Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Well, this is embarrassing

HIATUS OVER! It’s good to “see” all of you again. Hey there. You look great and those highlights are perfect for summer. I DID lose weight! Thanks for noticing! By the way, I was so happy they finally saw how hard you’ve been working and they rewarded it. Plus, CONGRATS! I know you had wanted that one thing for so long now, nobody deserves it more!

Or.

I planned to tell you that the recent hiatus here at DtEC was because I’ve been in feverish negotiations to publish my latest bestseller, or that my son has become so attached to me we can hardly go thirty seconds without a Significant Moment such as one sees in diaper ads, formula commercials, etc. Or perhaps I was finishing up a stunning little bungalow for Habitat for Humanity, and sure it took a bit longer but I like to wire it myself and personally supervise the solar panel installation while I paint a cheery fresco in the kitchen.

To be clear, absolutely all of those things happened (not to me, but be patient, I’m telling this story). So why haven’t you heard about my latest parenting misadventures?

Well, this hurts. So, here goes: You haven’t read about them because I was too ashamed to admit I’ve let being a mother take a back seat in my life. And I’m not sure that’s OK. I was supposed to put my son before anything and everything else that would ever happen to me. I thought I WAS. But I wasn’t.

It’s not news my body is an Atari in a Playstation world. Big deal. The night before I turned 40 (oh yeah– I did that!) I reminded myself that some people don’t turn forty, they EARN 40. I think I’ve fought pretty hard to get here. Even though I keep my mental and physical health as good as I am able, the fact remains that many people with my particular diagnoses struggle to keep on keepin’ on. Did you know that the CDC estimates 50% of all people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide? Our risk is well more than double the average person. I say this not to be morbid but educational. Add that to some of the more colorful physical challenges my body likes to present, and I feel damn well justified for saying I worked hard to make it to 40.

So what’s happened? To be blunt– I don’t know, and a lot of other people don’t, either. I’ve begun having pain, dizziness, lack of appetite, and two memorable vertigo attacks I wouldn’t wish on anybody short of a dues-paying member of ISIL. I’m steadily working my way through the medical establishment, doing what my friend AJ used to call the OYS tour. “Only You, Sarah” explains a ton, medically speaking. These symptoms are additional to the underlying issue. You can see how this is complicated. Not playing chess complicated…organizing the landing on Omaha Beach complicated. But, for the sake of my readers who are married to me and have lived the unbearable pain of losing a partner– let me be clear. None of this is terminal. It’s merely…presenting such a unique set of problems that even the Mayo Clinic demanded over 100 separate new items before they would continue to review my case for admission. Uh, yay for individuality?

My role in my son’s life has changed. When I can I’m doing the stuff he needs (I hold a fourth degree black belt in singing Wiggles songs to deflect whining) but the grind, the day to day, Mac has done. My whole family and our friends have been amazing (like the morning we had to call 911 because a vertigo attack lasted two hours and I began to aspirate vomit; my neighbors simply crossed the street and solved the childcare crisis as I’m being sped away). How can you tell people what it means that they will do that when you yourself can’t?

Now my embarrassment.

I thought I knew humility and gratitude as those around me loved and cared for our son, wanting him as much as we always did. Then, two nights ago, I said something that was shocking in its honesty but also shocking in that I didn’t know I felt this way: if I had known this would happen, I might not have ever filed the paperwork. I would have said it wasn’t fair to saddle everybody else with my dream of motherhood when I’m not suited up and ready to play. Obviously he’s so much more than “my” son– he’s a grandson, a nephew, cousin, playmate, friend. But I was there from day one. Believe me. Mac was on board, but I was driving that train. Had I known my limit-testing son headbutting me in the gut took me down for the count (24 hours of ice, heat, rest and meds to get past a simple toddler hissy fit) would I have thought parenting was a good idea?

In the coming weeks, I assure you we have MANY fun things to laugh about. First spaghetti! First summer buzz cut! First hissy fit over juice in a sippy cup! First real steps (at 18 months he’s considered a bit of a late bloomer but that’s horseshit because these were exceptional first steps, not everyday walking around stuff, or whatever other babies do). The humor will be back, I assure you.

Thank you for giving me time off to build that house, scream at a publisher who is DESPERATE for my next book (as he chomps on the end of a cigar, because my brain gets my imaginary publisher confused with the editor that wants more pictures of Spiderman), and coo with my son in artfully arranged gauzy cotton swaddles while the announcer extols the virtue of new No Farter-Starter Gas-Ease Formula (Geneva Protocol Brand, ask for it by name!).

I dinged my funny bone; we’re on the mend now. Please enjoy summer and come back soon for the story of the Great Saltine Rationing of 2016.

