Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the month “August, 2015”


People give lots of advice when you have a new baby. Some of it is helpful (“Buy 30,000 more diapers than you think you need!”). Some of it is messy but true (if he has diaper rash, let him be naked for awhile everyday!”). Some of it is kind of bizarre (squirt breast milk into infected eyes!).

The most universal piece of advice we got, no contest, was to “savor every moment!” Actually, they verbally capitalize it: Savor Every Moment. The people who say this were A) very well meaning B) usually a touch misty eyed and C) clinically insane.

Trying to savor every minute seems like something that should be so easy to do with a precious, gorgeous little boy that makes funny cooing noises and giggles after he sneezes. And for sure, savoring opportunities abound: bathtime, tummy time, watching him sleep, playing with his hair. An astute person will notice this is not, however, 24 hours worth of activity in a day. Lucky for me, “Savor It!” probably became the concept that saved my marriage.

For awhile it was a minor “in” joke. If I got peed on, Mac would say “savor it!” If he had to fork over $100 for formula and diapers we’d chuckle “let’s savor this!” The day Baby kicked Mac square in the balls was a more ironic “savor.” Then came the time when the “we are truly savoring this” almost got overwhelmed by the reality.

What happened that evening when we were not bathing, tummy timing or hair playing? Let’s see. I was recovering from the injections that help with my chronic abdominal pain, walking with a cane, plus scared out of my wits that one of the nerves in my abdomen would fire back to life while I was holding Baby, and that I would hurt myself trying not to drop him (or worse, drop him then fall). Mac was working 50 hours a week, allowing for his own chronic pain and desperately waiting for sinus surgery to remove a cyst that impaired his breathing and left him even more sleepless than he should have been. We were, to use the parlance of our own choosing, having a pain day. B.C. (Before Child) we could sleep, or make an extra physical therapy appointment, hell; we could drink for a couple of hours and see how that went. The point is, with Baby there was no longer such a thing as a pain day opt-out.

So we’re in the living room/kitchen. My abdomen is very swollen and sore, Mac’s head is killing him, and suddenly the baby begins the Wail of Everlasting Horror. Oh my God, I had no idea the entirety of human suffering throughout time and space could be compressed into one child’s voicebox. And NOTHING helped. Initial inspection yielded no results. We run the laundry list of the usual suspects: diaper, food, temperature, gas, lonely….nope. We talk through other possibilities as they occur to us: When do babies start teething? How can you tell if he’s constipated? I once heard the penis can get chaffed by the diaper?

Now the screaming has started to interfere with our neurological function and we’re screaming back and forth these amazingly bad theories, ranging from the esoteric to downright insane. “Can we let him scream into a phone and see if someone else knows what this means?” “What if he needs to hear his biological mother’s heartbeat and my heartbeat sounds weird?” “Can babies have gallstones?” What? “I SAID CAN BABIES HAVE GALLSTONES?”

In utter desperation I decide to start making dinner, so I can face this hellchild with a full stomach and possibly a Percocet or two in me. I turn on the oven, thinking about chicken pot pies. Decide to make formula so Mac can try feeding baby again while I do the pies. Vaguely recall there was a potpie incident a few weeks ago…what was that?

Need nipple for bottle. Wash, dry, assemble nipple. Set it down to search for the bottle I thought I started making. Oven starts smoking. Oh, crap. The potpie incident was that I dropped one and neverfullycleaneditupAHHHHHHHH! Run to kitchen, slam off oven, open kitchen door to clear smoke, run back with bottle, SHIT, where’s the nipple? Cat bolts out open door to escape the infernal screeching. Run to get the cat! CAN’T run to get the cat, don’t have shoes! Forget the shoes, now the fire alarm is going off. NOW I hear the baby screaming, the alarm wailing, Mac cursing, the cat’s in Omaha by now…

I turn around and look right at my husband, who, over the head of his beautiful bellowing newborn, laughs. Really, really laughs, as he says to me “are you savoring this?”


I think I am.

Return Policy (or, How My Mother in Law Won the Baby Shower)

One of the tremendous benefits of being adopted after birth is that you get to attend your own baby shower. My sister and my mom’s best friend Mrs. W threw a baby shower for Baby and it was magnificent. Mrs. W had an elephant theme, cupcakes, she even took the time to tape over every little “mom to be!” with “Welcome baby!” on each decoration. Robin had some fun games, like throwing a baby shower for a baby and nobody in the room is allowed to say the word “baby.” Friends and family came from all over and made it a truly joyous occasion.

