sprinkles Cupcakes on Wednesdays after school. She’ll never have to rummage through my purse to find some Baby Aspirin or a loose Life-Saver to get that sugar high like we did when we were kids.

My mother would give us all a teaspoon (or tablespoon depending on your age and state of awakeness) of Dimetapp. Yes, you heard me, the cough medicine. She’d sit us up on the countertop and disperse the liquid sleep/cough aid to her children before bedtime. We were all ok with this since it tasted of grape and the Nilla Wafers had been gone for days.

  • My child’s life – While I won’t deny the fact that I have exaggerated my child’s cough and announced to an entire international flight that she has been coughing for days while dosing her with Benadryl before a long haul, we do not drug her (no matter how tempting) so that we can get a good night’s sleep. I am not knocking my mother’s brilliance or desperation here but really? My poor, tiny liver. If I had more than one kid, I’d ditch the announcements to fellow passengers and line them up on the ticketing booth to dispense the drugs. Like mother, like daughter.
Thank God my mother made it clear that booze made my sister stay up late...when she was two. Case still stands in point.
Note my mother left to the babysitter. If you are to give the two year old a cocktail, make sure it isn’t close to bedtime…for your own sake.

There was no way my parents could have or would have wanted to volunteer or be involved parents in school and outside activities. They were tired, they had no urge and quite frankly, I don’t blame them but you do it for your kid. By showing support for the community your child is involved in, you show your child you are invested in their success. Don’t get me started on my neglect issues, stay with me.

  • My child’s life – I give way more than I should and she’ll probably roll her eyes when she spots me putting away library books, the day after I ran the Dance-a-Thon and won the fight for healthy lunches at her school next year but she’ll know I cared, she’ll know I was invested…and I will bask in the glory that I am an amazing parent, much superior to my own. If I had more than one, I’d slow down at drop off while I forced them all out of a moving car.

I couldn’t get away from the chaos. It was everywhere I turned. Loud voices, instruments, televisions, peace was few and far between and I relish in quiet. I had no idea that I loved peace and quiet so much until I was well-into adulthood. Big crowds were a part of my identity, until I learned that I suffer from Claustrophobia, of course.

  • My Child’s Life – We bring her to spend time with her eleven cousins over the summer and winter breaks and it’s so great for her. It makes her feel important, like she has this huge family and over the years she’s even stopped physically pushing them away from her while screaming “NO!!” in her loudest voice, arms extended like Elsa trying to escape Arandelle after the Coronation took a bad turn, so I’m feeling pret-ty positive about her progress. If I had more than one, I’d be surrounded by the chaos that I thought I loved but was actually slowly killing me. My children would be killing me slowly. That’s something to contemplate, really.
My fam
My little, happy family.

I realize my life has been full of love and companionship. I’ve rarely ever felt alone and I wouldn’t change all of the crazy for all of the money in the world. We’ve made choices for our family that work best for us. We love to travel, live in LA and provide her with experiences I wasn’t allowed to dream of (mostly because I was in a drug-induced state of slumber). It doesn’t matter because in 20 or so years, we’ll all be reading, “How my Parents Ruined my Life by Making Me an Only Child” By: Stella Masciopinto. Stay tuned, it should be a good one.

Surviving Postpartum Depression in 5 Easy Steps

Exhausted, anxious and in a total tear-stained daze, I stood in line at the pharmacy thinking to myself, “Fuck, I knew I should have eaten my placenta.” Never in my life did I think this particular thought would be running through my mind but when one is in the midst of Postpartum Depression, one’s mind is full of surprises. I did consider going down the placenta smoothie path when I was pregnant with my second child but ultimately decided I just wasn’t the organ-eating type. However, in that moment while waiting for my Zoloft, I found yet another thing I thought I had messed up. The last few weeks had been chock-full of those.

Fast forward a couple months. I have learned a tremendous deal about the illness that was slowly suffocating me and I want to share some of those things with you. So Dearests, I present to you with love in my heart, sanity in my brain and wine in my glass, Five “Easy” Steps for Surviving Postpartum Depression.

