Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

Jaws

Mac and I had a fantastic idea for updating our tiny living room and making things safer for Baby. We would move bookshelves, anchor them into the wall, then put the new TV entertainment center between them. This would solve one problem we have had with keeping everything safe– the baby wouldn’t be able to crawl around the sides or back. We would then put all of the components behind glass so he can’t stick his chubby little fingers into all of the slots/inputs/outputs/shotputs. This was entirely Mac’s territory and he did his job well. Except for one, tiny detail.

The original idea was to get glass doors that had knobs in the center, so we could capture them together with a childproofing lock like so:

lock

But Mac got one with doors that slide on a track. No problem! Mac got dowels to put in the track and I painted them to be invisible. The baby would never even know it could be opened.

Those of you with children are already wondering how Mac and I manage to dress ourselves in the morning given our obvious mental deficiencies.

Over the course of the afternoon we get the whole center built and installed. Mac gets the thing put together, puts all of the cords in, plugs it in, I’m dusting away and artfully arranging books to cover cords. This thing is a masterpiece. It looks fantastic. I get the dowels. Mac goes outside to move some hoses before we get winter weather. I head downstairs and into the garage with a screwdriver we didn’t need. In the time it takes me to put away a SINGLE item in our garage, I hear sliding above my head. Let us take a quick peek into my thought process at that moment:

Huh! I hear sliding. There’s nothing up there that moves that much. Besides, the baby can’t even properly crawl yet, he just butt scoots…but there it is again. And back again? What do we own that slides back and forth ohmygodrunupthestairsnownownow GAAAAAAAH!

There is my son sitting directly in front of the entertainment center, happily sliding the glass door back and forth, back and forth. He can reach all the knobs, all the ports, all the cords. His fat little fingerprints are running the length of the glass door where he has tested how many different ways he can make the cool glass door glide to and fro. But not prints from both hands. No, just the prints from his right. Why only his right?

Because his left hand is for holding the trophy.

dowel

In under 60 seconds our son scooted to the entertainment center, disabled the “childproofing” then played with his new toy. I don’t even try to solve it. I pick up that stupid dowel, walk right out to our front porch and tell Mac the damn hoses can sit and spin.

“Go to the hardware store NOW. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Sliding into Home

For generations, the Imes family has passed down a particular genetic anomaly that, while not fatal, causes a great deal of pain and anxiety to most of us. We find we fare best in the coldest months, when snow is falling and everything is ice cold. We generally begin to feel either benignly asymptomatic or slightly nauseated in the spring. During the summer bouts are frequent and we can feel the impact in our everyday lives. The condition rarely extends into late fall, but when it does it is, unquestionably, the most painful and distressing time of year. By the time October has ended we’re often hardly a shadow of our healthy, happier selves.

The Imeses are Cubs fans.

Being a Cubs fan is the arguably the best metaphor for life. It has certainly made me a better parent. Anyone who follows the Cubs is at least rounding third when it comes to vital life lessons regarding raising children. Watch:

  1. In your rookie year everyone will fall all over themselves the second your baby does anything interesting, adorable, picturesque or funny. After that first season, someone else’s baby gets to be the rookie sensation. You had your time, let someone else bask.
  2. Of COURSE your team is special to you, they’re YOURS. The truth is, to most everyone else they’re not that distinguishable from all the other goobers running around on the field. Seriously. Do you think your friends go home at night and talk about how great your kid did at the thing? No. They go home and talk about how everyone else should be watching their kid do the thing.
  3. It’s good to have ground rules and expectations, but if you ask for perfection you’re almost always going to be disappointed.
  4. Factor in errors. Nobody means to drop the ball, that’s why they’re called errors. If they weren’t so common they wouldn’t be a stat.
  5. Sometimes you do your very best and still lose. The proper way to handle this is to put your glove over your mouth, shout “DAMMIT!” and then get on with it. There’s no point in denying you’re disappointed, but you still have to get off the field and come back with a better plan.
  6. If you’ve given it all you’ve got and you’re failing, that’s why we have assistant coaches, bullpens, pinch hitters. Find what you need and call in reinforcements. A babysitter? A housecleaner? A therapist? A pot dealer? Why be miserable doing it alone when there are whole professions dedicated to helping make success easier?
  7. No matter how shitty this year is going, call it a building year and promise yourself next year your kid will be saner/smarter/less weird/smell nicer/not torch the cat. If last year was a building year and this year sucks too, say it’s a coaching problem and blame it on your spouse.
  8. Remember you have fans. Sometimes you screw up so badly you can’t even remember why somebody let you be in charge of a tiny person. Remember– your fans won’t give up on you. They have faith.
  9. If your fans are true Wrigley fans, they also have hot dogs and beer. You should get in on that action.
  10. This isn’t for dilettantes. It’s a true way of life so dress it, sleep it, talk it, walk it, be it.
  11. It might feel like decades, or even over a century, since your last big victory. Perhaps the string of small victories and joys is the way to get through parenting. It’s possible you won’t be there for the biggest victories but that doesn’t mean you didn’t help create them.
  12. When it all gets to be Too Much, blame a goat then get drunk.
  13. After you do that, bear in mind: there is always, always, always, always, always Next Year.
  14. Next Year, re-read number 13.