Love Story: the real sequel

Oh, readers. You’ll love this. I mean it; you’ll love this, because by now you think you’ve copped on. “Sarah can’t possibly have this many physical problems, she’s a head case who exaggerates minor physical discomforts for the sake of the story,” you’re saying to yourself in my voice at this very minute. I do mean this minute. I wait until each and every one of you is reading, then I say it along with you. (Hi, Don & Suzie, congrats on the move!).

Hollywood, I have the ultimate pitch to you. I want to pitch my movie about the sequel to Love Story, only this is very real and the coveted age 40-65 movie target audience will come for this one. They truly will.

We start with the wife, and this IS based on a true story, somewhere out there some superheroes disguised as EMTs and firefighters will corroborate… taken to the ER with what we now know was an extremely sudden attack of benign positional vertigo. The entire world was spinning, I could NOT stop puking, I was lethargic and confused, and wasn’t ambulatory. Simply put, it was like being drunk on a Tilt-a-Whirl after you’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner then stepped into an anti-gravity chamber. Hm. I need to work on “simply put.” Anyhow, the vertigo is expected to last six weeks or so, and I frequently get so dizzy I have to stop everything and sit on the floor, or I’ll get there one second later but land on my face.

We meet the protagonist, Mac. He’s NOT George Clooney, he’s had to live a real life, so go find an actor that has DONE that, thank you. Mac is now married to a person who cannot pick up their beautiful adopted baby from off the ground, lift the baby or carry him for more than a minute, put him in a carseat, or, for that matter, drive. (I still get so damned dizzy that I get carsick while I’m driving. One or two things my cop father said are rattling around somewhere in my brain, thus I respect a car is a deadly weapon in the wrong hands. I have taken myself off the road before I get myself or someone else killed).

Mac’s school year is all but done, he’s mostly researching and writing. Don’t let that fool you; that’s still a 40 hour work week, when done by serious professors who give a damn and are good at their jobs. Sitting on your butt and writing (for real) is WORK. His day is simple: get baby up, feed him, dress him, drop him at Learning Center (daycare), go to work, get baby, come home, amuse baby til dinner, make dinner, TV, bed. He has made it clear my character is welcome to join in, but if I don’t feel well enough, by all means he’ll get’r done.

Obviously I try to do what I can. Mac can nap while Baby and I watch Sesame Street and count our toes, or I give him an amazing new toy and he can hit other things with it. Today it was a spoon. Yesterday it was empty husk of a highlighter, the innards long-since sent to the Staples in the sky. I helped change the bed after Baby pooped in it and the clumpy, yogurty mess went all down Baby’s pant leg. That mess, by the way, was a grim reminder that Mac should double check he put a diaper on the kid before putting him in the crib.

That’s how tired this man is. He forgot the diaper entirely. Then thanked me for getting a clean mattress pad on the bed. Thanked me.

Think about that for a second.

Hollywood, take note: I am now writing the secret to the greatest screenplay of the last century, and giving it away for free, so at the VERY least give it some thought and then cast an actress who is 40 to play me, not a 22 year old who has a flat stomach and a $300 haircut.

Mac did Love Story, the original. His first wife died very young, of a cancer so vicious it couldn’t even have the mercy to end her days quickly. There was no Ali McGraw, no beautiful soundtrack, no Academy award nominations. It sucked Mac dry then left him for dead, except he was still here.

Now here he is, in a sequel that, like so many others, is a fainter shade of the real deal and nobody’s heard of the actress. A whole decade younger…should have been a safe bet, huh? Nope. Still calling 911, still getting huge medical bills, still seeing doctors shake their head and say “I’ve never heard of this before. Sorry.” And in the middle of all of this…he found enough love in his heart to dream of a son, and then Baby finally comes. Mac is now under studio contract to keep making this work no matter how much the actress is wandering off and on the set, taking weird pills, sitting for no discernible reason in the middle of the floor, making the whole house into an instant parody of the world’s shittiest ashram. The baby screams because he wants Cheerios, the soundtrack to the Wiggles is on permanent loop for the rest of our lives, and after cleaning up the poop, putting everything in the clothes washer, drying it, bringing it upstairs, feeding our kid and spending time with me…

HE thanked ME for putting the mattress pad on Baby’s crib.

Hollywood, I know you’re blowing me off, but believe me when I tell you every couple who has been in love through these times will see this movie. Anybody can fall in love. Hell, it’s so easy the Kardashians, David Hasselhoff, Voldemort and Donald Trump all did it, and remember Hasselhoff was quoted as saying “I’ve got taste. It’s inbred in me.”

The sequel is the better, braver movie here. It’s the choice to be a good man, a good father, a good husband, a good provider, a good son, and, with the time he was allowed, a good brother. THAT’S the angle, Hollywood. Show the choices people make when one has to be at 100% day and night, trusting the other will be there when the time comes.