Step 1 – Acknowledge that you’re too screwed up to see how screwed up you are.   

Let me paint a picture of the true chemical cluster fuck that is Postpartum Depression. It’s like this, you know how you used to go out with your girlfriends on a Saturday night (I say “used to” because you’re a parent now, and the only thing you do on Saturday night is watch “48 Hours” while making a mental note to check on whether your spouse has recently taken out a new life insurance policy on you). Anyway, you used to get dressed up – dress, heels, hair and makeup – the whole nine. And, when you left the house you thought, “Hey, I look pretty good. I mean, not supermodel good but since I’m not a genetic mutant, this is as good as it’s going to get. Let’s do this!” Then, you would start drinking. And, all of a sudden…logic be damned, you’re Miranda freaking Kerr! A couple more drinks and now you are really feeling yourself. No one is hotter than you. You own this night. Hell, you own Miranda Kerr! Sound familiar?

The only problem with this scenario (other than your inevitable massive hangover) is that you actually look like a hot frigging mess. Your mascara is smeared, your hair looks like Nick Nolte’s mugshot and half your boob is hanging out (not the good boob either). Only you are way too drunk to realize it. The chemicals that have you feeling all hot to trot are actually blocking you from the reality of the situation – you are superbly fucked up. 

Well, that’s what PPD is like as well. The hormones, stress, fatigue, physical changes, etc have you so supremely messed up that it’s impossible to even compute how messed up you really are. My solution for this is simple. Ask everyone who truly loves you whether or not they think you are out of your mind and when they say yes, please, believe them.

Step 2 – Ignore everything you see on Social Media.

Truthfully, I think this should be a general rule of thumb to live by (except when it comes to MommyDearest Inc. of course!), but this is particularly true when you suffer from PPD and here’s why – parents lie, big time. During the course of my suffering, I posted plenty of joyful pictures, like this one…IMG_5025

and this one…IMG_5202.Aw, so sweet, right? And, while those pictures were truly a portion of life at the time, they weren’t the whole truth. The whole truth was not the kind of photo you post on Instagram. Nobody wants to see me curled up in the fetal position crying, (really hard to get a good selfie angle of that anyway). They want to see cute kids and smiling faces. I get it, I want that too. I just don’t want all of us Moms out there to feel like everyone else’s lives are picture perfect because that’s what we see everyday on social media, when really there isn’t a filter in the world that can clean up the craziness of what it’s sometimes like to bring a new baby into your family. 

Step 3 – Make sure your kids know it’s their fault.

I’m only partially kidding here. I think our natural instinct as parents is to shield our kids from seeing us sad. Angry, sure, that’s unavoidable given their tendency to act like holy terrors but sad, not so much. Thus, I was spending an extraordinary amount of energy trying to act happy around my kids who were, I’m quite convinced, trying to slowly kill me. Then one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not that I wanted to lose my shit on such an epic level, but just like my inexplicable affection for Christian Slater even after all these years, it was a force bigger than me. I simply could not stop crying, even in front of my four year old. At first, I agonized over this and the potential damage it could do to him but then a friend reminded me that sadness is a normal human emotion he needs to feel comfortable with – especially if I wanted to avoid raising an emotionally stunted man (just what the world needs more of, amiright?). So, I explained to him that I was feeling very sad and overwhelmed and that I needed a break. And you know what happened? This kid, the same one who often seemed to take pleasure in doing his best to drive me bat shit, actually started to take care of me. He rubbed my back, telling me everything was going to be okay. He brought me his favorite stuffed animals to snuggle with and he even wiped his own butt! No wait, he’s never done that last thing, I’m just wishful thinking on that one. Seriously though, it was like that page in I Love You Forever where the son holds his old-ass mom in the rocking chair and sings to her – except much less creepy (I hope). Regardless of the potential Oedipal ramifications, it really proved to me that I shouldn’t sugar coat the situation as much as I had been. And neither should you. 