Everybody gave us wonderful gifts. Clothes, toys, gear, contraptions, things that did stuff. The generosity was astounding. It felt like everybody was telling me Baby was cherished and celebrated, that his arrival was joyous for the village that would help us raise him. I also got to hear that it’s OK to say raising a baby is very hard work. I think adoptive moms are afraid to say so because we worked so hard and felt the need to appear perfect. To appear worthy of motherhood. That worthiness doesn’t jibe with wanting to lay on the floor and cry because you can’t clean the house, diaper the kid, go to work and make food all at once. Only one of those things can be done at a time, and sometimes it feels none of them are being done very well.

The baby was all dressed up in his baby finest for his shower. I mean, come on. A vest. And a TIE? Can you even believe this child? Of course you cannot.

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The other guest of honor at the shower was Mac’s mom. You may remember that Mac was born and raised in Canada, where people are so polite their government’s Nuclear Option is a strongly-worded letter warning the next strongly-worded letter may contain foul language. Mac’s mom was a nurse, now she enjoys hiking, sewing and belonging to church groups. That said, my mother in law is still pretty steely under the polite. She once made the newspaper by climbing onto her nurses’ station and putting out a hospital fire raging inside the ceiling. After she was done I bet the hospital wrote an apology for getting the firefighters out of bed for nothing.

Anyway, she and Mac’s dad were down to meet Baby for the first time. Baby was three months old and especially, especially precious. It may have taken 5 seconds for them to fall totally in love, but I am probably running very long on my estimate.

This is why it was ultimately not a surprise that she won the baby shower. I don’t mean the games, I mean she won the entire night with a single sentence. We were all sharing stories about (surprise!) babies. That in and of itself was fun, both because it was a great way to hear stories from friends but also because everyone tried so hard not to say “baby.” We had lots of perspectives: the older generation told my generation about when we were born, we talked about when our kids were born, the adopted people talked about their homecoming stories, the adoptive moms told of endless paperwork and waiting. One of my friends asked if anyone had been unkind about the process. I told her that yes; as much as it beggars belief, some people say shitty things about adoption.

What did they say? Well, let me see. I heard “you know you won’t be his real mom, and you should just accept that.” I heard “if you were supposed to have kids, you would.” Or what about “isn’t it a little like getting a used kid?”  Then I told of one woman who said to me “Don’t you think those babies are better off with their own people?”

All of the women in the room looked shocked. They cringed. They looked at the baby sitting among all his presents, in his vest and bowtie. The thought that he was less than mine, or not “one of us.” And my mother in law looked around the room and proclaimed “I think I know what I would have said to that woman.”


And that, dear readers, is how my mother in law won the baby shower.

Gross Anatomy

People are excited when you begin parenthood, with good reason. One, they are genuinely happy for you. Two, they aren’t the ones up at three every morning. Perhaps most importantly, though:

1. pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

“Having a baby will change your life!” they say. “It’s an amazing journey!” they say. Nobody ever tells you “get ready for some of the grossest things you will ever have to do unless you’re an RN.” Then they laugh at you while you blindly chatter on about nursery things and never once mention poop.

Robin is an RN, and she once had to clean out a festering wound in a man’s ass. Thus, in our family, cleaning out a festering ass wound is the gold standard of gross. Those of us who did not go to school to specialize in Gross Nurse Things (motto: a school where you can call your sister while holding a human lung) having a baby is pretty gross. Here are some of the gross things I’m glad nobody told me, so spoiler alert for you non-parents:

  1. You will touch poop every day. You can use good diapers and name brand absorbent wipes and rubber gloves and a hazmat suit. The Baby just laughs at you. He will wait until the diaper is off and then kick it, putting poop on you, his heels, the wall, the clean diaper. He will transfer poop from one butt cheek to the other while you manically open the new damn package of wipes. He will poop on you when he’s naked and sitting in the tub with you. He will have diarrhea while daddy is running around giving shoulder rides. The poop cannot be outsmarted, it can only be faced stoically.
  2. The more you try to avoid the poop, the longer you will have poop on you. All of the running around to avoid the poop backfires because it just gives the poop more time to spread. Handle that shit or that shit will handle you.
  3. You will pick boogers and get excited about it. For me, long stringy ones that need the suction cup are the most satisfying. Robin likes picking my son’s nose because a button nose is easier to dig around in than Dude’s skinny nose. AJ and I have, completely unironically, used the mouth-to-nose Swedish snot sucker Nose-Frida and been proud of the results.
  4. I would like to clarify Number 3 in that AJ and I used it on the baby, not each other.
  5. You will know exactly what food your spouse fed your baby by how the baby farts smell. Duration and texture of farts will factor into your analysis. You’ll begin to ask things like “do you think we need to up the morning prunes to avoid Old Faithful coming while company is here?”
  6. You will find disgusting deposits of formula that have hidden and fermented in crevices of baby fat. Every time you think you have cleaned all relevant crevices Baby will create another one. You will be vomitously reminded of some of the world’s more pungent cheeses.
  7. If Baby has cradle cap, you can drive yourself mad by absent-mindedly deflaking your child. You’ll inspect the breadth and texture of the dandruff and almost be sad when teatree oil shampoo takes away your hobby.
  8. Between heating, mixing, making puree, whatever…you’ll end up eating baby food. You just will. Only become concerned if you start to crack open a cold one after a bad day at work.
  9. Your baby will sneeze into your mouth. The exact composition of the snot, factoring in recent feedings, bottles, germs and Nose-Frida action, will vary.
  10. You will be peed on and there will be nothing on which to wipe it off except the baby, who is producing more urine as well as screaming so you will just stand there in your soaked state and laugh like Heath Ledger as the Joker.
  11. You’ll begin leaving poop updates for people. You’ll ask your spouse if the latest diaper change included a rock-hard turd you have to manually pull out. You’ll Google “baby poop like coffee grounds.” You’ll leave the following voicemail: Mom, he already pooped twice, if he poops again I need to know texture and color, OK thanks, love you bye!
  12. In conclusion, I cannot stress this enough, poop.