She is here. No, hon, look down. On the floor. But I am here, and I’m grateful that “romantic movie” gives way to scary EMTs, poopy sheets and the grace to thank me when I do what I can as well as I can.

I love you Mac, as I can and from wherever I am. Yep. Down here again, kitchen floor. Thanks for making the sequel.

 

The Longest Day

Forget Operation Overlord. Ian and I have just had the longest Day of Days. It’s 3:48 am, this timeline is as accurate and factual as I am capable of recalling.

  • 8:00 pm Sarah having pain, in bed with heating pad. Mac puts Baby to bed with standard routine, about 8:30. Normal bedtime is between 8:45 and 9:15. We’re consistent with this.
  • 10:30 During a YouTube video of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (cannot recommend this show highly enough) Baby wakes up, screams.
  • 10:37 We decide something is wrong, usually a little nightmare he’ll fuss for 90 seconds and go back to sleep.
  • 10: 45 Mac goes in to soothe and offer more bottle, standard operating procedure (SOP). Baby gets one soothe visit per night if needed while teething is in full swing. He refuses to be soothed.
  • 11:30 Baby stands in crib and screams. And screams. AND SCREAMS. Very unusual, I go to investigate. Decide to give him standard dose of baby ibuprofen because when I touch around his mouth he looks like that pissed off little red memory voiced by Lewis Black in the film Inside Out. SOP again in play, Mommy leaves after one short comfort song. This tactic almost never needed.
  • 12:05. Mac and I agree this is unprecedented. Daddy tries sitting in favorite chair, offering bottle of nice new milk, BABY MAD. Baby beginning to TALK LIKE HULK. YOU WON’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY.
  • 12:30. Holy cow, this is has never happened before. Mommy and Daddy have checked temperature, gently tugged both ears, hear snot but snotsucker produces disappointing results. For me. I think Mac is always happier when there’s not a lot of gelatinous boogery stuff. He says it doesn’t bother him. I know he’s lying, he knows I know he’s lying, now I have made a public record of the fact I know he hates what he professes not to hate and I know that’s bullshit and he knows I know and now you know what? Now you know. That’s what will be listed as the cause in the divorce papers should I receive some tomorrow. Sorry, Mac. I’m tired.
  • 12:45. Again…no idea. Back in bed. Constant, relentless screaming. I put on the soundtrack for The Wiggles on my phone, leave phone near crib but out of sight thinking he’ll relax and fall asleep.
    • Dear Mommy, I can hear Simon but not see him? Tell me again, what made you think this would work?
  • 1:20. He hasn’t stopped screaming in 3+ hours. There’s no longer any, any way to salvage the “nighttime is for sleep and we don’t do other things at night” concept. Our firmness had never backfired until now. I have to strip him out of his pjs, which are WET. Not damp, WET at the collar from tears. Fresh diaper again, now new PJs, and I get a wild idea that says, in Lewis Black’s voice, “Huh! Might as well try gas drops. Everything else on the planet has done jack shit.”
  • 1:30 Daddy takes him for a drive. It invigorates him and then he feels super sleepy. I mean Mac. Who knows what the hell was going with The Incredible Sulk in the car seat?
  • 2:00 I tell Mac to go to bed. As the certified night owl, this really is supposed to be my biggest contribution; I take the night stuff because Mac needs to sleep for work, and in return I sleep later in the a.m.
  • 2:20 I give in. Kid, I give in. I put on The Wiggles, he lets me give him a proper dose of Tylenol and antigas drops in him. He had spit out a good deal of the first ibuprofen three hours ago, how much he got in his system, who could tell you?
  • 3:00 He has quit crying, (now he’s only cranky) because he now has Cheerios, The Wiggles, and even mommy looks tired
  • 3:17 While dancing the Hot Potato song as he holds himself up from a chair, he turns and looks straight at me, and
  • 3:18 FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAART. PHHHHHBBBBBBBTT. TOOOOOOOOT. RIPPING, GIGANTIC, FART.
  • FAAAAAAAAAAA-AAAAAAAAART

  • Looks at me, with a sweet angelic grin, and I’m not making this up, he holds his hands out to me. When I pick him up he says “ma-ma.” It’s clear, and beautiful, and he takes one ounce of milk before he rubs both eyes and I lay him in his crib.
  • 3:22. Out like a frickin light, chubby little cheeks smooth with the sheen on dried tears on his face.
  • 3:30. Decide to write it now, while it’s fresh in my mind. And, er, foul in the living room. Realize something like this happened in that movie The Last King of Scotland.
  • 3:40. Yo. Imes Borden: these contacts won’t take themselves out.
  • Good night

The Other Woman

Well, let’s out with it: there is another woman in our relationship. That’s OK, there’s another man, too. Oh, and two small children. And a slightly older child, probably not in the US.

