Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the tag “#family”

Good Morning, Welcome to the Philippines!

I know. You thought you were safe. You were at home, in bed, in the country you usually fall asleep in, and you hadn’t heard from this blog in months. It seemed the happiness might not ever end.

Then the heart is ripped out of your Monday morning as it becomes clear I pulled the Full MacArthur and have, despite no indication of invitation whatsoever, indeed returned…and you’re the Filipinos, dear readers.

Surprise!

The nicest thing to be said about The Full MacArthur is that military uniforms look dashing. It’s been a loooong six months, readers. I don’t do much dashing these days. I sort of waddle after my son, half-halfheartedly saying, “no, wait, stop, whatever,” while he breaks the land speed record in his age group in Running Towards People We’ve Not Met and Asking Them for Cheerios. Despite my lack of military training and acumen, (not to mention I have inner thighs melded together like two warm loaves in a bread machine), I am Gen. MacArthur. You’ll see.

My two year old son has a lot of incredible skills now. I really, really wish I could understand his brain’s prioritization method. For example, he now picks out his own T-shirt, insists on wearing socks and his favorite tennis shoes, and his major hobbies include scrubbing his baby toothbrush all over his lips and eating non-fluoride toothpaste as he washes his hands with my expensive body lotion. He’s a stylin’ little man with clean teeth and pampered skin. He enjoys doing all of this every day.

Yet he screams the howls of the damned when we insist on changing his diaper after he’s pooped. It’s so strange. He’s not attached to the urine, and he will wear another diaper. It seems to be the turd itself he’s grown fond of. I’m half afraid I could tell him I just want to put the turd in a nicer looking diaper and he’d let me do that. You can see how my skill set has improved; never once, even as a joke, have I offered him a turd-replacement program because, god help me, I am learning.

The thing is, Eduardo treats these like battle maneuvers! He’s willing to lull me into a false complacency because it seems like my tiny baby is now so big. He can do so many things, he’s practically a man. Then he unleashes the dogs of war over his bowel movements and I am so, so lost.

He really can do so many things now! He plays on the deck, he sits in the living room, he runs back to his room, he even sits up at the dinner table when we eat. Sidenote: the table is 75% covered in stuff we’ve brought in but not dealt with yet, so we eat on a corner of it like those sad people you see on Hoarders. Anyway. He goes all of these places now, has toys and activities he associates with each place, always learning new things about what we do in each location. Each location offers fun things: here we watch TV! Here we eat yummy hot dogs! Here we play with Oscar! Here we insist you nap in bed even though we know you lay down in front of the door and sleep there!

Every place has good stuff, is my point. But Eddie doesn’t care about that stuff. TV, cars, kitty cat, that stuff is for one year old babies. He’s two and a half now. All he seems to do is find crazier ways to be defiantly naughty while hurting himself, or, at the very least, hurting someone else. Eddie is the son of General MacArthur, you see? Eddie’s eye-to-brain filter must sound like the inside of a military forward operating base:

Soldier, situation report.

Sir, I have eyes on three possible weak spots. The enemy could climb to the top of the couch and jump off the back. It’s eight unprotected feet onto the wooden landing. He could crawl under this table and foment insurrection by dumping all of the cat’s food into the water. I like our chances of being able to crash the toy bulldozer into the screen of the TV, and I suggest we send a scout to find out if someone could fall and kill themselves trying to climb on the leather ottoman to see out the front window.

Understood, that’s a negative on that ottoman, repeat ottoman is a no-go. Rear unit reporting you can go outside and push the deck chair to the railing so you can fall onto the shed. Join up with them and proceed to the yard to discuss scaling the fence that leads to the busy street.

Sir, I already know I can try to push the deck gate open so tumbling down the wooden stairs onto the concrete would be a piece of cake. SNAFU though–getting to the deck requires the door and I only remember how to use a door knob bout half the time. I want to proceed towards the back hall. Intelligence suggests opening the toilet bowl lid and seeing how much trouble could be stirred up by scooping up toilet water with the bath toys then drinking it while we slide down the stairs on the bathmat.

