Why SO Many Kids?

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

How many kids are too many kids, you ask?

There are never too many! But then again, I’m probably the wrong person to ask since I’m 17 years into building my own army. I’m proud of having this many kids. We are a spectacle everywhere we go, even though they kind of hate it by now. Especially as they’ve gotten older. It’s embarrassing to them.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

I don’t mind other people flat out gawking at us, but I do sometimes really mind the comments.

“You have your hands full.”

“Whoa. Ever heard of a condom?”

“OH THE LAUNDRY!”

And once in a blue moon, we get “Wow. How lucky you are—You are so blessed.”

That one makes all the other comments alright. But even if I got only criticism and no compliments, it wouldn’t be enough to make me stop. I have a death grip on my reasons for having so many kids. The main one being: I’m not lonely anymore.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

When I was growing up I had three boys to play with: My older brother and two cousins.

I tagged along until my brother left for college. My cousins moved away. It was awkward to be a sudden only child at 16. My parents also changed. Everything was so strange and quiet. So I felt alone for years until I found someone to have a baby with. I was 21, and Jake’s dad was much older. He also couldn’t hack parenthood and bailed immediately.
Jake and I were on our own for a bit. I loved him so much, that I barely noticed his dad was gone. Jake was my lifeboat. My ticket to wholeness. Looking back all these years, I realize that was quite a bit of pressure to put on a baby. Of course, I would never do this now…would I?

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

Now that he’s about to turn 17, Jake thinks we have too many kids in our cramped house. But even if the house was a mansion and each kid had their own room, it would still be too many to him.

Nowadays, he’s busy making plans to get his own place, and he brings it up a lot. So much so, that I want to dig my heels in and keep him in my basement forever. I fully admit that sounds psychotic. But I’m terrified that I’m on the brink of being lonely again. And quickly, too. Even though the kids ages are spread apart (16, 15, 14, 14, 11, 9, 5), I know it’s only a matter of one of them leaving that will cause the rest of the dominoes to fall. So then, my rationale is that if I never stop having kids, I can always make sure there is someone new to fill the baby shoes I save. It’s a way for me to freeze time for awhile.

Why SO Many Kids So Called MomAnd, just between you and me, there’s a good chance that at least one of the kids – like the baby, Leopold – might never move out. He might just be the kid that still needs me so much, that the farthest he’ll move is right next door. This is a sincere hope of mine that would take some outright brainwashing. That doesn’t seem right at all, but I can’t say it doesn’t cross my mind. And while I can’t rightfully ask you not to judge me, I understand why you would.

Now there’s drawbacks to having so many kids, as you might expect. These drawbacks go much deeper than the fatalistic loads of laundry I slave over. And it has nothing to do with what a pain in the ass being pregnant is, or how bad it hurts to give birth. It’s the never resting chaos that comes with the territory: I barely have enough time for me, let alone daily one-on-one time with each of them. It’s also the pressure of having a Christmas that somehow outdoes the previous one. And how we never seem to have enough money to cover our bases. We have to call ourselves “Financially Creative” to help us feel better about the circumstances.

Even with all these cards laid out on the table, it’s all about the future of this lifestyle that has me excited–and terrified, at the same time.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

In the future, when they come home from college for Christmas break, it will be fun to watch them reunited for the first time in months. In my mind, it will look like a movie. And when they come home for Christmas with their own families—it will look like a freaking Norman Rockwell painting. (We’ll need a bigger table of course.) And of course, when I’m dead and gone, I won’t know what it will look like, but I have guaranteed that each of them will always have someone be there for them. All of this excites me and makes me proud to ultimately pull it off each day.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

But the future I’m terrified of is what hangs over my shoulders.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not ignorant to it:

“It’s time for you to So Called Stop having so many kids.”

“Gather up some So Called Confidence.”

“Get a So Called Hobby.”

These comments come from my own inner voice, too– not just the people who stand and stare at our large family and huge double grocery carts of food.

But at least I’m willing to acknowledge the loneliness I felt before I had kids, and the future I imagine without them. Is it an illness? An addiction? Insecurity? Am I being self serving? All of the above? I have somehow found a way to untangle my life by living tangled up in theirs. This is all I know.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

So then, what is my answer to letting go of them? Is it having more kids to fill the void that’s left when the older ones leave? I’m not sure I can imagine my life without them in it.