The Traitor in my Living Room (coming soon to Lifetime TV)

As we master the feeding and care of Baby we discover something unsettling about our little house at the bottom of the hill, the house I have always loved because we re-did everything ourselves. The floors we put in, the custom shelving Mac built, the shed he built that looks just like a mini version of our house, every square inch I painted (and repainted and re-repainted. I really love painting). We discovered that our appliances are sentient, and what’s more they are jealous little bastards.

It started with Washer. We have always thought of our clothes washer as a loyal and appreciated servant. He has his own room, which he shares with his life partner Mr. Dryer. Once the baby showed up we were doing laundry more than ever, especially for occasions when we did not wish to be seen sporting the White Badge of Courage on each shoulder. Washer staged a revolt and didn’t even give us warning. One day the spin cycle went awry, and by awry I mean batshit. It wasn’t just a balance problem, it sounded like we had Tommy Lee playing inside our washing machine. We called repair and they were delighted to tell us the broken part was so far inside the mechanism of the washer it would cost more to repair than replace. So we apologized to Washer, promised to make his life easier, and now we can only spin clothes on the “hang dry” setting. We had been saving up to replace him (Mr. Dryer will be delighted with a younger, sexier model anyway) BUT…

Our dishwasher is a traitorous piece of shit. D.W. heard Washer was getting all the attention and completely quit washing dishes. Overnight we had crud everywhere. It was a Vesuvius of food crud every time we washed dishes. So, because I am not a smart woman, I Googled “fix your dishwasher.” Now, to Mac’s credit, he did exactly what it said to do. It turned out the problem was 16 straight years of running Very Hard water through it. We cleaned out hard water deposits so thick they looked like sticks of chalk.

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In the end, though, cleaning it wasn’t the problem. It was 16 years old, which is 112 in Cheap, Crappy Dishwasher land. Between Washer, who could still be coaxed into phoning in a terrible performance, and D.W. who was laying in pieces around our kitchen, there was no choice. We had to go to [NAME BRAND APPLIANCE STORE WHERE WE HAVE A CREDIT CARD] and put a new dishwasher on credit. We didn’t have a choice. All of our cash has been eaten up with stupid stuff like sinus surgery for my husband, whose nose was so blocked even the surgeon was surprised Mac could sleep, and abdominal surgery for myself, because every two years or so my abdomen demands attention because it was unloved as a child.

So, cashless, with a clothes washer on the fritz, a treasonous dishwasher to replace plus Baby eating more formula in a day than some babies do all week… I did the dumbest thing I have ever done. I told Mac we needed to make sure we budget the next few months well so we can handle our finances like the adults we want others to believe we are.

I said this in the living room.

The next day, I am NOT making this up and furthermore I would NEVER misuse “I’m not making this up” as it is my homage to one of the greatest humor columnists of all time (Dave Barry), the NEXT DAY OUR TV DIED. In the middle of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” our TV did breakable. It was a Christmas present for Mac and it didn’t even last 2 years. I was so mad I wanted to throw it, but I couldn’t because of my attention-whore abdomen. So I cried. Like, for three days. And that’s when it hit me: the household goods can smell my weakness. The fear that one of them will break must come through my pores, like alcohol or really cheap kimchi.

Therefore, I’m saying this out loud, in my living room, as I am typing in boldfaced letters so even my computer knows I AM NOT FUCKING AROUND HERE:


If this doesn’t work, do one of you have a washer we can use on the weekends? — SIB

The Color of Love

When Mac and I started this adventure we knew that there were things we needed to have a very long, serious, introspective conversation about. Adoption forms ask you explicit questions about your potential matches for kids. Many of my friends assured me that there is a roll of the dice with biological children, and of course they are right. We are fortunate to have friends who have shown us families can grow stronger embracing children born with unexpected challenges. In the last few years we have welcomed children with eating challenges, intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, diabetes, heart defects. In a flash those terms are replaced with names. They are Paul, or Sabrina, or Elise. They’re loved little humans, not squares you check on a form.