Roger that, MacArthur. 5:30 is chow in the mess hall, and we do mean mess, soldier. Do your very worst. Over and out.

My final clue that MacArthur and I are sharing brain space is that he knew the power of a good, strategic retreat. Gotta say, that’s been damn useful. We can’t fight every battle every time. Eddie’s very worst offenses (hurting our pet) can’t be treated like the stupid stuff (throwing food at dinner). It’s just the stupid stuff happens soooooooooooooooo maaaaaaaaaany times a day. He knows he’s doing it, too, so then it becomes a question of limit testing. But I gotta say, I’m holding the line on the poop offensive. Because it is. It is rankly offensive, especially in 100 degree heat.

So, as things progress this summer in our battle to reclaim the house, I hope to let you know how much ground my son let’s me pretend I’ve made.  Until then, this is Douglas MacArthur, signing off. Good day to you, Filipinos!

 

Oh yeah, let’s get RACIAL.

One of Mac’s favorite stories of his youth involves a soccer game where many of the players were not white. One player made a racist comment, and then Mac’s teammate looked up in total disbelief, saw all of the different people on the field, and in laughing, sneering disbelief said “Oh yeah, let’s get racial.” The moment was quickly diffused in a smattering of “OK, that was stupid.”

I want to look around America tonight and say, on November 8th, 2016, “Oh yeah, let’s get political.” Because it ALL is. The Trump votes, the Hillary votes, the Johnson/3rd Party/write in/Mickey Mouse… all of them are statements about us running around trying to protect ourselves and those we love. Except tonight, I feel a fear I have never known before. I thought I knew fear. But not like this. This is different.

Many times I don’t agree with some of the things Republican candidates say, but I’m also grateful they are there, because if people like me run the system you’re going to have a government where every person in America has 87 social programs, there will be entitlements for dogs and cats, and comprehensive life-care for every living being goldfish-sized and up. This is not practical. The GOP NEEDS to rein me in. However, in this election, I didn’t hear policy discussions, I heard more about The Wall, foreigners have to be the “right kind,” putting Muslims on a registration list, the inferiority of the Mexican people crossing our borders, and that it’s okay to make fun of the disabled.

My husband is from another country, I walk with a cane, and our son is named Eduardo.

A Trump administration is not going to go well for us.

I mean, what do I tell my kid if he hears that Mexicans are generally inferior people? I can tell him, all I want, that it doesn’t mean him, he was born here…but why do I need to split hairs? Oh, well, your bio-parents weren’t born here, but you were, so the magical healing properties of Iowan tap water have cleansed you of the sins of your people? Oh, some brown people are bad because they came here, but you were already here so pin a note on your shirt and the kids won’t make fun of you? No. It’s no good.

So that’s why I’m scared now. I’m scared for him. It’s not as though tomorrow everything will be different. He’ll throw his breakfast on the floor, go to daycare, come home and throw dinner on the floor, mommy will cry in the bathroom because two year olds don’t eat and subsist off of whatever food they find while they’re on the floor. It will be slow. Gradual, I suppose. How many years do we have, though? Two? Three? Seven (she wrote, fearfully)?  Will I have a nine year old who gets taunted because somebody figured out “Eddie” isn’t short for “Edwin?”

If you happened to vote for Trump, and feel my concerns are not merited, please leave a comment below. I’m serious. I need to know who among the majority were voting on the record of his policy decisions, or because they liked his hair, he’s anti-establishment, whatever. I want friends if the revolution comes. I left a pretty good track record of my liberal leanings and make no apology for that. But if I’m going to be first against that damn wall when the revolution comes, please, please take care of Eddie.

He really didn’t do anything wrong. Not even being Mexican. Oh yeah. I got racial.