Too Much Love,

So Called Mom

 

Up Next: Why I Hate Screens

To Homeschool … Or Not.

Jake, Phoenix, Earth, Milla, MJ, Pascal, Leopold Sauvie Island Farm Homeschool

 

Having my kids in a traditional school was ruining my family. homeschool

Those days, my kids would get home and have to begin homework right away or they would be doomed. And by they, I really mean me. There were days they did homework straight through dinner, straight through the weekend, in the car, and in their beds. I once watched MJ fall asleep with a pencil in her hand, mid-sentence. I have even kept them home from school before, just so they could finish projects for school. homeschool

HomeschoolWhat kind of example was this teaching them? To work day and night and never take time to explore who they were? Their school left no room for them to follow their passion or explore being an individual in a big family. I saw them growing up too fast. I saw them overworked and really, really unhappy.

So I pulled the plug on the whole thing. I bit the bullet and took their learning into my own hands.

When I made the decision to homeschool, I imagined my kids becoming instant geniuses in knitted hats (made with their own talented hands of course). Their little creations would become so bloggable that we would become a global inspiration to other families. My imagination ran wild with this.

So called mom Homeschool

Because of this decision, I also could see us going off grid— as though the house would become an experiment in and of itself—we’d learn everything there is to know about solar panels, passive heating and compost toilets. My lesson books were going to be impressive.

 

I would become an expert at recycling, gardening and keeping chickens.

All of this would happen in my heels and tutus, because let’s not forget about the importance of style. The kids would learn instruments and how to sing together and meditate. Dinners would be wholesome and I’d finally have the endless hours of togetherness I wanted. We would be a solid family. The kids would be confident and different, by choice.

Instead, they turned into people-phobes with social anxiety. Homeschool

They became the weirdos that didn’t go to school. No matter how awkward it was, I kept going and for a couple of years it worked. Like kind of how a compost toilet would’ve worked I guess: Some days were better than others, but most of the time I was still troubleshooting, knee deep in my own shit.

Homeschool So Called Mom

Then my oldest, Jake unraveled the whole thing.

So Called Mom HomeschoolHe got the urge to become “normal” and insisted on going back to school. I think he actually just wanted to gawk at teenage girls like any other 16 year old. MJ applied and got into an arts-based middle school over the summer while Pascal formed a posse of girls from the neighborhood and wanted to give elementary school a shot. Earth was the last one remaining—though it was mostly our call to keep her in another year. Milla and Phoenix have yet to experience homeschooling. Milla thinks she wants to learn from me for high school, but I know this will change over summer. Phoenix, I have no say. I’m only the other mom. And of course that baby, Leopold, will always be homeschooled. Even though he isn’t a kindergartener yet, doesn’t mean I haven’t already started with him. Homeschool

Homeschool

Not long after returning to our standard “six kids at five different schools” model, only one of them has returned to homeschooling: Pascal. Mostly because that kid has so much extra curricular life, it has taken over what would normally be considered important: school. I just feel like when you’re a kid with talent and a lot of heart, you should be allowed to lean into your passion and develop it. It’s only habit that we moms put school first. What about French and Swedish lessons? What about Accordion? What about Skateboarding? Are those things not worth their full attention?

MJ-Davinci-Letter-edit why we Homeschool

Last week MJ wrote me a letter asking to be homeschooled again. It was really sweet and made me cry a tiny bit. I can’t decide if it’s because all of Pascal’s new learning materials just arrived or if she truly misses it. Or misses me. I know I miss her. I miss all of them—I even miss the kids I haven’t taught at home—yet.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Up Next: Why So Many Kids

How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

kids jake mj and pascal so called mom

My last post was about fighting, so it only seems right to follow up with talking—to the kids!

Since we have seven kids with vastly different ages, I always have to temper my conversations to some kind of age appropriateness. This is difficult because their ages are always changing.  I recently read about what I’m supposed to be doing on the pamphlets that my pediatrician sends me away with. One of the big no no’s from our family doctor is that apparently I should’ve been helping them communicate better and make friends. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any kids in the house for them to get to know! There are 4 teenagers, two tweens and Leopold. Surely there’s someone to befriend. I say we get a pass on that rule. Still though, every age group is different and, as they get older, it gets harder to talk.

kids so called momWhen I talk to my teenagers, I feel like I’m playing ping pong—with a baseball bat.