And grandparents.

It’s such a weird and wonderful thing, to know somewhere out there my son has a whole family he knows nothing about. Frankly, I don’t know what’s weirder; we know, but very little, or if we didn’t know anything.We were never supposed to meet our son’s birth family. It was more of an awkward “uh, this is a VERY small maternity ward, and you’re the ONLY white people coming in, unpregnant and excited out of your minds we’re the Mexican man, woman and two very young children stuck in the doorway while they do some paperwork… uh…hola!” We were under the impression they wanted to meet. That was wrong. Through an interpreter, at the last minute our social worker was told that in the Mexican communities of itinerant workers the common preference is for a totally closed adoption.

That’s rare in the US now. Open is the only way to go. I admit a selfish part of me wanted to be the ONLY mom, the ONLY woman he could picture…but our kid is, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, Mexican-American. He’s gonna cop on pretty fast he doesn’t look like Mrs. Gringa over here, who is the color of the underbelly of a frog and can be used as a night light in certain emergency situations. I’m glad his birth family consented to one super awkward picture, so at least we can show him: see? You didn’t come out of thin air. The reading I’ve done, and talks with our social worker, indicate children of color need these cues to feel more secure as they grow up. OK, nobody’s pretending I got a good tan, I do see where I came from and letting me be who I am involves talking about my birth mom and dad.

For me, the weirdest part is wondering when she thinks of him. She must although she has got to be BUSY;when we met they had a 2 AND 1 year old with them. I have a single 16 month old and my husband washed a load of underwear for me last week after he looked in my underwear drawer and saw two swimsuits and a credit card I haven’t used since 1998. I went to feed Baby the other day and found my keys in the freezer. Still though, she must wonder how the son they gave up is doing. What would I say?

Well, he was a VERY non-picky eater until two weeks ago,now he throws tantrums worthy of Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen. He screams his head off at nap time, even though he’s rubbing his eyes and trying not to yawn. He likes strawberries better than grapes. He likes most veggies. He thinks hot dogs are OK-ish, and he loves to eat rice with his hands. He uses his grubby little hands to mold sushi bites, then eats them. They’re gross, honestly.

Mostly, I think I’d say thank you. I did then, but that was for the baby.This time I’d say thank you for the experiences, and insanity, the unexpected moments of grace, and hilarity. I’d say thanks for knowing what you’re about to miss and handing him over anyway.

Finally, I want to say Happy Birthmother’s Day. I’m pretty sure most women don’t set out to become one. Thank you for doing it anyway. I may make light of silly things in this column, but I get to do that because there’s enough buoyancy in my heart to share. Those levels were ROCK BOTTOM before we received your gift. Gracias. As I said to you in my crappy Spanish the day we accidentally met, “desde el fondo de mi corazón, gracias.” From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

The Scream

I don’t know what’s happened. This was sudden, it was unexpected, it’s completely off-the-charts, not to mention off of the timeline we thought we were following.

Baby is 16 months, and, I say this with love, he has become a total jerk.

Seriously! Not even two weeks ago we had a sunny little boy, who loved to pet the cat, take long naps, and have Daddy throw him the air while Mommy shouted “wheeeeee!” and tried to take pictures. Not that long ago he loved new food, scooting around and meeting people. It was the perfect time to enroll him in his new daycare. Uh, sorry. Learning Center…and they do insist that a child my son’s age is better off at a Learning Center, capital L and Capital C.  Then one day, the kid Mac brought home from the daycare Learning Center was, well, an asshole!

He shouts like the world is ending when you lay him down for a diaper change. He DOES NOT DO baby food anymore, even his old favorites like turkey and rice. Feeding him is not happening. Baby feeds himself or baby won’t be eating today, thanks. When he’s done, he violently pushes away or drops it all on the floor. If he doesn’t like what you gave him, floor. Less than two weeks ago I had the world’s least fussy eater! Where did THAT KID go?

Navigating entertainment is a nightmare. Wrong episode of The Wiggles? Lock Mommy in the Tower of London. At this very second, I’m listening to the baby scream a high-pitched whine because Daddy only read the football book twice, not three times. It’s almost comical when he wants to look out the living room window but I’m the only one home. I can’t hold him up there to see out well, but he can look at all the same stuff if I open his nursery blinds and he can stand in his crib. But that’s not the window he wants, Mommy, you incompetent piece of trash.

Again, I can hear him screaming at Mac right now. This time it’s because he can’t have a taste of whatever Mac is drinking; Glenfiddich, if Mac’s smart.

The Baby found a wooden rod that’s held to play a bodhran, a traditional Irish drum. Baby screamed for 20 minutes when he was not allowed to use the cat as a drum.

He kicks violently if he wants to do something dangerous, like fall down a flight of stairs, and you stop him.