However, bio parents roll the dice with a certain set of givens already in place. Adoption forms ask probing, intrusive questions that you MUST answer honestly. Agencies want to know what you think of “conception circumstances.” I am going to sit here, in my living room, and decide if I could raise a baby that was the product of what one depraved criminal did to a survivor who is somehow carrying her rapist’s baby to term. The questions only get harder from there. Disability? Degree of disability? Will you risk adopting children of unknown paternity? If you gamble, and he shows up, the baby may be taken from you. In the end though, the most complex set of questions were about race.

I know several adoptive families that had difficult discussions about race. In the end, most found they couldn’t see raising a child that looked different from themselves. One of the moms explained to me that she was concerned that when she touched the hair of a black child it wouldn’t feel right. It may be easy to dismiss that as not being open minded. But if, like me, you’re white, I want you to go on this journey with me. See what these questions are. Walk yourself in our shoes.

First of all, ask yourself, really ask yourself, would you feel comfortable knowing every single person that sees your family wonders if your child is adopted? Would you be comfortable with strangers coming and asking (and boy, do they) “where did you get your child?” The correct answer, by the way, is “Iowa!” People never have the guts to ask if we’re joking. It’s pretty great.

Take the question one step farther: could you learn how to braid tightly curled or coiled hair? Could you deal with lactose intolerance, sickle cell anemia and other medical issues found more commonly in the non-white population? Would you feel embarrassed or offended if a teacher assumes you aren’t a mom and bypasses you to go straight to the Chinese family that looks like they must be your daughter’s parents? Do you think about terms like your child being a coconut? An Oreo? A banana? If you don’t even know what I mean here, then you have a serious ways to catch up. These are derogatory terms, usually aimed at kids, to say that the color they are on the outside isn’t who they really are. My son isn’t really Mexican; he’s a coconut. Brown on the outside, white on the inside. A black person may be an Oreo, an Asian person a banana. And we have yet to touch on the special hell reserved for people who are multiracial. It should be so cool: twice the membership, twice the acceptance. It almost never seems to work out that way. These kids may be seen as not enough of one, or too much of the other.

Our neighbors, let’s call them Seal and Heidi, witnessed this. Heidi, as a white woman, never knew the extent of racism in American today until she saw how her black husband and biracial child can be treated. She told me (and I will never forget this) that she realized she was a different person when someone called her beautiful daughter a nigger and Heidi’s first thought was “I’m going to that person’s house. I’m going there to kill them. This is the day I go to jail.” Incidentally, I didn’t do “the N word” or n—– because they didn’t call her daughter “the N word.” They called her daughter a nigger. I refuse to minimize what was said. It didn’t get sugarcoated for her, and now it shouldn’t be sugarcoated for the people who need to think about what it would mean for this to happen to your daughter. Remember, you’re walking in our shoes right now.

Mac and I looked inside ourselves. We thought about color, ethnicity, belonging, our comfort, the child’s comfort, our families, our friends. We were fairly lucky. A few people disappointed us by focusing on many negatives (a black child would have a higher chance of being born an addict was something we heard several places). We educated others on the fact that medical condition is separated from skin color. We could agree to have a black child and still decide we could not accept a child born on drugs. As it turned out, we did say we were willing to look at a variety of medical complications on a step by step basis if our insurance covered it. But we don’t have great coverage. The hard truth was, we couldn’t afford to take home a very ill child no matter what. It felt heartless and horrible to imagine somewhere out there a beautiful child I may love forever wouldn’t be mine because I said “no” to a certain condition. In all honestly, I was a mess thinking about how much I’d be willing to hurt myself if it meant getting a child. Thank god it was my therapist who sorted me out. She pointed out that as someone with minor mobility issues myself (I have a chronic pain condition and sometimes walk with a cane) I may not be able to adopt a child with a disability if it would make my own health worse trying to care for the child. I didn’t want to feel selfish, or close-minded. What if I missed out on the one meant for me? She asked, very gently, “what if that child misses out on a strong, healthy mom that can’t WAIT to teach a kid how to recover after each surgery and get bigger and stronger? What if they have the money, the means, even other kids to help? Don’t those families go looking for their own “right kid for us?”