Step 4 – Let it all go to shit.

Eat chocolate. Drink wine. Stop working out. Let the dust bunnies pile up. Let the kids eat something from a box. Then let the dog eat the box. Then let your husband see that not only did your children eat processed macaroni and cheese for dinner but your dog is now pooping cardboard from having snatched the box while you were drinking wine in the bathroom. In other words, give up the act. You don’t have your shit together right now and that’s okay. You will rebound soon enough. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack and find solace in the comforts of being a total slacker. If it’s a good enough strategy for the Millennials, it’s good enough for you too.

Step 5 – Get help.   

For me, this meant finally taking the advice of my Dr. (and fellow Dearests) and starting medication. I also sought the help of a Chiropractor, a Healer and a Psychiatrist (it takes a village). It’s not easy to admit that to you. But, it’s a hell of a lot easier than spending one more day looking in the mirror and not realizing I was the drunk girl at the club with my bad boob hanging out.

Laguna Beach – A Review of Sorts

When the question arose as to where we could escape LA for a night and get a little well-deserved R&R, Susan Dearest jumped at the chance to suggest her old stomping ground, Laguna Beach. Perfect for families, perfect for Christmas shopping, lunching, hot tubing, day drinking, tide pool exploring and the like. Theresa and Susan Dearest packed up their families (Kelly Dearest was sadly being a solid professional and had to stay behind to make TV and stuff) and we headed down the 405 to the little paradise that is Laguna Beach.

We started off with a little lunch at The Hotel Laguna, where we were served-up some grub by a lovely waitress. We can attest that the best things about this restaurant are the service, the fries, the view and the wine. These are the only really important factors of any establishment, really.

Hotel Laguna, great views, even in the rain.
Hotel Laguna, great views, even in the rain.

After soaking up the rainy day view of the gorgeous coastline whilst sipping on some vino, the men folk decided to take the girls to explore the tide pools but not before Susan and Bram started arguing about the correct way to install a car seat…in the pouring rain. Note* Bram is Theresa Dearest’s husband, whom Susan Dearest adores but this just proves the fact that car seat installations are just fuel for any man and woman to get into it. Theresa and Susan were then off on their own, sans offspring, to shop, sip and get massages.

Now, as we were trotting up and down Forest Ave. doing a little shopping, we decided that we’d better find a place to book massages before the day got away from us. It was quickly agreed upon the best place to do this would be sitting down, discussing it over a glass of wine. We stopped in to the Watermarc and were served up a crisp glass of something by a wonderful young man named Brandon…or Dylan…or David Silver. Either way, the dude knows his way around olive stuffing (get your mind out of the gutter). He was great at small talk but we were left to wonder, when he left his job at the Watermarc a few years prior, he said he went to do other things but was very unspecific about what. Later that week we saw a man on Facebook who had gone missing and we could swear it was Brandon, Dylan, David Silver. He seemed wholesome and all-American but we believe there’s more to him and only time will tell…only time will tell.

Anyhoo, the only people who would take us for last minute massages were the fine folks down at Beach Feet Spaaahh. Yes, the name alone won us over. When we rolled into the establishment, we were greeted by a lovely woman and led into a room where we needed night vision goggles to see each other. We were told to undress and lay down in these BarcaLounger-type chairs. We hadn’t realized this was going to be a group massage. I asked if we could have private rooms and after some hysteria and some shuffling, we ended up in tiny little massage/storage rooms. Theresa with a man who had just finished-up eating his sandwich and Susan with a cute little woman whose fierceness and super-human strength were still yet to be discovered.

So dark you needed night goggles.
So dark you needed night vision goggles.

Theresa relives her experience. – “The massage room was as wide and as long as a Twinkie. After hopping on top of the bed with me, he was able to slide the door shut and his workspace became the empty inches on either side of my body. My massage began with this slight man walking up and down my back, kneeling on my ass while rubbing my shoulders and standing on my shoulder blades – all at once. Despite this barbaric-sounding rubdown, it was surprisingly relaxing once I got over the claustrophobia and fear that my ribcage would be crushed beneath his feet.”