 

2011, 2016: Magic

2011

August 12th, 6:30 pm: Mac and I stood at the altar in a ballroom decorated by a dear friend. My best friend AJ and our family friend Greg were the co-officiants in our secular wedding. Robin was my maid of honor, Mac’s dad stood up with him. We had written our own vows to each other. Mac was feeling real pressure since the wedding guests were about 75% Imes or Imes-adjacent people and he thought there may be a quiz afterwards. I’m not sure why a raucous, erudite, never-ending wave of the Clan Imes would be overwhelming for someone who identifies his family as having about 9 people. Nine Canadian people, which when you factor in their general politeness and concern for etiquette averages out to 3.7 Americans, but you won’t notice them because that’s an imposition.

My gown was an elaborately tucked ivory sweetheart neckline. I was allergic to my bouquet. Our song was Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.” My aunts helped cut the cake. Our moms had great dresses. Our dads and Robin gave terrific toasts.

On the whole, magic.

2015

My folks took El Niño (a favorite nickname for baby) last night. Mac and I had dinner and made a determined effort to not talk about our kid, and we did beautifully. After we picked him up the next day, our 5th anniversary was going to be watching tons and tons of sports and hanging out with Baby. We love the Olympics. Here’s the play-by-play:

OLYMPICS!!!!

Hey, kiddo! See the Olympics? What’s that smell?

Change diaper.

Did we feed him?

I dunno.

Me either.

Watch Olympics.

Did we ever feed him?

I dunno.

Feed.

Diaper.

Olympics!

Baby wanted to wave Canadian flag for soccer. Wave, Baby, Wave! He wants to wear a plastic bag on his head while he does it. Great hat, baby! Oh. Except not. No, plastic bags are not toys. TANTRUM. Baby threw Mac’s glasses in anger. “No throwing eyeglasses” is a VERY big rule in the Imes Borden household of late. Baby got a one minute time out, which he understands. Which is great. Except it exposes a haunting gap in Imes Borden parenting knowledge: We have no idea who taught him “time out.” We’re guessing he’s watching the older kids at daycare? In his age group I think they usually re-direct. My parents discovered he knows time out, but they didn’t teach him, either. If he’s had a Time Out Setting all along, that most certainly should have been divulged by the maternity nurses.

So. He’s being forced to stand by the vacuum cleaner at the end of the hall, a 60-second time out. He cried. Mac and I had to strategically retreat to the kitchen to not let Baby know this is at least 10 times harder on me than him, and his little wails are cute, and last time I had to leave because I was going to laugh at him, he’s so damned adorable in time out.

Then he comes out, where we immediately revert to “Time served, clean slate, let’s have fun again!” OLYMPICS! Good plan. Right up until Mac needs to go downstairs and use the facilities for a bit. So here I am, I have to keep Baby occupied, it’s not safe to leave him in the living room alone or he’ll mess up paused Olympics even if I have the remote. Mac says that’s not possible. Oh, but it is. It is. IT IS. HOW? If I knew how I wouldn’t let him do it and I don’t care if you can’t see how because he’s GODDAMN HARRY POTTER I DON’T KNOW HOW HE JUST DOES…now I also need the bathroom. This is how we get to the weirdest part of my day.

“HEY! You’ve been so good, why don’t you come in and help mommy go potty?”

I am not making this up.

He loves it when I tell him he’s being such a good boy, that yes, he can come in and help me go potty. (Let’s talk about how weird that thought is to ME another time). This is a non-stop thrill ride as far as my son is concerned. Listen to his little brain:

This is the part where mommy closes the door! Look how special I am, I’m on THIS SIDE of the door! Then, mommy does a weird thing about pulling her pants down, and sits, and her squishy tummy fat is all bunched up. I’ll poke my finger into her belly button! Everybody likes belly pokes! Mommy’s had so many surgical implements pass through that belly button it has a knot of scar tissue behind it the size of a golf ball; she will love it so much if I poke extra hard, to let her know I remember! It’s also cool to poke all the other scars. Mommy would never thank me ironically for that! What ar– Mommy there’s liquid coming into the bowl you’re sitting on and 

WHOA.