But the one, deep-deep-DEEP down fear I had was simple. I am a white woman born in Nebraska. In NYC I got made fun of for being the only white woman in my security division at [STORE REDACTED BUT THEY ARE VERY FAMOUS AND HUGE AND I CAUGHT VERY CREEPY SHOPLIFTERS.] What the hell would I know about raising a Latino or black boy in America? Any other race, or a girl, I felt I could do it. But raising a brown or black man in America? An America where black men have The Talk with black boys about the things you do to survive in a culture where you are constantly a minority, even if you are in the majority. The America where Arizona would require my son to have his birth certificate on him all the time because he looks illegal. What do I do when he asks me about clothes he wants to wear like the other kids and I admit that to me it looks too foreign? How could I tell my son I’m afraid people will assume he’s in a gang? Would he talk one way around me and then become someone I couldn’t even understand as a teenager with his friends? His black or Mexican friends? Would I finally be forced to accept that there is a whole side to race in America that I haven’t thought about because I have never had to? Questions my biological children would never have known. My white nephew Dude plays with toy guns 26 hours a day. What’s the line where a black boy can play with fake guns and it’s cute then it spills over into scary? Would I let a black son become an expert in stage combat like his adoptive father? Sounds great. Until I wonder how it looks if there’s a black guy running around with a training pistol. Here in our relatively small Midwestern enclave these things are probably no big deal. If we move I don’t know how big of a deal they are. Who gives him The Talk? What other Talks exist out there for non-white Americans I don’t know about because I never had to know?

It took days before I decided to answer the most important question: would I love him? Yes, I would. Would I be willing to go outside my comfort zone to learn about a culture where I am an outsider? Yes, if it meant my son felt less on the outside.

I have lots to learn and many fears to face and I need help. I have to talk to people that will help me understand my son’s reality as an American will be different than mine. Most crucially though, I know for sure I can do it. After an extensive soul search I know from the bottom of my soul:

The first time I hear someone call my beautiful son a wetback…that will be the day I’m going to jail.

Señor Arbuckle

Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances, the meal plan has been altered. Supplementing the traditional “three squares a day” are Extra Breakfast, Second Breakfast*, Elevenses, brunch, the Long Lunch, the Business Lunch, the None of Your Business Lunch, tea, high tea, High Noon Tea (if you don’t bring me a cup of tea I will shoot your ass), the Late Tea, early bird special, rudely unpunctual bird special, and Midnight Snack.
*denotes service available outside your local shire starting 5/2015.

The baby is going through a growth spurt. Not the kind where his little jammies are a bit too tight. The kind where our doctor asked, in all seriousness, if he was throwing up any of his food because she had never heard of a baby this young drinking 11 ounces at a time and keeping it all down. But he does. Over and over again. We feel bad because we are feeding him so much more than we’re told we should. The problem is, if we stop he screams and screams until he gets his bottle back. We cannot fill him up. He’s not even to his third month and we’re buying the amount of food recommended for 6 month old children or those greedy mean chihuahuas that women carry around in handbags and you know they could rip your face off. I mean the chihuahua could rip your face– nope. Just thought about it. As to whether I meant the chihuahuas or the women I’ll let the ambiguity stand.
Every ounce the kid gains goes to his face. It looks like I’m raising the Mexican Fatty Arbuckle. His cheeks look like we decided for some reason to store an egg’s worth of Silly Putty on each side of his face. His forearms have little rolls of fat. I find rolls of fat I didn’t even know the human body could make. I delight in showing my friends how you can part his roll of neckfat to find another, deeper roll of neckfat. His neckfat becomes my pride and joy. See how fat MY baby is? I go through an odd phase of showing everyone I meet just how fat I can make a baby. You’d think I had invented caloric intake.

His burps can be categorized thusly: hic-cough, ate at Taco Bell, frat boy, Homer Simpson, and Zuul. You do not want Zuul. Nobody wants Zuul. The worst is when the Zuul burp wafts formula smell at you. I seriously thought nothing could smell worse than formula that I had to mix at three a.m. while sick to my stomach. At 3:15 that same morning I knew I hadn’t thought it through. Thankfully he doesn’t spit up that much. When he does, he seems to be an all-or-nothing kind of guy. I used to think loving my baby was such an intense, visceral kind of warmth I could truly feel it spreading. Now I know better: that warm gushy feeling I get when I hold Baby starts at my heart and spreads steadily all the way from my chest to my arms and stomach, then stops at the band of my underwear where it pools because formula-drool is super-viscous before it crusts over.

This leads to a whole other tactical problem I had yet to consider: the nursery has a little bassinet, a changing table, stacks of onesies and jammies, a shelf of stuffed animals, but no laundry hamper. We forgot that outside the casino hotel laundry would be expected. You can get away with a LOT in a casino hotel that just doesn’t fly out here in reality, but that’s another article. Tune in next time when Mac and Sarah re-evaluate the importance of clothing, self image and sanity.


Destiny’s Niño

I want to share with you a small fact about destiny that I bet you didn’t know: it has been fated since the beginning of all time that I would have a Mexican child. There was no getting around it. If you think I can make up this fate, keep reading. 

