Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the tag “#christmas”

One batch, one family

There are many, many reasons to celebrate Christmas. Jesus is the Reason for the Season is a popular refrain and I like how that encapsulates a religious meaning for Christians in the story of  Joseph and Mary desperate for a place to give birth to Jesus. Christmas is a cornerstone of faith for 1/3 of the world’s populace, give or take a few. If Jesus is the main person in your religion, having a birthday party for him seems solid to me.

The old standard songs have some pretty great holiday justifications; getting home for Christmas even if it’s only your dreams, asking Santa for nothing but the company of a loved one, laughing at the mean old Grinch. Some are funny out of context, and laughing is a good reason to celebrate. It can be meteorological (Let it Snow!), audiological (sleighbells ring, can you listen?), psychological (Do You Hear what I Hear?), pathological (baby, it’s cold outside and you seem like a suave creep), even zoological (STOP with the turtle doves. She’s just not that into you and you need to walk away).

For others, Christmas time is about gifts. The act of giving, receiving, surprise, generosity, ingenuity…all good reasons to celebrate.

For me, Christmas is about sugar cookies. It’s my mom and dad’s main holiday tradition. There is no Christmas without sugar cookies. More specifically, there is no Christmas without everyone getting together and frosting them. For our mixed bunch (believers and non-believers alike) sugar cookie time is the essence of the church we go to to find our Christmas meaning. It’s our ancestry (we are many things, ALL of them cookie-centric cultures at the holidays). It’s also our culinary history. In her iconic “Cooky Book” Betty Crocker gives two versions of sugar cookies: Mary and Ethel. We bake the Ethel version. We have more ideology in common with Muslims fasting for Ramadan than we do with “Mary” recipe sugar cookie bakers. We take the Ethel recipe very seriously.

Cookie decorating is our artistic release. In years past Dad has given his cookie men plaid pants, mom has given her cookie ladies curly hair, Robin made an Elmo cookie, I turned a tree-shaped cookie into a KC Chiefs arrow.

We did our cookies later than usual this year, December 23rd. Robin and her family were there, I was there with Baby and Mac came from work to my parent’s house an hour later. This year saw several singular creations. The Dude experimented with Pollack-esque sprinkles while his dad made a cookie man wearing an ugly Christmas sweater vest of M&Ms. I swirled two runny frostings in a cool pattern I saw in some magazine named ‘Taste for People Classier Than You.” Robin even removed the head of one sugar cookie man and stuck it up the backend with some frosting. She then gave the head an orange combover and we celebrated eating one of this year’s brand name head-in-ass presidential candidates.

We listened to Christmas CDs, decided “Is it a Red Hot or is it a red M&M?” is a good game for people you don’t like very much, fed the baby a few cereal puffs. I fondly remembered when dad ate so many cookies we required a quadruple batch to be stocked up for the Christmas season. I especially remembered trying to sneak dough while they were in the fridge overnight and then attempting to cover the telltale spoon divots. I thought about the countless sugar cookie people that have paraded across our plates.

Sugar cookies are white. They are frosted with white, light green, or light pink frosting. The Imes family does not DO loud colors, colored gel, anything piped. Mom makes the cookies and frosting from scratch and everyone sits around one table for the games to begin. You get three frostings, a knife, and maybe a toothpick for detail work. You may have sprinkles or candies but you may NOT have these:


as Robin dumped an entire jar on the floor in our old house in 1989 and we were still pulling them out of kitchen baseboards when my parents moved 11 years later. This is true.

But this year, this year was different. The set-up was the same, the obnoxious jokes were hilarious, the contest to see who has the best cookie was highly competitive, mom fussed to get the curly hair just right, people surreptitiously ate their “mistakes.” It was the clone of Christmases past in all the best ways. As I watched everyone reaching for the green frosting and asking where the mini-chips went I absorbed the scene. I mean I really saw us. Then I knew: if everybody makes the cookies, everybody frosts the cookies, everybody eats the cookies, then these cookies are the Christmas tradition that define our family. One batch, one family. It’s the thing we can’t buy, won’t outsource and wouldn’t ever trade.

That’s when it hit me. In the most important way imaginable my sugar cookie family has changed. There is a new cookie on the table. Expansion was required for the familial rite of passage. So in 2015, for the first time ever, the ritual was amended.  I made a batch of chocolate frosting.

One batch, one family.


Guest Artist Series: Becky Boesen

Becky, a playwright, director, actress and producer from Lincoln, NE is our final guest artist. You can see her next work, Puddin and the Grumble, at the Lied Center this spring.

On behalf of the entire DtEC family, we wish you a very merry Christmas, however you have time to celebrate it.

These Are the Things I have No Frickin’ Time For

Written by Sarah Imes Borden

Performed by Becky Boesen

These Are the Things I Have No Frickin’ Time For

Raindrops on roses are useless at Christmas

When you have kids it’s a serious business

Buying the right toys is my only chore

Everything else I don’t have frickin’ time for


Beautiful presents in artisan papers

Bold centerpieces with elegant tapers

Handcrafted pine wreaths to hang on my door,

Cause those are the things I will have fricken’ time for?