I’m so “not doing it right.” I’m so “embarrassing.” I’m so not even sure anything I’ve said makes it into their ears because of the damn headphones. Those things have become so discreet, but also so huge. I suppose it depends on the day—whether they feel like wearing the headphones that are as big as a billboard or the ones that double as Q-Tips. Plus, these days, they are basically fused to the kids heads, no matter how big or small they are. I think I’d like it more if it was music and not videos. Or videos about video games. Or videos of people we don’t know playing video games.

And I’m the one who’s not fascinating?

Let’s take dinner last week. One of my four daughters, Milla, was able to make it through an entire meal with them on, without me knowing it. Her phone was on her lap and when she laughed, I thought it was because of something I said. Sneaky.

I think I’m worth the conversation. I think they are too. But having quality conversations—the stuff that KEEPS you in their life, can be tricky.

Since we homeschool many of the kids, I obviously can’t ask what they did at school. Instead I spend our daytime together being a tyrant over their education. So this gets annoying. To all of us. My daughter Earth has learned not to approach me directly after I’ve had my coffee. I’m all over her with schedules, to-do lists, extra credit and electives. She was only wondering if we had more milk.

The tweens are a little more easygoing AND still think Im fabulous. It’s easier to talk, because I still have their attention. I can still take them out and just about buy their love. I know that’s probably not in those doctor pamphlets but hey, when your kids get older, you try anything for together time.

kids so called momLeopold, the baby (OK…. he’s 5, but he’s MY baby), is still a dream to talk to. I am his everything. We talk about explosions and boogers. Dinosaurs and my pretty hair. He is the only kid who is following my footsteps in ballet, for real this time. Everyone else has dropped out.

I am into together time. Even if it means holding some kids captive, against their will.

This is done best at the dinner table. Seven years ago, I became convinced I was losing touch with my children….and I was. So I began a nightly family ritual at the dinner table “What I Liked About Today and What I Didn’t Like About Today,” designed to get the kids talking—to Pippin and me and to each other. (Even though the teens have retitled it What Sucked and What’s Awesome) You get the idea.

“What I liked about today is that I learned how to ride switch to fakie on my new board. What I didn’t like about today was that I fell and hurt my shoulder.”

“What I liked about today was that we all got to say goodbye to the turtle. What I didn’t like was that we had to put him to sleep because the dog ate him.”

“Whats awesome about today is that I’m finally going to a normal school. What sucks is that I’ve been stuck in the basement in front of a computer so long, that I don’t know how to talk to other kids anymore.”

“What I liked about today is this dinner. What I didn’t like is that the dog just farted. You guys smell that?”

kids so called mom

By the time we cycle halfway through these, we are either laughing, annoyed or both.

There is a lot of talking over one another. I have spent almost a decade getting everyone to listen while others are talking. It doesn’t work. It is chaotic and overwhelming. But the point is, they are talking.  Even if, by the end of it all, we can’t hear each other speak and it doesn’t look like how I want it to, I can still feel like I’m a part of it all.  And with any luck, those headphones are somewhere else for an hour.

Good Talk,

So Called Mom

Next Post: To Homeschool…Or Not.

The Benefits of a Good Fight

pippin kristen kissing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I love a good fight.

I love fighting with my husband, because it helps restore order. Like how I imagine the day after the apocalypse to be. Fighting makes us love each other more; it makes our family tighter. Whenever we experience an imbalance in our relationship, we let loose and drag it through the house, because displaying confrontation is important. You can be sure the dog, the chickens, the kids and maybe even the neighbors know when it happens because we aren’t shy about it. Fight.

Wait.

Did I say we fight in front of the kids?

You bet.

I know this might sound crazy, but hear me out. There are a few reasons why we fight in front of the kids:

  1. Having an audience keeps our fights fair. I tend to fight like a Queen, but having them watch reminds me that I don’t have a pedestal to scream from. Heads don’t need to roll—every time at least!
  2. Kids can learn conflict just like cooking and balancing a check book in Home Ec. They’re watching what it looks and sounds like to be heard. They are witnessing two people work through understanding each other. The kids are taking mental notes for their own future conflicts. To us, we’re modeling healthy ones.