There is an old wives’ tale that newborn babies smell like something really special. It’s not the shampoo, or lotion, or anything you use around the baby, it’s just the way the baby himself smells. One night while I was lying next to the baby I took a good long sniff of his hair. It was very strange to me to discover that the old wives’ tale brought out three distinct phases of terror in me. The terror was that fate is real. The Greeks were right. You cannot outrun your destiny, not ever.

Phase One: It was TRUE. What other pieces of wisdom have I foolishly dismissed over the years just because I didn’t see empirical evidence to back the claim? Why was I dismissing the information that may not have been based in science as I understand it but had historical and cultural implications? Oh god. Was I not a feminist because I demanded a hypothesis of behavior rooted in the physical or social sciences and that avenue clearly wasn’t open to women when this wisdom began and oh my lord have I abandoned everything it means to be a woman in a misguided attempt to be a jaded humanist???


Wow, your imagination can run away with you when you’re tired and emotional. I didn’t shit all over the sisterhood, I just didn’t believe babies have a unique smell. Now I do. But that brings me to the second issue:

He smelled, I am not making this up, like crunchy and butter cinnamon-y goodness to me. My first thought was “toast!” I probably thought that because, and my thoughts on this are well documented, I really, really love toast. I think toast is fantastic. Plus that would even make sense, because my mom used to make me special cinnamon toast when I was a kid, I associate it with mothering and love, and blah blah blah. But the baby didn’t smell exactly like toast to me. He smelled like _________. Oh, man. OK. I’ll try again. He smelled like a, uh, uh, a…. ________________.

He smelled exactly like a —————. This is terrible. I can’t do it. Please don’t make me do it. Uh, OK. Bravery. Peace. Inner calm. What would Leslie Knope do? Boldness. Honesty. Integrity. Just say it.

He smelled precisely and utterly like a churro to me.

This was a nightmare. Did it make me racist? Am I insane? Have I somehow transposed memories of a time when I was in Mexico to having this Mexican child and then it all got swirled in my brain? Have I had a stroke? Am I dying? Nope. There’s no way of getting around it. That kid smelled like churros. He did. I was the only one that could smell it but I stand by my madness.

Which brings me to the third point, the hilarity of my fate. Before I met Mac, I dated a man from Mexico. We met there and had only seen each other in person in Mexico although we had a long distance romance for awhile. He was the major relationship I had in my early 30s. I’ll call him Juan, because if I tell you his real name everyone in all of Mexico will be able to find him. His parents had a hippie streak and gave him a name that would be as distinctive in Mexico as Moon Unit Zappa or Blue Ivy Carter is here. Juan is a great guy, it’s just that he needed to live in Mexico where his heart is, and I needed to live in the US, where my heart is.  Sorry, I don’t like to lie. Ireland is where my heart is. However the fact remains that my job, family and psychiatrist all live here and that, especially the last, is not insignificant. Juan had a house in Mexico but living there wasn’t right for me. So we parted and it hurt but we moved on and remain friends.

The hilarity is this: I ate churros quite a few times with Juan. They are damn delicious and go great with hot cocoa. Maybe I did make a subconscious connection. Maybe I do like cinnamon. Maybe I have a serious smelling disorder linked to motherhood and I should ask my psychiatrist about it. One glaring, ridiculous fat fact remains:

I broke up with a Mexican man, to live in the US. In the US I married a Canadian. The Canadian and I have a Mexican son.

You can’t fuck with fate, people. I was gonna have a Mexican kid no matter what.  And he DID smell like churros. So there.


The Garage Sale and My Coke Habit

**a short break from our regular blogging duties to enjoy a piece I submitted to a site a few weeks ago. They didn’t want it but asked to see more of my writing. To celebrate this small victory I am leaving the original submission here. Enjoy and share.**

I made the mistake of having a baby and a garage sale at the same time. To clarify, I didn’t go into labor on a card table in the driveway, although that would have been one way to upstage the lemonade stand across the street. No, I was merely in simultaneous possession of a baby and a garage sale, just not my faculties. If I had been, I would have remembered to put my personal soda supply inside the house before the Well-Meaning Neighbor stopped by. You know that neighbor. I bet you have one, too. She’s not nosy, intrusive, inquisitive, snide and smug. She Aggressively Means Well.

“Hi, Well Meaning Neighbor.”

“Hi there! Wow, look at that baby, he is so big! And wow, you really needed to have a garage sale! What’s in the back? Well wow, you guys sure have a lot of Coke in your garage!”

I’ll be honest: it made me kind of happy when you just said Baby instead of his actual name, because I know from experience this means you don’t remember it. I’ve played the overly casual “so, how do you spell your name?” card twice on this block alone and I’m comfortable with the fact we just don’t care enough to remember each other’s’ names. I have yours narrowed down to a common name that begins with N but not Nancy.