We won’t send portraits of us looking happy

Or cheerful notecards where I’m warm and sappy

Pictures with Santa result in a war

These are more things I have no frickin’ time for


Our tree is plastic, we don’t own a manger

My famous fruitcake is made by a stranger

You’ll all get giftcards from some random store

Anything else I have no frickin time for


As my kid yaks in a giftsack

That was for his dad

I simply remember life sucks in December and then I don’t feel so bad!






Featured Artist Series: Lacey Hannan

This holiday season, I wanted to give all of you a gift for staying with us on the adventure thus far. Over the next month DtEC will have videos of holiday favorites performed by my very talented actress friends, with a few minor story edits as done by yours truly. I hope you enjoy our festive offerings as much as we enjoyed making them for you.

First up, Hollywood actress and model Lacey Hannan performs a new holiday classic, “‘Twas Thanksgiving Day.”

‘Twas Thanksgiving Day

Written by Sarah Imes Borden and performed by Lacey Hannan


Tis Thanksgiving morning and all through the house, everyone’s stirring, even my spouse

The turkey’s still frozen, my gravy won’t thicken, the Butterball Hotline just told me “serve chicken”


My brother in law has burnt both the hams, my kids ate the marshmallows meant for the yams

My sister in sweatpants and I in my jeans, have now come to blows over who’ll make the beans


My husband has ruined three knives and a pan, his job was to open the cranberry can

I’m basting potatoes and mashing a bird, at this rate we’ll eat on December the third



When out at the kids table arose such a clatter, Ibsprang from the kitchen to see what’s the matter

Turns out my son’s soda made a big mess– I’m so damn tired I couldn’t care less


Then what to my glazed over eyes should appear? Oh thank you God, my mother is here!

With casseroles full of already-sliced meat, and homemade sage stuffing I can’t wait to eat.


Her car contains every feast food you can buy, salads and cheesecakes and fresh pumpkin pie!

Savory sauces and sweet little blintzes, when she smells my food she just barely winces


We spring to the table, ignoring the messes, forgetting to put on our ties and nice dresses

We slam back turducken and drink all the wine, for such a disaster it ended up fine


As mom washed up dishes without a word, I cried about roasting the still-frozen bird

I heard her laugh loudly as she drove out of sight…“Nobody gets their First Thanksgiving right!”












The meaning of adoption

Adoption is hard enough to define as an adult, I had no idea how to explain it to kids, even my own. Especially my own. What happens when he wants to know why his biological parents didn’t raise him? Will he question how we were picked? Will he think my definition of a Christmas miracle is his definition of a Christmas forever ruined?

My cousin Maid Marian came to visit Baby along with her family. This makes perfect sense when you know I’m Lady Cluck. Her family includes Sis (age 6) and Skippy (3). She’s married to Dan. I have no idea why you expect she’d be married to Robin Hood, he’s literally a cartoon fox and what the hell goes on at your house?

Moving on, we met down in the lobby so the kids could run around and I could see a different set of walls. When it’s negative 15 degrees every day and your hotel window overlooks the bricked up side of a casino you start to get starved for sensory input.

The kids are playing, we’re discussing how winter break is going, I gratefully receive a gift that includes yet other things we didn’t know we needed, especially XL-sized swaddling blankets. Baby barfs all over one corner? Not a problem! You’ve got plenty left over to clean up, wipe off your own shoulder, clean off the counter, then roll up the messy side and use the clean side for the next burp! In the middle of the Christmas cheer I had one of those moments when real life suddenly throws up many more questions that you have answers. Sis loves looking at the Baby, holding the Baby, noticing how small the baby is. Sis is also as smart as her mom, meaning when Marian says “Baby was adopted! Do you know what adopted means, Sis?” Sis is ready with all the pertinent questions.

“It was this week? Was he ever in an orphanage?” I tell her not exactly, some very nice nurses took care of him for us before we met him. I add that right before Christmas we brought him home from the hospital. She wants to know if he’s going to be ours forever. The answer is yes. I have no idea where this is going.

So, while I’m stumbling over 10 different ways to explain that sometimes mommies and daddies can’t take care of a baby, and they loves that baby so much they give that baby a home with another mommy and daddy, and those parents love the baby just like he was born from her tummy, and it’s hard to understand but everyone did this from a place of compassion and care for the infant, and and and and and…

Sis does the math: Baby at Christmas + forever home + a spirit of goodwill =

“Elf! Your baby is just like Elf!”

I haven’t seen Elf, but Marian says “yep! Like Elf!” and she has excellent judgment so I decide to check it out. Weeks later, I’m home at four in the morning (I stayed awake all night, husband had early morning shift) and Elf comes on TNT. Why playing a Christmas movie in late January represents a good scheduling decision is a mystery to me, but it was appreciated nonetheless. I sit down with some pretzels and begin to watch the story of Buddy. Five minutes in and I’m crying (let’s blame hormones, shall we? Ignore that I wasn’t pregnant). There he is, the inimitable Bob Newhart, telling me that sometimes you work so hard that having kids simply doesn’t happen the way you thought it would, and then one day Santa Ed Asner brings you a mystery child that you will love no matter what he’s good at, how different he looks from the other elves, where he has to go to find himself. I’ll be damned. It’s right there on the screen for anybody to see. I’m Bob Newhart.