This is an actual quote. The first time my son heard urine his eyes grew enormous and in a reverential whisper he said “whoa.” He knows when that stops mommy does whatever the weird paper thing is, and always wants to close the lid before flushing, so in his mind, “Really I’m a much better helper if I close it while she’s still on it! I’ll hit mommy in the back with the lid! I am saving Mommy so much time!”

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the Mystery Handle of Amazement. It sends things to another dimension. You can SEE Baby’s mind burning rubber it’s going so fast: Mommy we could put so many things in here! Everything we never wanna see again like a ton of Kleenex, a stuffed owl, my crayons, shoes, and everything I’m supposed to eat I don’t like which is now every food on the planet except plain, starchy pasta! What about the cat? Mommy would love it so much if I gave the cat a bath in here!”

After that, the last Big Treat of the night was trying to watch the Olympics, which can be summed up thusly: Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps make a lot of money for NBC, and we are viciously, irrevocably old and out of shape.

Wait.

Did we put the baby to bed?

I dunno.

Olympics.

Magic…ish.

The HMS I Panicked

Whoo-boy, I was in exceptional form last night. As far as I know I’m still married, meaning Mac is either a patient or paperwork-averse man. I’m not looking that gift horse in the mouth.

Last night I FINALLY fully understood a lesson my mom gave me when I was 8 or so, during one of the dozens of tornado warnings that come with being a kid in Nebraska. For real, we went through a phase where we kept a blender downstairs and everybody could have fresh, homemade Orange Julius while we waited to see if anything was serious. My grandparents had been caught in the Night of the Twisters (Grand Island, Nebraska, June 1980). We weren’t flippant, just not panicking every siren. We knew about warnings vs. warnings.

A bad storm came through last night. I was awake on Baby duty, it has been 12 days since he had a cold, so he’s been due for another since four days ago. It’s relevant to mention I was on some low-middling level pain meds, because I waaaay overdid it seeing family July 5th. The next two docs I’m seeing this month essentially do this when their office reports I’m on line one:

gallery_298_17_1836

Last night, at 1:10 in the morning, I heard a horrifying sound: it was an extreme ripping against our back screen door, 12 feet from where I was sitting. We’ve had it fly open, patio furniture blow over, flowerpots break; this was none of these. It was a lot louder, and there was a break between sounds. The first part sounded like somebody trying to punch through the all-glass door, the second sounded like someone trying to rip the door wide open.

I didn’t stick around for the next sound. I ran into our bedroom, turning on the light and forcing Mac’s CPAP off of him. In a loud, clear voice (Mac is very hard of hearing without his aids and seeing your lips) I told him I thought someone was trying to get in. That I was sending him to investigate, and I was going to stand at the baby’s door. To his credit, Mac didn’t even question this. He marched out there like a gladiator in boxer briefs, turning on the floodlights and Being The Protector.

So, Mama Bear here is back in the hallway, standing in front of the baby’s room…doing what, exactly? Well, I had my phone, 3/4 of the way to calling 911. I am not ashamed to admit I have practiced what I’ll say in different scenarios in case I’m scared and the actor trick of calling “line!” isn’t gonna do much for me. But other than that…what the hell was my plan?

No idea. Lizard Brain was driving the train. The ONLY thing in reach would have been something out of the small hallway cabinet that Mac uses to store the few bottles of alcohol we own. So Braintrust over here thinks “I could hit the intruder with a bottle!” Yes, if this person has a knife or a gun, I’ll be locking the baby in and guarding his door by christening the criminal like a new ship.