Oscar: Wild

As you may have noticed, the Extenuating Circumstances often end on a lighthearted note concerning Oscar, our much beloved cat. I adopted Oscar in a fit of total, total insanity.

There was a week about three years ago where SEVEN of my friends on Facebook messaged me to tell me they were going public with the news of their pregnancies. I dutifully answered each message with a “thanks for the heads up, I appreciate it, we’re fine, congrats, blah blah blah.” The truth was more like “thanks for the heads up, I appreciate the warning so I can comment on one picture of you glowing with your newborn, I need to block you so I don’t end up in a pool of tears every single time one of your posts crosses my feed, we’re not fine but we act like we are because we’re the real-life equivalent of the Harry Potter Dementors if we’re honest, I need to block you so my neurosis doesn’t get me hospitalized or fired. Congrats. Now hand me some tissues and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked.”

The night of the seventh message, I calmly collected my materials, calmly drove to class, calmly delivered material on the role Michael Collins played in the Irish bid for Independence, then calmly walked to my car and had a complete nervous breakdown. I would have driven to the hospital or my house but I couldn’t remember where either one was located. My car drove itself to Pet Smart, which was a neat trick because at the time I drove a car so shitty that lemons were offended by the comparison.

The fact remains that I went to Pet Smart and picked out a small, cute orange cat. He was perfect. Then he ran away from me. So I picked up an old soggy thing that was shedding like it was his damn job. But he purred a little and was too lazy to run, so I adopted him instead.

That’s a lie. I forgot I had no money so my husband gave his credit card number over the phone. Mac had adopted and paid for a cat and didn’t even know it.

This is a testimony to the strength of my marriage. I brought this home:

340976_10150405000274544_1760985492_o

and all Mac asked was “should I buy a litter box? Thus began life with Oscar the Grouch, famous for being found in a trash can.

As you are now well aware, in the wee hours of December 2014 we did add the baby to our family. We didn’t consult Oscar, it just happened. I have to give Oscar credit. He tolerates the new obnoxious kitten better than I had feared. The new kitten tries to eat his fur, grab his face, squeeze his tail, poke his eyes, and run sticky fat fingers over his belly. Oscar treats the kitten like an adorable little peasant that is amusing for a time. Oscar also walks away rather than retaliating, most of the time. One swipe at the baby’s face concerned me but it turned out Oscar chose to not use his claws. That’s pretty good restraint for a cat that had mom and dad to himself for three years.

Oscar and baby were both brought in to complete a puzzle that was missing some pieces. I like to think Oscar knows that. I like to think Oscar gets that we need the baby, just like we needed him, to avoid meltdowns in my car at 9:00 at night. But mostly, I think of Oscar as a testament to the strength of a family that isn’t born together, it’s brought together. The Borden household is a place where we find our family, and then put that family on a credit card. But that’s a tale for the next installment.

Left Hanging

Readers, it’s time to broach a delicate subject concerning that precious room where our little one dreams their biggest dreams.  It’s difficult to discuss, even painful; but as parents in the 21st century it’s time that we face our demons and demand better. We are the only ones who can put a stop to the indecency millions of our babies–YES, even some you know– endure. When a child’s nursery is no longer a sacred space, we have lost what it means to be Americans. To be parents. To be human beings.

I refer, as you have already guessed, to the epidemic of horrifically ugly curtains for nurseries.

One day my mother casually noticed my child sleeps, on average, three hours more a day at her house than mine. If you eliminate the other obvious mitigating factors (such as our house is utter chaos, Mac has forgotten to inhale oxygen four days in a row, the cat has gone feral eating dried bits of oat cereal and I’m so stressed out you hear my brainwaves vibrating like a tuning fork) it must be because our nursery isn’t dark enough. Easy! We’ll get blackout curtains. Done and dusted.