While there are so many subjects to fight about, let me focus on just one of them:

Making plans.

pippin kristen driving The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomI am the type of person that needs to know what the plan is. I want to know the plan, and then I want to know plan B. I just think this is responsible parenting. My husband is not like this. He can board a plane at the last minute and arrive without anything lined up—no accommodations, no map, not even any luggage. We took a red eye to New York City in August like this. I was 8 months pregnant. I had swollen ankles and wanted a plan really, really bad. But our relationship was still new, and I pretended to be more adventurous than I really was.  We arrived with no hotel room, no toilet, and no idea how to get out of the airport.  I learned early in our relationship, that Pippin’s laid back nature, may work when it comes to building sand castles, but it crossed a line when it came to plans.
Plans of any sort.  We are currently selling our house.  We’ve outgrown it with seven kids, four of whom are teenagers.  Pippin has no problem selling our home, going on a (mostly unplanned) vacation and returning, without anything lined up to return TO.  Sounds crazy, no? Well this is about to become my future. Hawaii sounds nice, but what’s going to happen after  Hawaii?

“We will figure it out. We’ll survive!”

But I don’t like Survival Mode.

kristen sun bathing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I like Relaxation mode – whether it’s vacation, weekend plans, or even Sunday breakfast—life is stressful enough. When I’m forced to survive and play like I’m enjoying it, that’s when shit hits the fan. (And side note:  not one of the kids is on board with this type of whimsical lifestyle). So I fight.

A typical fight starts like this: I go nuclear with little warning.  Pippin might be surprised but is so non-confrontational, he will probably feign complete confusion. Then he may bring up some completely unrelated “transgression” that I did.  A common tactic to confuse and divert the prey!  So begins the circular arguing that, like most conflicts, has nothing to do with the subject.  It’s about power and who gets to win that round.  This goes on until we are finally speaking the same language – mine. And I’m usually crying (it’s exhausting being right). It’s OK, though. I like a good cry. Anyway, I truly believe fighting is the sound of our relationship evolving, and I think after ten years, we are getting better at it.

The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomONE upside is that I am learning things about myself.  Our 5 year old, Leopold, recently hushed me with, “Mommy, you are being really rude to Daddy.” As a So Called mom, I have learned to be wrong. That I don’t have all the answers and can still be loved and accepted by my family. It takes the perfection out of motherhood, and replaces it with being human.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Next Post: How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

I believe in the power of dressing up.

I often get comments like, “why are you always so gussied up?” and “what’s the occasion?” and my answer is always the same: “If I don’t look good, I don’t feel good. And if I don’t feel good, nothing good happens.” It’s because I need to knock my own socks off before I do the same to anyone else. Worn.

Let’s just say if I’m going to make an impact on life, it’s going to be a head on collision and not a ding. And if there’s going to be trauma either way, I want to at least be able to say I’ve lived. I want to be memorable. And you just can’t do that without a grand costume.

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called MomIt’s like this: How many times have you dressed up and felt great? For me, it’s every damn time. Which is why I always dress up. It doesn’t get old with me. Why would it? Feeling great never gets old. I used to wear sweatpants and jeans. A LOT. And Uggs. Those modern day slippers that scream, “Guess who doesn’t give a f***?!”

While I understand their purpose and have owned a few pairs myself (and I secretly ADORE them), UGG’s, Tom’s and other lazy shoes do absolutely nothing for us. Maybe they give us REALLY flat feet, and some comfort, but that’s it. Heels give you bunions. Courage. Calf muscles. Grace. Beauty. CONFIDENCE. Bunions I can live with. Worn.

Just say no to the average stuff.

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

Jeans with T’s, sweatpants, or anything cheap and trendy (yes those words are interchangeable) don’t make the kind of statement you’re looking for. That stuff is not style. Style is intentional. Style is curated like art. Style is individual. You develop it, like yourself, over time. Style feels GOOD.

What works are investment pieces:

Manolo’s. Louboutin’s. Gucci. Chanel. Oh MY!

Tutu’s. Mini skirts. Classy silk blouses…did I mention tutu’s?

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

All of it, all of it to be worn to the store, to pick up kids, to take out the trash.

Let’s get this straight because I don’t want to confuse you. And I don’t ever want you to feel like I’m not being real with you. I’m not rich. As a matter of fact, I would even go so far as to say I’m poor. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at me and that is because style is not about having money. It’s about having creativity, a pinch of integrity and a dash of class. It is the recipe for living a good life. If you’re urban, you can shop at some of the greatest consignment shops in town and also frequent thrift. If you’re not, there are plenty of online options: Etsy, EBay and the like. Worn.