For .23 of a second it occurred to me that ownership of a handgun would make me feel safer in that moment. In a more reflective moment later I rewound my scenario: a woman on medication, scared out of her wits, using her Lizard Brain to make decisions, shaking like a Jell-O shot in a paint mixer…with a gun. Forget about loading the damn thing, I probably would have bled out there on the floor trying to claw through the fucking safe to reach the gun. My cause of death would have been listed as ripping out of nails, teeth and fingers attempting to open a SAFE. Official verdict, death by irony.

In the end, it turned out the winds had rearranged our supremely heavy deck furniture for us, some things were blowing away, and something probably hit the glass door with great force. Mac, god love him, was back asleep by 1:30. My adrenaline and I were up well past 4:00. It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’ve still got a knot in my stomach. Hm. I should probably ask about bowel obstructions. But my point remains; I was scared as hell, and in that moment the thing that made the most sense in Primal Mommy Mode was to put myself between anything and my son.

So, what does this have to do with tornadoes? When we were very young, during a tornado warning we were in the downstairs bathroom, ready to go right under the stairs, a place I HATED because I once saw a mouse there. But, in my little kid mind, I could still see mice<tornadoes. I asked my mom what she’d do if we heard a twister coming, and she said that my sister Robin and I would crouch on the floor with our hands protecting the vulnerable back of our necks. Then, she would huddle over us wearing a blanket, protecting our bodies with her own. My seven-year-old mind exploded. Mom didn’t act like this was a big whoop. Just, yeah, I’ll cover you guys. With my own body.

I never forgot it because WHOA. That was a lot to take in. Seriously.

Well, it took me about 33 years, but I get it now. Thanks for your Lizard Brain, mom. The next time we have a tornado warning, do the Orange Julius thing. If I were you, I’d incorporate my new Lizard Brain tradition: pick up the big bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey. The bigger, the better.You never know when you might find it useful.

 

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.

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…

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.

The Bitch is Back

Coming from our “nobody’s perfect” corner of the Internet, I have to talk about the  woman I’m a constant bitch to. Come to think of it, I hope she’s only the one, but I know I must have my blindspots like anybody else. The thing is, my mother raised me with all of the usual cornerstones of good friendship: the Golden Rule, If You Can’t Say Something Nice…, If You’d Enjoy Receiving It It’s a Good Gift to Give, and Those Who Live in Glass Houses etc. It isn’t that my mom failed. It’s not my mom’s fault. It’s completely my own. I look down on this one particular mommy and I am ruthless.

Her kid can look a little worse for wear. Oatmeal crusted on his face, crud gluing his hair together, boogers. All my other friends, I’m willing to chalk it up to a bad morning, in a rush, woke up late, whole family has a cold. It’s bitchy to hold some people to a higher standard but I admit I do it. It bothers me when her kid looks gross.

Going to her house is not a nice experience for me a lot of the time. I know it’s not fair to compare BC and AC (Before Child and After Child). You’d think that as I watch my own baby smearing rice cereal into the rug or throwing Cheerios at the cat it would remind me that houses are for living in, not showcasing. Nope; inner bitch could not care less. “When was the last time a vacuum appeared on this floor? Is anything coming out of that kitchen sanitary? Nice bathroom, Typhoid Mary.”

The worst though, is my SAHM (stay at home mothering) scale. If you aren’t going to return to the workplace, then taking care of your house and child IS YOUR FULL TIME JOB. This is the one I can’t keep to myself. There are plenty of people in the world who have legitimate reasons for needing daycare or help with housework. This woman IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Not only is she failing to bring in money, she’s actually costing twice what she should: the loss of her income PLUS the money to pay daycare three days a week. If your major achievement for the day was making dinner (in a gross kitchen) then eating it on TV trays (kitchen table is filled with useless crap) you are probably not a good bargain for your spouse or your kid(s).  The coup de grace is her husband having to do things for the baby that she said she would do. He works all day then plays Superdad nights and weekends. On my SAHM scale, there aren’t enough excuses in the book for this one. Either you’re pulling your own weight or you’re being pulled. She’s dead weight.