At first I thought we had a defective Bed, Bath and Behind You. Everywhere I turned there were these monstrous pink and white frilly things advertised as “kids curtains.” They had names like “Marshmallowy Dream Cloud” and “Princess Entitlement Pouffles.”  There was a purple, gauzy glitter sheet that reminded me of a veil for a Bollywood wedding. The only other choice was the Very Plain Blackout Curtain. The Very Plain Series came in 6 colors: Green That Doesn’t Match Any Other Green, Electrocuted Lemon, Brick Shithouse, Murdered Teddy Bear, Lifeless Shark, and Funeral Procession. Because there had to be so many more choices, I went to BBB online. Not helpful. The big trend this year is Moroccan Batiky Hash Den. If you don’t care about colors, you can also get stripes. The stripes seem to be chosen for no other purpose than to clash with each other.

Next I tried Tar-jhay. They had some curlie-cue things that wouldn’t black out, a separate black out you’d buy for $45, plus the new rod you’d need (naturally) and then one set of cream curtains with upside down pink triangles. Nothing says “deliberate and thoughtful childrearing”  like window coverings for tragic gay Holocaust victims.

Even the pricier stores had dumb looking stuff. Why do I want an all-brown curtain with a single giraffe head poking down from the curtain rod? What does it mean? Is the rest of the giraffe hanging out the window? Is he cold? Should we be feeding him? Don’t get me started on the “scribbled design” curtains. They’re going for “whimsy” but blow right past whimsy, through mental instability and arrive at “if I wanted random shit in ugly colors as a design scheme, I’d turn Junior loose with a Sharpie.”

We could shorten “adult” curtains, but that looks weird, too. A formal, lined, silk drapery with three valences and a $200 curtain rod is not appropriate in a space where my son’s undiapered willy can squirt pee onto the base of his changing table all the way to the ceiling. Not to mention the times he drags one heel through his own diarrhea before he starts kicking.

Enough, America. There has to be some way to make sturdy curtains with fun nursery animals on them. They don’t need to be in the “hot” color combos (ballerina pink and chocolate, robin’s egg and cream). They don’t need 87 layers of sheer lavender organza. They also don’t need to cost $57.00 a panel. These are curtains for a human being that still likes to wash his face in his sweet potatoes. Dry cleaning, ironing and hand pleating are RIGHT OUT.

Nursery curtains of the world, please remember I want you, but I don’t need you. I will not hesitate to replace your ass with a beach towel and some safety pins.

The Curious Incident of the Blog in the Nighttime

I often find myself staring at this screen, typing into the DtEC blog editing tool, late at night. On some level that doesn’t surprise me because I have always, always been a night owl. Whether I want it or not my brain likes to energize itself after dark. Consequently, getting up early is hell. I can *do* it when required in order to project a facade of adultness, but I really suck at it. What’s funny is that location, schedule, enjoyment of activity or even money make no difference. I spent a summer being paid to work in a theatre, live in the mountains and do nothing but act and live the good life. And I STILL hated dragging my ass out of bed for an 8 AM start. Lest you think this is a product of a permissive or neglectful upbringing, let me set the record straight.

My mom is very, very big into sleeping at night and being a productive member of society from 8 AM onward. Morning is morning. I rather thought my dad had the right idea; be a cop, work crappy hours, then sleep in the basement with tinfoil over the windows. Of course I can see now working third shift and raising kids at the same time probably sucked, not the least of which was that we turned his basement window well into a soccer goal and I was a shit goalie. The man didn’t sleep more than four hours at a time from 1984-1987. Still, working at night and sleeping in the day just looks right to me. It’s no different than clothes or music. Everyone has their taste and everyone secretly hates everyone else’s taste.

My husband, bless him, embraces my night owlish lifestyle. He also aids and abets me in hiding it from my mom. If I nap, sleep late, get out of bed at 4 for a piddling reason like a housefire, my mother can be counted on to utter The Prophecy. The Prophecy is always delivered in a tone of warning and fear, with a dash of menace:

“Sarah, you’re getting your days and nights switched around!”

The Prophecy never varies in word choice or tone. It is delivered with an intensity hitherto reserved for sentences like “no, this IS the last plane out of Saigon.”