Not-Nancy, I’m also letting the overuse of “wow!” slide because I’m trying to break the “amazing!” habit. I recently watched myself for 45 seconds on a reunion video and realized there is a very real danger I’m going to turn into someone who sounds 13, or, worse, perky. But, Not-Nancy, we’re going to have a frank talk about my Coke habit.

My Coke habit is the direct result of the garage sale condition. That stems from the baby you can’t remember the name of (and good job using context clues to take a stab at identifying gender, by the way). Our garage looks like a disemboweled Walmart for one regrettable reason: we were the last in our group to have a baby. We adopted very suddenly and needed help. When the call went out for baby things, They Came. Like benevolent plagues of Egypt, a thousand friendly mommies ripped open the seams of their basements to disgorge months, years, decades of baby-related detritus they will never want again. The top layers were fabulous items I was thrilled to use for Baby. The underlayers will forever haunt me.

Onesies of uniforms worn by now incarcerated athletes. Bits of plastic toys with tooth marks and bizarre discoloration around the edges. Alarming harnesses with Swedish names and buckles to fit body parts neither gender would possess. Shoes for feet that can’t walk. Mismatched socks and hats with odd fuzz on them. Formula samples expiring years before we began the adoption process. Two doorway jumpers with parts missing and no way to test how critical those parts might have been. Last, but certainly not least, a mountain of clothing that was perfectly cute but for a summer baby. I have enough on my mind without dressing a Christmas baby in a “Surf’s UP!” tank top then facing my social worker.

What does this have to do with the Coke? I’m glad I imagine you asked. Right now, I’m making a house ready for a baby, working, maintaining a semblance of control over my finances and fighting the urge to rapidly defenestrate the next person who chirps “savor each and every moment!” The Coke in my garage is what is keeping me upright because coffee is awful, I can’t afford speed and nobody will tell me what Seal Team 6 uses to stay awake on missions. The calories are a good idea as mealtimes have been reduced to whatever I can eat while I’m making a bottle. The corn syrup is a godsend because the word corn implies I have eaten something plant based. In fact, the more corn syrup I have in my system the better I feel about my choice to drink Coke. I live in Nebraska so supporting local corn growers might provide the karma I need to offset the enormous amount of diapers I’m chucking into Mother Earth. Hell, I’m gonna ride this one all the way to its logical conclusion: high fructose corn syrup isn’t just keeping me alive. It’s keeping America alive. That’s right. I went there. If you don’t support Frosted Flakes, Pop Tarts, Oreos, NyQuil and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, then you’re not the kind of American I want on my lawn. You don’t deserve to judge my garage, my mess OR my Coke habit.

Not-Nancy, I am going to sit here and drink this Coke while I figure out how much of my husband’s stuff I can sell before he notices. If you aren’t here to diaper my kid or lay out of season onesies on a card table, then just keep walking. And if you’re walking past the gas station, bring me another Coke.

My son’s homecoming

After three weeks in the hotel, Baby got cleared to go all the way back to Nebraska. It was the first week in January so we’d have a few days to settle in before the semester started. Time was a factor because we had been commuting back to Nebraska one at a time to do work while Baby stayed in Iowa. You’ll remember that we would be charged with Very Bad Things if the baby had spent even a second outside of Iowa before the Interstate Compact was completed. So I would like to state, here on this public forum, that Baby’s homecoming was the very, very first time he had ever crossed into Nebraska. He absolutely never slept in the backseat when we needed to deposit a check so my bank account wouldn’t be in tragic overdraft and that bank account was definitely never, not ever located in Omaha and frankly, I think it’s strange you would even ask.

The baby’s homecoming was everything you’d imagine a long-awaited homecoming would be. My mom loves putting up decorations and she loves being a grandma. Homecoming for the baby was her Super Bowl Halftime Show and she was going to go big or die trying. There was a big sign on the way into the back door, decorations in the living room, huge welcome banners and sparkly decorations saying It’s a Boy! The baby got carried into his brand new nursery and knew he was safe and loved. It was a spectacular homecoming. I hear. I wasn’t there. I was with AJ in Virginia visiting a pain specialist who performs some magic where he injects things near my spine and it stops pain where my spleen is. Hold on there– nope. I just googled where the spleen is, and it’s not there. Regardless, it stops pain in my front which is nowhere near my spine.

Upon my return I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and acquaintances. People knew we were blindsided. We had no furniture, no nursery decorations (except four adhesive soccer balls Mac has been saving since 2013. No, really). The Baby had clothes and diapers but we needed someplace higher than the floor to make these activities happen. My parents and Robin chipped in the immediate necessities like bassinet and diapering station which they set up and put in the room that was always-going-to-be-the-nursery-except-it-was-an-office-because-people-facing-infertility-have-complex-emotional-needs-balancing-hope-with-realism.