He dropped our Roku remote in a glass of ice water.

He screams incessantly when put down for a nap, even if he is so tired he has drooped his little head to lay down on the living room rug.

Baby damned near broke Mac’s nose hurling himself at Daddy during a temper tantrum, then threw ANOTHER tantrum that while Daddy assessed the damage Baby wasn’t allowed to rip out the hearing aids Daddy desperately needs to avoid being dependent on mime and ASL.

He’s angry we won’t let him inhale and draw things with Sharpies. He screams when he throws something on the ground, it gets left there to discourage that, so he throws more at it in a misguided attempt to make things better.

Baby is angry The Wiggles only sent 78 episodes to the US with Simon in them. He freaks the hell out over Simon. If anybody happens to know Simon of the Wiggles, please tell him he’s welcome to come sleep with me, or Mac, or both of us if that’s his thing, if he will only keep my kid occupied until Baby’s 3rd birthday.

Is it ethical to give a 16 month old a little Benedryl to make him sleep? I’m asking for a friend.

Finally…where did my baby go? The little bundle who shook his whole body with glee when he heard the straps of my velcro; the sound that always meant Mommy’s here, and she’s going to pick you up and we’ll have great adventures together. Is he coming back? Even in a bigger format, I miss the baby who loved his father, his Oscar (“ar! Gar!” he’d squeal, gleefully sinking his face into the cat’s soft belly). PLEASE bring him back. Mac and I can only stand a baby behaving exactly as we must have for a little while longer.

Then it’s Glenfiddich and Benedryl time. For us.

Simon’s got the baby.

Can you PLEASE tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

El Niño has officially turned 16 months, and I’m nudging towards letting him watch more television. For one thing, as mentioned before, he really, sincerely loves The Wiggles. The Wiggles are family, as far as he’s concerned. They’re people we visit regularly, or he’s sad because they must have left forever. When he got back from Grandma’s after I dislodged the cold from hell (doctor says total recovery time will be another three-four weeks. WHAT!?) Baby’s priorities were as follows:

  1. Allow weird lady kiss on the cheek, she wants to hold me and cuddle me and never let go, something about mommy missed you so much, but I can’t be bothered because
  2. THE CAT!! Oscar still lives here! Ohmigod, Ohmigod, gotta pull on his tail. PLEASE let me pull on him!
  3. Oh, good. We still own a TV. Make the sign for The Wiggles.
  4. Lady, I’m not kidding, leave me alone. Simon’s on. He has the best voice, but I also like Emma’s bows.

So, I’m trying to get in more Sesame Street, because Mom swears that’s how I learned to read. I turned on HBO and got the thing titled Sesame Street. But…it’s not. Let’s start with the obvious: I never saw, and I was looking closely, (I’ll have you know I was once an undercover detective at Bloomingdale’s and they are a VERY big store)…I never once saw Bert and Ernie together. They sort of showed up to announce the number of the day, but you can’t fool me. That’s not new content. It gets recycled every time, and it only took me four episodes to catch on to that. SO. What gives, Sesame Street? Where did they go? Did they reveal the Count is money laundering and now they sleep with the fishes? “Count the cement blocks, 1, 2, 3, 4! FOUR cement blocks, ah ah aaah.”

There wasn’t any Oscar the Grouch. I barely saw Big Bird. I appreciate the store is still called Hooper’s but where are all the people? There used to be lots of people on Sesame Street. Now, the puppets may interact with one or two. Elmo is driving this thing. I can’t understand what the hell he’s saying. His voice is high, and he talks like he learned English from someone who was just screwing with him. I refuse to believe anything is willing to listen to that voice everyday. Dorothy the Goldfish, go glub glub twice if you’re being held involuntarily.

Who is the fairy thing? And why is she so superior to Telly? Telly may be a bit of a stick in the mud, but at least he’s not a smug little shit leaving glitter in his wake. I do appreciate they at least still HAVE Telly. I thought he’d gone the way of Snuffy and Kermit. Oh, and I hear Snuffy can be seen now, so kids aren’t worried to say something and not have an adult believe them. That’s nice. It is. But last week, using nothing but a frisbee, my 5 year old nephew declared he could see that he was Iron Man and Uncle Mac was Captain America. Originally, I was Cap, and that worked out great until I forgot to mention I’m pre-serum Steve and the Dude tried to tackle me to get the frisbee. Now, Aunt Sarah is Peggy Carter; good at strategy, not involved in combat. So, kids can say they see things, and believing them is important…but if you look at me and see an indestructible body topped with blond hair that belongs on a Ken doll, I’ll get you in to talk to my therapist right after I’m done with her this week.

I’m also going to add we have several former students who work on the Sesame Street Live show, and the live show is a whole other matter. It’s a spectacular show and really fun for kids. Baby’s too young this year but we think next year, maybe. My complaint is specifically TV oriented.