So you can understand how adopting the baby was the first time in my whole life my mother ever gave permission to sleep and work these weird hours. She even said to me “you sleep when the baby sleeps.” Holy cow! My mom just gave me carte blanche! I can be up til 3! I can nap at 6 pm! This is going to be the only time in my life I don’t harbor a secret disquietude my schedule shames my entire family!

This should have been a relief. Hell, it should have been a cakewalk. In my stunning naiveté I thought the baby would sleep. This is a LIE. It’s a lie sold to the American consumer by cradle companies and mobile manufacturers. I blame Hollywood. All these ads of little swaddled bundles, with eyes closed and adorable nostrils gently fluttering. Bullshit. Utter bullshit. I lived in the same room as Baby for 3 weeks and I can tell you he never did anything that resembled substantive sleep.

What did he do? He waited until Mac and I had a loose schedule so we could attempt to even think about sleeping. Then the baby would close his eyes and snuggle into his little sleepsack, looking adorable. He’d make a tiny cooing sound. A few minutes later, a squeak. “Oh!” we’d say. “He’s so precious!” we’d say. Then little bubbles. And another coo. I’d close my eyes. All is well.

Wait– was that the baby? Did he squirm? Was that the sleepsack? Then a slight shift of Baby’s head and I’d immediately run over to the crib, desperately trying to remember the 5 Warning Signs of SIDS, Proper Swaddling 101, the number to 911 (answer: 911) and wishing the Bat Signal was a real thing.

I’d finally feel reassured Baby was OK, these were all normal sounds, and then phbbt. Well now, what the hell was that? A burp? A fart? Is he gassy? Does he need drops? Can we even give him drops? Robin’s a nurse, I should text her about those drops. Crap, my phone is where Mac is trying to sleep.

Phbbbbbbt.

Now I’m definitely not going to sleep. Yes, technically I should be, since Baby is sleeping, but what was the phbbbbbbt? Is he hungry? Angry? Snotty? I give up. I have to go look again. And there I am, trying hard to find the source of this stupid noise, when it occurs to me AJ said moms can hear their babies even when the babies aren’t really making any noise at all. Oh GREAT. The ink isn’t even dry on the adoption papers and I’ll be carted off to a rubber room because I hear phantom phbbbbbbts at…midnight? 3 pm? The year 2017? Time and space have no meaning now. I have been awake since the dawn of man.

Which is why it gives me such infinite, sublime pleasure to have my mother babysit for us overnight. Sure, it means eating my dinner at the temperature God intended and the possibility of sex with my husband (don’t be daft. This is a family blog. We don’t actually have sex, we talk about it then fall asleep while trying to grade assignments handed in last fall that we never got to). And of course, the baby is a little prince most of the time for his beloved grandma. But there is a palpable satisfaction to showing up the next day knowing that no matter how fussy, how colicky, how cranky our bundle of joy was ALL NIGHT LONG, I always have the option of saying

“well sorry, Mom. Just sleep when he sleeps.”

I am raising a Somebody

I have noticed two odd behaviors that I never considered before I became a parent. One, why do I always address my child in the interrogatory? “Good morning? Did we sleep? Did we? Oh, look at you, are you a gorgeous baby or WHAT?!” Why am I asking him so many questions? It’s not like he’s going to answer. It’s not even like the questions need an answer. If I walk in on my child before noon, and he has been lying prone in his crib with closed eyes, then I should know that it’s morning and he has been asleep.If I own a watch and can identify a sleeping human there is no need for the Guantanamo treatment.

There are also questions that I do in a sing-song voice, and I always promised I wouldn’t do the Baby Voice. I hate the Baby Voice. It’s condescending and annoying. Plus, how can I expect him to talk and behave like a normal human when I speak to him in a key only my dog can hear? But there it is. I hear myself do it every day. “Are you happy to see me?” becomes

the-scale

This goes on all day. “Are you hungry? Do you want some yogurt? Oooh! How about some applesauce in your yogurt?” If I ask a really long question I need a vocal warm up so I don’t blow my chords on the high C. I have so many fucking questions. The really strange questions, though, are the ones I refuse to acknowledge pertain to my particular baby. This is the second behavior I have noticed and I have absolutely zero explanation for it. These are the questions about my baby that are ostensibly not about my baby. These are always Somebody questions.