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called MomThis is how I keep myself from looking like everyone else—being one of a kind. Memorable. A diamond in the rough. A realdiamond, too. And I also want to add that this type of shopping means more. It’s the art of the find. The score. Remember, we are curating, not consuming—so take your time. Make it a ritual. You will not find your true self hidden among the racks of H&M or Forever 21 because that is all about building an empire of lemmings. We are more creative than that.

A note on shoes: I don’t buy them often. In fact, I rarely buy them. But only because I have the same pairs of high end shoes that I have been caring for, for YEARS. My Manolo’s are almost three years old. My Louboutin’s are seven. I simply get them re-soled for $20 each year and they are brand new.

Dressing up like it’s normal is how I take care of myself.

Dressing up is what makes me a woman. This is what I consistently do so I can feel like I am not only on top of my game, but that I am the game. I make the rules, and others play by them–But only when I feel good by looking good. If I can dress, every single day, like I am going to a party, then life will literally be that party. When you dress awesome, you feel awesome. And everyone around you will love you for it. People will talk to you more. You ARE the conversation piece. You are the thing that makes everything LESS awkward. You’re the relief, the icebreaker, the prevention of “let’s play charades!” Who doesn’t Love THAT? Hell, even the gas station attendant dude said to me, weeks ago, “Oh hey, is that Missoni?” He was referring to my sweater, which is huge and gorgeous and accented by magenta fox fur. I told him, “No. I believe it is handmade. There are no tags anywhere and I got it at an estate sale for $65, five years ago.” And now he pumps my gas before anyone else. We talk about clothes each time. Great guy!

Take something simple. The T-Shirt for example. By tucking it in to the bottom half of a ball gown, you have turned your life into a soiree. And THEN go to the grocery store. See? This just helps me live better. I once went to a kids soccer game like this. No regrets from me.

The magic is in the small things too.

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

Another way I keep this girlie-girl on the up and up is by treating myself. Usually this happens on Sundays. I put on a mud mask, hop into the tub and HIDE. My husband does his best to keep the kids out of the only bathroom in the house and to be honest, it doesn’t work for very long. I usually have a small guest jump in, uninvited (the same kid that TAKES up precious space in our bed at night). It’s inevitable— but you’ve got to try.

So let’s move this ship forward by agreeing that we can only reclaim the woman screaming to get out from inside your diaper bag purse by taking a collective vow:

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

“I hereby solemnly swear to toss teething rings that double as necklaces, to wear push up bras that don’t come unhinged to pop a boob out (unless it’s for your husband) and to always, always, choose heels over flip flops.” Worn.

Generate a capsule wardrobe. Buy only the finest underwear (see why here). Elevate yourself with some dead sexy heels. Get caught in the rain—let yourself get soaked, just like they do in the movies. Put mascara on (remember to do both eyes) AND lipstick and then take a walk. Feel better already? I do too!

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

We are foxy ladies. We are hot goddesses. We are mad-sexy mavens. We are the ultimate MILF in sheeps clothing. Hear us roar!

One last thing.

This isn’t about looking good for anyone else but you. We aren’t pin up dolls. We aren’t sex kittens (even though we all know how well we can make ourselves purr). We are made whole by this genius of getting dressed up. We’re not made whole by what other men (even our own) think of us, but what WE think of ourselves. Worn.

Under the surface of this outfit lies skin and beyond that are a whole lotta feelings. Feelings that include the days where I didn’t feel great and I sure didn’t look great. Back then, I had to retrain my thinking around something that only appeared to be surface level: clothing. I started to realize something: If what I wore on the outside could transform how I truly felt on the inside, then I would be cured. So I tried it. Again and again. And even on some days when I’m not so sure, I put on that tutu and I just shine. My love for myself reaches new heights like this–and I may never come down.

What to Wear When You’re Feeling Worn So Called Mom

Self care is up to you. How you feel is up to you. Don’t put it on anyone else to make you feel a certain way. Start here, and let it get out of control! And let it get contagious—get your girlfriends on board. Let’s all look and FEEL gorgeous together. Are you ready? I’ll be looking for you on the town. Worn.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Next post: The Benefits of a Good Fight!