Sigh. Everything changes. Everything grows. I understand this; it’s how my tiny little 7 lb snizzlefritz got to the point where he likes to dance, try to sing, and pretend he can walk. “I walk with my hand on all the furniture and DO NOT help me mommy, I’m doing it all by myself, I just happen to have a hand on the furniture at all times because I’m comforting our furniture. It’s sad you don’t clean the furniture as often as they would like.”

So, Elmo. OK. And the fairy thing. All right. Seriously though, Bert and Ernie? That’s not growth.

That’s bullshit.

The Vacation

So. I have been on parenting vacation. I didn’t go anywhere special, just bed, because I obtained some sort of nasty laryngitis, coughing, pain…I don’t even know what all was going on. It was bad.

My parents frequently say if there’s anything they can do to help, they will. What’s really cool about that is they mean it, it’s not like when a co-worker you know the name of, but not how they spell it, falls off their roof and breaks a tibia and you say “if there’s anything I can do, let me know!” but you’re both safe that won’t occur because that co-worker does remember how to spell your name, he just doesn’t like you all that well. My parents help a LOT. In this case, I thought it would be two days, but now it has been six.

Why six, you ask? (I hope). Because when I called to find out how my son was doing, my voice sounded like something Voldemort dredged up from the bowels of Hell. Even I thought I sounded bad. The next day, there was no sound at all except for at one note. All trained actors do extensive vocal work to be able to manipulate the voice for multiple reasons. We need it to project, or still be clear while we’re crying, or sing in the chorus, whatever. My training taught me that when all other sound is locked through laryngitis, you may have one note relaxed enough to work. I ran through my exercises, and sure enough, there it was. I could only be heard at that note. I tried it out on Ian.

Ian mostly looked forlorn that Wife Unable to Speak Week was cancelled. But I still couldn’t get the baby back, because imagine what it would do to the psyche of a 16 month old, to hear his mother say “good night, sweetie, let’s tuck you in tight” in a single note, a low growl that has no intonation or variation of sound. Forget sleeping; the first memory of me would be the day he learned that Rosemary’s baby might not have been the problem, maybe somebody should have looked at Rosemary.

That’s it. All it took was an illness that made me feel cruddy and sound like a Deatheater, and Baby got six days, all-inclusive resort vacation with Grandma.

I have GOT to ask my voice teacher if I can replicate that sound without the illness, because another resort vacation for Baby would be fantastic around the time Mac and I have our anniversary…

Sydney Syndrome

Parents, especially you stay at home parents, today we’re going to be talking about a delicate subject that may be difficult for you to face. Just remember: lots of us are triggered by this, we are NOT alone, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I am speaking, of course, of Sydney Syndrome. It’s a pervasive and psychologically damaging condition in which a parent has been forced to hear songs by the Australian group “The Wiggles” so many times that you begin to feel like you enjoy them, or maybe even asked to hear them.

Common things we hear when we talk about The Wiggles are phrases like “It was just supposed to kill ten minutes so I could take a shower!” or “The Australian accents fooled me, I thought they must be less potent than American brand children shows!” The worst cases bring out difficult to express pain and anguish, and so they are disguised as simple banter. Come on now, do you think other adults ask themselves if Lachey is pretty cute (answer: he is) or if Anthony is trying a little to hard to look under 50? (Answer: he is). The very worst cases are triggered by seeing yellow bows. Parents who have violent reactions to yellow bows should be led to a safe place, given an adult beverage, and then we recommend at least three hours of interactions with adults who won’t trigger you. Your best bet is to go drinking with friends who don’t have children. They have no idea what you mean by “The Big Red Car” or “Dorothy the Dinosaur” and you have no idea who “Florence and the Machine” are. It’s mutually beneficial and your friends without children will also remind you that it was really, really fun to think of yourself as the center of the universe for a few decades.

If you’re trapped in a situation where there is no choice, here are things you can do to lessen the stress of Wiggle-Watching:

  • Realize that in 2015 Emma and Lachey got engaged, and that was after two years of secret dating. Just think of all the kinky sex they’ve had on that set. Imagine how disgusting it could be to shag on the Wags the Dog costume, or in the back of the BRC.
  • Ask yourself if Anthony is “straight” or if he falls more “on a continuum of hetero to homosexuality” as the kids say these days.
  • Thank God above when you get an episode with Lou Diamond Phillips in it. Lou, I can’t think of ANY crime you could commit not involving a Pope-related sex toy that would result in punishment like this, but….whatever you did, thanks. You’re bringing some much needed sex appeal to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in my living room at 3:00 in the afternoon.
  • Simon, for the love of GOD, man…the third one is ALWAYS the one where you didn’t say “Simon Says.” Mix it up, sweetie. Even the five year olds with their shoes on the wrong feet and tater tots in their pockets have caught on.
  • How much of a cash cow is Emma, really? Think about it. They gave her her own little spin off, each lasting three minutes where she does a cute dance. They sell her bows. They sell her tutu. She is the lead singer in about half their songs. I hope she has a percentage of this because she’s going to be the next Oprah. Lachey’s fine for now, but I’d look for her to be moving up to your Chris Hemsworths, your Alex O’Loughlins, your Sam Worthingtons. Give it another 3 years before she wants to “try other things, not get typecast,” on the West End by 2019, first summer blockbuster the year after that, In Esquire’s “100 Hottest Leading Ladies” (but about #89) that fall, and surprise engagement to someone who had been totally off the radar but it was love at first sight by 2021. I hate to jump the gun, but I’ll call it right now, it’s James Franco.
  • Above all else, when you find yourself humming their songs at 7 at night and you’re the only one home, remember that you didn’t ask for this, the Wiggles are something that happened TO you. You don’t need to feel bad, and humming their songs is a natural sign you’ve taken to your captivity in the Wiggle House as well as any adult can.
  • Whatever else you do, remember that I, Sarah, am telling you as a grown up you can trust that it’s OK to live your life. You DON’T need to wait for Simon to say so. But if you do…pause it before that third one or you’re gonna be standing in your living room like a real asshat for the next day and a half until someone comes and turns off the TV.
  • We’re all in this together. Stay safe, and have a bow-tiful day.
    • Oh fuck you, Emma.

The Imes Women Get a Pedicure

Mac is away for a week doing Very Important Scholarly Things. My parents let me move in with them so I can get some very needed help with el Niño. Before I get to the good bit, a tangent:

My abdomen is disintegrating like one ply toilet paper in the Pacific. No joke, I’m running out of tricks to compensate. Real would be an accurate assessment of how the shit is getting. While mom and dad help it gives me more time and avenues to procure all of my medical records from every person who has seen me in the last 3-5 years. Applying to the Mayo Clinic is no longer done by referral. You have to choose the 50 pages that best sums up your issues, surgeries, consults, MRI, x-rays, everything.  The Clinic then decides whom to see.

I have been an actress for 21 years . I have auditioned to be:

  • a girl who holds a Campbell soup sign
  • an American girl willing to let a team of English people cover her in shaving cream
  • a home development expert that focuses on choosing the right carpet
  • and while living in London I auditioned to be the video game voice of an American Army officer, where I was told, I’m not making this up, that I had done OK but there’s a certain type of American accent for this and it was a solid effort but my accent wasn’t American enough. He did tell me he thought with a dialect coach I could get the exact hang of it–my American accent could be perfect.
  • The point is, I have auditioned for so many stupid things in so many stupid ways I RESENT auditioning for medical care.
    • end of rant tangent. Thank you.

Mom was going to help me get Baby into the carseat, we’d collapse the stroller, and go to the nail salon.

Here is what happened:

Using baby gear somebody else has bought is so, so confusing. I don’t think companies make more than one of every gate, highchair or stroller on the planet. Each piece of baby gear is lovingly crafted by hand, to be just that much different from every other on the planet.

I had to get the baby gate down. How does this gate go down? You simply lift the thing, marked with the red, but why is the black thing marked on in pen, which means, so I lift here? No. Do I push here? No. Do I lift towards the

CRASH.

Well. Excellent. My next guess was going to be the chainsaw in the garage. Get stroller, get stomach brace on, lift baby into stroller, must buckle him because we need to go down stairs into garage. But the straps are– why doesn’t this one come out? If I put that one there, then I’m left with a diagonal strap that does nothing…oh. Under his butt? Sure, I mean, I just need to get him to the car and UGH. Hurts to push. Maybe pulling is better. Pull down the AAHHRRGG– baby hanging perilously off one end of the stroller. I guess that’s what the other diagonal thingie should have prevented?

My mom comes to the car. Mom can’t lift due to a recent neck injury, I can’t put the baby away from my torso if I’m holding him, neither of us is great on buckling. Still. It’s not like we’re morons or anything.

We’re morons.

I pick him up out of the AGAHSHSAHAHHH. Oh dear God. I undo the mystery buckle. I pick him up again, without the stroller hanging off his ass. Successfully. My abs are already burning worse than that torch you carried for your junior high crush. Then I have to get him to mom, and she can twist him into the seat, so that takes a couple of tries. Now mom gets out and I get in to buckle, but…would SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE BUCKLES YOU DON’T HAVE TO SET THE BABY ON TOP OF?? It was another five minutes of maneuvering and squishing his fat little appendages under canvas straps, loosening, buckling, tightening.