In conclusion, we’d totally go back. The price was right, they were accommodating and they stomped on any stress we were holding onto prior to our visit.

After such an exhausting day, we decided the best thing to do was to swing by the ol’ Montage Resort and Spa for a little aperitif. As we stepped out of Theresa’s car, the Valet asked her how the surf was this morning. It was as if someone had asked her who the 35th President of Zimbabwe was despite the fact the roof rack was loaded to the gills with surfboards (her husband’s). She immediately stripped us of any cool I was clinging to by actually driving around with the boards to begin with. I’m a total poser. Ah well, let’s get a drink. The Montage Laguna Beach might just be one of the most relaxing places on the planet. It is gorgeous, has amazing views and the staff is never, ever pretentious there which makes the joint extra classy. It’s also one of the most festive places to hang and you can’t beat the free snacks when you order a drink. While we were sipping on our spirits and recapping our masaaggggghhh experiences, there was buzz about the lobby by some mature folk regarding some “Justin Beaver” kid who had jumped on the piano the night before. Right after we eavesdropped on this heart-racing piece of news, coming from the piano was the “Beave’s”, “What do you Mean?” The Dearests went ape shit like two tweens who just got their first bras. I jumped from my seat only to see the Montage Piano player, jamming with passion, creating a hole in my tiny, little heart. Later we found out that The Biebs had been at The Montage Beverly Hills the night before. Timing is everything, people.

Our happy place.
Our happy place.

After one of the loveliest restaurant owners in town at Alessa’s fit our party of six in on a Friday night, without a reservation and we chowed down on some delicious Italian treats, we headed back to the hotel with our exhausted four year olds in tow. We had decided to stay at The Ranch at Laguna Beach because they were throwing this pre-opening special. We paid in the $300’s and I am unsure what the post-opening prices will be but they really need to get their heating situation figured out before that. This is the text message chain that ensued between Susan and Theresa Dearest the morning after a not so restful evening.

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Nacho

*Nacho happens to be Susan Dearest’s cat – a sweet bundle of brown and white fuzz with a penchant for hauling ass out of the house whenever a loud and curious child appears. Unfortunately, for Nacho, her food and water are kept inside, so she can only take a sip of water or a bite of food when the coast is clear. Sometimes Nacho will silently appear in the kitchen, sneakily walking to the doorway, always listening, always on guard for that insane child to come darting out of the living room wielding a gymnastics ribbon wand and screaming the words to The Lion Guard – sending her flying back out of her cat door, starving and parched, once more. Sweet girl. So thirsty. All. Of. The. Time.

Sweaters back on after shutting the heat completely off.
Sweaters back on after waking up completely naked and delirious from the heat.

After a horrific night’s sleep, we gathered the troops and headed off to the Balboa Island Fun Zone. This place is always a good time with kids. We rented a little boat and toured around the harbor for an hour. We got to ogle some sea lions and watch the rich people cruise by on their Kardashian-like yachts while we were slumming it with the travel potty on deck in case of emergencies (which of course there were). Wealth is relative. Right before we took off for home, I volunteered to go on what was the longest Ferris Wheel ride of my life. I’m not sure why they keep it going so long but the girls were super jazzed while I was praying to keep my lunch down.

Here we gooooo...the 75th time around. HELP.
Here we gooooo…the 75th time around. HELP.

All in all, a fantastic time was had by everyone – hell, we may have even sweat off a few pounds overnight – and you can’t knock that! We are definitely excited to see what The Ranch will have to offer once they are completely up and running – it is sure to be an awesome place. So many fun places to visit in the Laguna Beach area – delicious food, fun shopping, beautiful hotels and family friendly activities. We are already looking forward to our next visit – although we may skip the Ferris Wheel ride next time, just sayin’.