I was also overwhelmed by my husband’s face. Let me tell you something. Mac has had a challenging life. He has faced serious medical issues, his career involves long hours, he nursed someone through terminal cancer. He has stared into the abyss and the abyss was a little taken aback.

Mac was a single father for 5 days. This cannot be overstated: Mac, with the help of my family, was a single parent for just over 120 hours. I arrived from Virginia at the 121st hour. I walked in with my suitcase, saw Mac, and immediately reached for my phone. My husband had died and I felt someone should tell his mother. That man has never looked so haggard. He stared eerily into my soul, said he was happy the injection went well, and then said “I am going to sleep.” Not “I’m taking a nap,” “I am going to sleep.” There was no preface or qualifier or time limit. He meant it. He went into the bedroom and came out in March.

We’re home. I’m home. The three of us are in our home. All I have to do is organize a few things, make sure Baby gets fed and changed, and then step right back into work and my social life.

Stay tuned to find out how easy that has been.

2015-01-15 00.19.03

Blunder Woman

I’m taking a quick break from the beginning of the saga to move us into real time. Last night I babysat my sister Robin’s 4 year old son. She and her husband have raised the their son according to the gospel of The Big Lebowski, their son is therefore named The Dude. In fact, if you ask him what the Dude does, he will tell you in all sincerity that the Dude abides.

So yesterday I’m babysitting the Dude for a night. We start off with watching some TV. It turns out there are an ENORMOUS number of superhero cartoons now, stemming from about 33 different franchises. You have Marvel, DC, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, Ninja Robots, Ninja Lego Robots, an animal one where everyone looks like they were ripped off from Big Hero 6, and one especially dedicated to the Incredible Hulk and his agents of SMASH. Then all of these have spinoffs, crossovers, special episodes, recurring characters that ghost into similar shows within a franchise, and the partridge in the pear tree. The pear tree transforms into a flying dragon Lego and the partridge is the anime spirit of a long-dead warrior who is at war with Loki. Or some fucking thing.

After all of this we went outside for his favorite activity. His favorite activity is Outside Superhero Water War. I squeezed myself into Robin’s workout gear (she is Mila Kunis, I’m Christina Hendricks) and the Dude went commando because the one pair of swim trunks I could find were so big on him the only thing keeping them up was his junk. That’s too much hanging, yes really, on one four year old’s junk. So I chase after him with the spray Coppertone, him yelling “I don’t WAAAANT it!” and me screaming “I’m not going to have my sister asked how you got burned testicles, Dude!” Then we filled up full-sized water balloons and threw them at the fence until the Spiderman declared war on us.

The way it works is this: a plastic Spiderman, sitting in a chair, is attached to the sprinkler head. The water is turned on and that means the battle has started. Our main weapons are water guns. Sprinkler Spiderman, as any sprinkler supervillain would, shoots water at us. We go at him, using all sorts of positions and tactics only the Dude understands, squirting water back at him. Eventually this makes us the winners, which means we’re superheroes. We have backup weapons we use when the guns aren’t enough. I got a home base plate made out of plastic to use as a shield which was valiant of the Dude as I recently had abdominal surgery. He even showed me how to hold it for maximum protection (the key is to keep the point that would face the pitcher down. Or up. Just not side to side. What is this, your first day, Sarah?) He used a sword. I didn’t mention to the Dude we could permanently vanquish Spiderman by cutting the sprinkler feed because, dammit, I do have a heart. No reason to kill this kid’s superhero fantasy.

I don’t want to brag, but at 39 I can still bring the kickass against an evil foe like Spiderman.

That’s a lie. I was too wussy to get my leather sandals wet so I was barefoot and squeezing out of my sister’s clothing like slightly congealed toothpaste. My wrists hurt from shooting the tiny waterguns, my cellulite screams when it sees the sun and I have big oozing thing coming out of my navel that the surgeon assures me will be just as nice as the other 13 scars I have down there once something called a “hyper-inflammatory stress response” goes away. Auditioning for the Marvel franchise is right out, would be the point here.

But this isn’t about that. I’m with a naked four year old who absolutely believes that when I shout COVER ME COVER ME COVER ME he is doing something of vital importance while I refill my water gun and maybe have a sip of this wine my sister got me that’s bright pink and tastes like melted Jolly Ranchers. The Dude lives in the land with the anime dragon things, and the Transformer robot-killer car things, and he is fighting the good fight. I’d be a crappy aunt if I didn’t at least try.

Wine down. Refill pistols. Return to the scene of the battle. Locked and loaded, I put one gun straight out, bend the other over my head and shoot like my life hangs in the balance.

The Dude turns to me, and with a reverence I have never heard before, says “nice move, Sarah.”

Watch your ass, Ninja Lego Hulk Dragons. I’m coming for you next.

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