We now need to collapse the stroller. Mom doesn’t know how. She bought it secondhand and they may have shown her how to collapse it but she can’t remember at all. I figure it has a button on it that says “push” and red thingies; those must be key to the process. They are. They are key to obstructing all progress. I push, pull, turn, hit with my hands, my legs, my knees, I’m beginning to wonder if you’re supposed to offer it some lewd favor in return for cooperation…?

You could achieve world peace if weapons were labelled this way. I keep pressing, pulling, trying to bend things, feel for joints or weak spots or… anything. Anything that seems like it will alter the configuration of the stroller. And the basket down below fell off. Thanks for that, you snarky little piece of shit baby gear. I can lift you, whole, and just stick you in the back of my mother’s extended hatchba– oh, no. No, I can’t. I can hear mom saying “it won’t fit! It won’t fit!” and I’m thinking “it will if I take that chainsaw I see in the corner to it, so help me, God” but at last, painfully, I admit defeat. This stroller is like the physics question of baby gear: can we truly ever understand or alter its nature? Can your essence be manipulated for our purposes or will even the great minds of our time fall short gazing into the infinite complexities of your composition?

We gave up. We left the stroller in the garage and drove to the salon, where everybody loved him. Which is only fair, he’s quite lovable.

But mom and I have dark plans for that stroller. Down the rabbit hole, comic book villain, we WILL collapse you or die trying, ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk? types of thoughts. I want to keep that chainsaw handy.

(Another) Open Letter to Donald Trump

Mr. Trump,

I am writing to you today specifically to address one of the cornerstones of your campaign, the idea that there will be a giant wall that separates the US from Mexico. You started off by saying construction would $4,000,000,000 dollars, and from there have moved up to sixteen billion, but it won’t matter how much it costs because Mexico will pay for it.

It’s rude and racist to say you know what an entire country will do when you’re basing that on an exceedingly small sample size. So I’ll tell you this: here’s what would happen if you approached one very particular Mexican person (in this case a person who is now Mexican American because he was born here and adopted). If you told my son there needed to be a giant wall he doesn’t want but it’s his responsibility to make one anyway, this is what you’d get:

  1. He’d throw all of your construction equipment to the ground and then DEMAND you, personally, come over and pick it up. It wouldn’t matter that he has 30 other things to make a wall with right now, he wants THAT bulldozer and so you’ll need to fly over on Air Force One, pick up THAT bulldozer, and wait.
  2. Because now he knows the game works. So forget trying to negotiate with China, because your wall-building team is just going to dump bulldozers in the Rio Grande all damn day, until you pick them up, wipe them off, and put them at his disposal again. Don’t bother rehearsing your State of the Union speech, because your entire speech will be undermined by the headline
  3. Wall Builder Will Not Begin Construction Until Demands Are Met
  4. Oh, I know, Mr. Trump, you always fly your left hand over your shoulder and lean forward on the podium then say “whatever. I can handle them.” Then you go back to spewing your thinly veiled hatred of Muslims. But you don’t understand: not figuratively, LITERALLY the wall is not being worked on because you didn’t get your builder Cheerios, applesauce, and three bites of whatever mommy is eating, off her fork. You can put it in front of him and repeat “it’s the same food! It’s the same food! It’s the same food!”until you sound like a deranged parrot from the bowels of hell but it won’t matter. NO WALL FOR YOU because the three bites weren’t from Mommy’s fork.
  5. Good news, Mr. President! Your sample size of one Mexican person is in the mood to build a wall today. An esoteric, sort of postmodern wall with different plastic components, some boxes, a wrapped tampon that fell out of the closet which is super weird since nobody in the house has needed those since Oct. 2011, but whatever. It’s a barrier. To parents. This wall will be a nightmare of trying to walk over his wall without stepping on something sharp, losing your balance, and crashing onto the floor.
  6. Your sample size of one Mexican didn’t want to work on the wall today, Donald. Well, shit. Cancel that whole “I can fix ISIL” meeting. Now what do you do? You can be a normal person and pick up the wall because nobody needs this thing, it doesn’t do a damn thing, and the only people who want it are the same people who have the intellectual capacity to think an empty box from Rice Krispie cereal is an effective barrier to people not coming into your space. But the builder, also at your level of mental development, will cry because you destroyed all the hard work he put into it.
  7. And, finally, I fervently hope, someday…you’ll realize the entire wall was a stupid idea. It wasn’t a good jobs scheme, it wasn’t good diplomacy, it was racist, it was an illusion of security and not worth it…in short you’ll learn your wall was child’s play, Mr. Trump.
  8. So get yourself some Cheerios, play with a bulldozer and make some vroom sounds. Our sample size of one Mexican seemed pretty content and nobody’s mad at him. Although I am a bit peeved–I stepped on a sharp piece of a CAT front loader and it’s bleeding like a son of a bitch.
  9. Oh look! Tampon.

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