“Do I hear somebody crying?” The answer is always yes. If I didn’t hear the crying I would have left him to quietly chew on the cat’s tail while I grade 23 sophomore essays. That takes a long time to grade, when you factor in how to explain a sophomore in college shouldn’t be writing a sentence that contains no discernible verb.

“Did somebody poop his pants? Let’s check!” Come on, now. If there’s any question at all who pooped his pants and I’m not located in the center of a daycare or, for accuracy’s sake, a facility for the elderly, then there is something very wrong with somebody and I am that somebody.

“Did somebody fall over again? Oopsies!” Well, yes, Sarah. At any given moment it’s even betting that one of the world’s myriad narcoleptics, vertigo sufferers, Lindsay Lohan, what have you, has taken a tumble. If you’re staring at your baby and he’s no longer in the upright and locked position just PICK HIM UP.

“Is somebody cranky?” Yes, and it’s Mac. Next?

“Is somebody ready for a nap?” See above.

“Is somebody trying to drive mommy insane?” Lady, the list is endless.

“Is somebody succeeding?”

Yep. It’s Mommy.

Breaking Mad

Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances, the following separation anxiety protocol will be followed: if the baby sees you, you must not leave his sight. For those visiting the Borden household, job resignation forms will be available upon request. Once here, should you need the bathroom before baby turns 5, you will provide (at your own cost) a full-sized cardboard cutout of yourself such as one sees of film stars or Star Trek cast members. Showering takes you away from baby too long, be advised there is a babywipe and Axe body spray regimen in effect. Options to be tongue-bathed by the cat will be considered on a case by case basis. Bring photos of your own family unless they wish to join you here with baby. Remind them to budget for cardboard cutouts.

Hey! Six months is a pretty great age. The weird, colicky “cry for no reason” hobby has faded away. Painful teething is still part-time work. His little personality is shining through. Every time he hears music, he turns to see where it’s coming from. He can tell when I’m going to pick him up because he can hear the velcro on my abdominal brace so he kicks and squeals with delight. The only issue, and I hesitate to complain here, is that after years of a completely child-free existence I now cannot leave this particular child for more than a fraction of a second. The universe is making up for those childless years by making certain I must be permanently attached to Baby. The “Separation Anxiety” Phase is a unique time in the development of a child, in which every moment the baby and parent are apart there is tremendous frustration, uncertainty, apprehension and unease. All that, plus whatever the hell is going on in the baby’s mind.

I can’t stand to leave him! It’s not that I love him so intensely it borders on the pathological (although a case could be made for that) it’s the anticipation he will WAIL. And wail and waaaaaail. This developed in the space of a day. Morning, I go to make him a bottle and some carrots–no problem. Afternoon I go to the bathroom and WAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLL. And it’s not even the worst with me! When Mac comes in the baby can’t stand it if Mac briefly moves out of his line of sight. Mac hasn’t left the room and Baby wails merely anticipating the impending possibility of separation.

Meanwhile, when I’m alone with Baby during the day I sound like a third-rate rap star. I’m always talking about myself in the third person when I leave the room, hoping the kid will eventually understand I don’t literally disappear when I go to make the bed. “Mommy is going to the bedroom! Mommy is just making the bed! Mommy is speaking in the third person and verbally tweeting the useless details of her day to an audience who genuinely couldn’t care less!”

After three weeks of this I’m toying with positively insane ideas to combat this separation anxiety. I try to figure out exactly what he’s missing and replicate that. The sound of my voice doesn’t do it, so if I need to go somewhere in the house and I can’t take him with me (at this point I absolutely can’t carry him as I’m recovering from surgery) I put the TV on so he can see other people. I put him in his swing so it feels like he’s being cradled. I even leave a Tshirt I sleep in near him so it will smell like I’m still there. I don’t know why I thought that would work, and it didn’t, but I was desperate. Anything to escape the terrified screeching when momentarily out of Baby’s presence.

It has been a few months now, and we’re still barely out of the baby wipe/Axe phase. I have been relegated to the second tier Anxiety status; he’s mildly concerned if I’m the only person around he knows. Mac, on the other hand, is still First Tier, Code Red, The World is Ending status. God help me if Mac comes and goes several times in a day. Baby just starts to believe the dream is real: Daddy is HOME! Then it’s shattered as Daddy disappears to do trivial things like go back to work, eat, sleep, attend his brother’s funeral. Anything, really, is less pressing than Baby.

Funny thing, the Separation Anxiety phase. It’s loud and demanding and intense and insane. I think we’ll both miss it when it’s gone.

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