I am going to QUIT wasting time when it comes to explaining to kids how this Christmas miracle occurred in our lives. The new standard answer, which has yet to fail me, is “Elf. Our baby is just like Elf.”


Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

It is Boxing Day and we are still celebrating. As a child I celebrated Christmas in a traditional way, with Santa, Christmas Eve church, being the angel in the nativity play, and so on. As our own family my husband and I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, a time when we honor our heritage by continuing traditions. That works well in what I consider to be a mixed marriage; I believe in Something, he does not. We also share strong bonds with our families and we like getting together, giving gifts, telling the old stories, all of that. We celebrate Boxing Day since it’s common in Canada and my husband has great memories of roving from house to house eating leftovers with his friends. That’s no different than what he did with his friends most other days of the year but it’s free to call it Boxing Day and it makes him happy.

On Boxing Day 2014 we would be debuting the Baby Swing.  There were certain things that could make life in the hotel easier. Mom would buy them and she and dad would bring them up to Iowa. She mentioned that we should get a swing. My mom likes to shop and she is very smart about shopping for baby things. She gets them at consignment stores with creepy names like “Once Upon a Child.” Seriously? Didn’t a single person involved at the franchise level even hear that sentence out loud before they slapped it on a store?

Mom was buying what we didn’t have waiting for us in NE.  Remember, we had started out with nothing. As people learned of the Extenuating Circumstance they generously donated things we could use at home. My sister ended up running a whole consignment shop out of her basement so friends could drop off whatever they no longer needed for their own little ones. Oh–a word on my sister. She has declined to have her first name show up in this blog. She said she will only answer to “O Captain, my Captain!”  Very well. Robin Williams it is.

So my sister Robin sifted through the donations, reported that there wasn’t a swing available, and mom went to Once Upon a Molestation Charge and bought one. It looks like a papasan chair and a hammock had sex with a space ship. There’s a soothing basket chair hung on a space-agey motorized plastic and metal frame. It has bumble bees hanging overhead, palm fronds, plays music and nature noises, comes with 7 speeds and is generally nicer than my first car. Mom got that up to Counciltucky and could not WAIT to get the baby in it.

We decided we’ll put it in the room she and my dad are sharing, and after Mom helps us give Baby his first-ever bath he can relax in his new swing. Bathing a child in a hotel is hard because they are slippery. If we could safely attach wet babies to a luge (and I am not for one second suggesting we should try) we would revolutionize the Winter Olympics. Anyway. Mom, dad, husband, baby and me; sitting around, looking at the new swing, talking about next semester’s classes, prepping for the bath. Mom asks if I’ll be teaching my Irish Theatre class again. Yes. I tell her about the religion segment, Husband mentions he is adding a new religion segment to one of his theatre history classes. Dad asks why. Husband answers. Baby lays on the bed. I talk about the role religion played in Irish playwriting. Mom asks intelligent question. I pontificate. Husband wonders if we need more towels for the bath. Mom says “yes.” I undress the baby. Dad asks about particular play. Husband pontificates. Baby pees. Mom  goes to look for baby shampoo. Husband mentions Christmas memory. Dad laughs. Mom asks for shampoo. I take key card and go to the room.

I return to my parents’ suite to…silence? I come in with the shampoo. Mom is sitting on the bed with a slightly befuddled expression.

“Mom? Are you ready for the bath? Where is Husband? And dad?”

“Oh! Yes! Sarah! Hi! Yes! Baby is ready for the bath, Husband went to get more towels and your father is an atheist.”


I left for 30 seconds and my father renounced belief in a higher power? What the hell HAPPENED while I was gone???

Here’s the funny thing: as mom and I put down 87 towels for the bath and dad returned from getting a cup of coffee in the lobby it emerged that this wasn’t a very big deal. Mom had suspected it, he hadn’t given much thought to formally putting it into words, and then when everyone was tired and happy and discussing religion it just sort of slipped out. If anything, we can all look for the positive in a 40 year marriage where your spouse still has the ability to surprise you at the holidays.

We gave the Baby his bath, which took three adults 10 minutes and 7 towels plus bathmat, baby washcloth, cotton swabs, shampoo, lotion and reading glasses (“can you see if that’s poop?” “Does it rub off?” “No, that’s why I wonder if it’s poop!” “Could it be a mole?” “Well, does it rub off?” “NO.”). Then we put him in the swing and spent half an hour fretting over whether it was too fast, too forceful, too stimulating, too much. We wondered. The baby didn’t, he fell right asleep, leaving us to think about what celebrating holidays means to different people we love and why we gather with them no matter where they are.

It wasn’t until the next day they discovered I’m Bob Newhart.


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