And then there were ten...

I was pretty much minding my own business for once. Just keeping my nose to the grindstone (mostly), working, making sure Luca got to school on time (ish) and that Dash wasn't giving some poor kid the beatdown because they had tried to (horrors) steal one of his Hot Wheels. I was even kind of doing laundry and keeping house - at least enough to keep the grossity-gross away. Every once in a while, in the midst of the insanity, I would think to myself, "Might be nice to have another kid..."

The universe must have thought I meant RIGHT NOW.

Cuz guess what? IT'S A GIRL!!!

Shirley Temple hair, dimples, size 9 shoe, and more attitude than a room full of ballerinas in fourth position.

Xochi arrived in March, fresh from Missouri, where she had been living for four years, with, well, not very nice people, let's just say. Sixteen, pissed off (who could blame her), full of energy, and completely unused to any kind of stable routine. It was like taking in a herd of cats that had been living on a commune with occasionally present adults who would pop up like deranged rodeo owners when they felt the need to exert some control over the scene.

Needless to say, there's been a breaking-in period. For all of us. And while there have been hiccups (giant, snorting ones sometimes), we've all worked really hard to get used to the new family size and dynamic. The teenagers are teaching me, six years ahead of when I thought I would have to learn, what it is to deal with hormonal outbursts and unfiltered anger. And they are learning to be a part of a normal (relatively), supportive and loving family.

I realized, shortly after my fourth child arrived (my two boys and Gabi, the 19-year-old sister having come before that - stay with me), that living in New York City, while trying to raise all these people and pay for all the things they needed, with no help from the girls' biological father, was MORONIC. And given that I had been trying to leave the city for five years, I decided to make my move with the fathers of my two boys while I still had that desperate, crazed look in my eyes. It's hard to deny a woman who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Fast forward three months. We are getting ready to leave New York, the car packed to its silver gills, the dog jockeying for space with the two bags of snacks we have at Dash's feet. My OTHER sister (again, stay with me, people, it's going to be a long, kin-ridden ride), who is a year younger than I, and has three kids and lives in England (you read right), Arkansas, calls to say she's thought about my suggestion (I never said the craziness isn't self-inflicted) and is packing everyone up and moving to Berkeley to be near us. The small, silly thing being, of course, that SHE HAS NO PLACE TO LIVE and so will need to shove everyone up in my shiny blue house until she can figure out a job and a place to live.

Clown car, anyone? Xanax, maybe?

For those obsessed with math, I know you're waiting to nail me for there being a mere nine people outlined in the equation above.

Well, you can bite me.

Because shortly after the We're Coming phone call, there was another one informing me my niece quite simply would not leave the state of Arkansas without her boyfriend... Wait for it... So he was moving to Berkeley, too.

From England (you read right), Arkansas.

And for those of you inclined to make some sort of judgment about letting a teenager dictate to the adults, blah blah blah...

Bite me.

Cuz y'all would not want to be in a room alone with my niece when she's mad. Besides, the boy's mother lacks, well, every basic parenting skill. And our family has always taken in strays. And he's got the cutest little accent. And, well, you get the point.

So on August 3rd, round about 3am, what I've come to think of as the second half of our soccer team, arrived with a U-Haul trailer being towed by a black sedan with tinted windows. And a golden Razorbacks hog proudly displayed where a front license plate should go.

In the weeks since, we have been laughing, crying, yelling, ganging up in varying groups, yelling some more, astonishing the neighbors, quite literally stepping on others' toes and tripping over our own feet, yelling, arguing about whose turn it is to take the garbage out, complaining about who drank all the milk, griping about clothes hurled everywhere, and yelling some more. I have threatened to ban candy and offered to escort my sister's dog (c'mon, didn't you see that one coming a mile away) to the local shelter. My sisters have all, independently and as a team, called me bossy and irritable (I'm trying, I'm trying). The two teenage boys have already started to act like cowed, hen-pecked husbands-in-waiting - you just want to hug them sometimes. I've developed a tic in my upper right eyebrow and an inability to go even one day without vacuuming something. And my two little boys run around with their cousins and aunts, happier than pigs in shit.

In other words, we're acting like a family.

Which nine of us knew would happen. And which the tenth has come to tolerate, if not finding it slightly endearing.

Welcome to Berkeley. Welcome to life. Welcome to the Guerreiro Ramos-Marquardt-Bennett-Dalland-Scott family. Welcome to happy.

Y'all come back now.