So, in an effort to quit being quite such a mega-bitch, I asked a friend why this woman bothers me so much. She broke it down into three main categories.

  1. Children don’t look like ads for Baby Gap all the time. If I can have compassion towards people with actual problems, can’t I lighten up a little on things like a toddler having peanut butter on his pants?
  2. The house. When I go to visit Robin or AJ, do I care if their house is messy? Of course not. I’m there for good company, not the damn Parade of Homes. They have children who might be charitably described as compact tropical storms: they’re high impact, loud, and leave a trail of devastation everywhere they make landfall. If I can enjoy their company and their children, can’t I do that for everyone?
  3. Finally, the SAHM scale. I have a friend in Atlanta named Lindy. Lindy makes gorgeous food, has three kids who look like a catalog cover, lives in a Better Homes and Gardens house, and she’s even nice to boot. But Lindy still has problems. She still has serious stuff to get through. If I pay attention to her whole life, rather what I see on Facebook, I know there’s no such thing as the perfect SAHM. If I found out tomorrow Lindy had a terrible misfortune, would I quit being her friend because she wasn’t doing homemade gourmet food every evening? If, god forbid, her husband got sick or she got seriously injured, would she be a different person if the kids went to daycare for awhile so she could be at the hospital? Hell, no. I’d stand by her and offer to help, not make bitchy and snide comments about the need to jettison some dead weight so everybody else can be happier.

So, time to cut the cattiness. Yes, her kid can be a mess, her house can be gross and I need to have more compassion for why her son is in daycare. She’s not a bad mom, she’s a mom facing serious challenges and my support would get everybody so much further than assuming she’s a bum who won’t take responsibility for her own kid. If Robin, AJ and Lindy wouldn’t get cut down, then she shouldn’t either. Excuse me, I have an apology to go make.

Let me find a mirror.

Iowa, one year later

Dear Iowans,

I generally enjoy your state, although I can’t claim any regular or lasting contact with it. I have fond memories of high school speech tournaments in Ottumwa which is famous for being the home of fictional character Radar O’Reilly and a Breadeaux pizza which tasted liked youth, enthusiasm and freedom when I was 15. My cousin got a very nice doctorate from one of your schools and she seems to being doing quite a bit of good with it, so well done there. You supported us for 3 weeks when the Baby came barreling into our lives at the speed of light. You probably shouldn’t put the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino on your postcards, nevertheless we have great memories of completing our family there. You even have a baseball movie about you, which is a very nice feather in your cap and it should feel good that you made the last ever Kevin Costner movie that wasn’t an hour too long or needed a budget concerning Kevin’s vanity CGI hairplug requirements.

You’re pretty liberal for a place as close to Nebraska as you are. In 1869 you had America’s first female lawyer. You were ahead of us on gay marriage. Your 2013 Miss Iowa was a fantastic lady named Nicole Kelly; she had one arm. That’s progressive, and, full disclosure, Nikki was Mac’s student and she let him wear the crown and everything. You need to be confident in your masculinity and genuinely be liked by your students to wear Miss Iowa’s crown with a smile on your face. He had fun and Nikki has helped lots of people born with disabilities, so thanks for that.

On February 1st you’ll caucus, Iowa. It’s America’s first real litmus test on who is going to be primetime and who’s left in the dust of election history. As you prepare, I ask you for this, as a humble Nebraskan who is the mother of a son born in your great state:

IMG_1316

Please remember that this is the little boy that Donald Trump dismissed as being lesser. Trump said we can’t be sure what kind of person he’ll be because he was born of Mexican residents currently residing in the US. Donald Trump thinks he knows something about how this little boy will behave, will dream, will think, will act because he is of the same blood that brought us Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Guillermo Del Toro, Anthony Quinn (yes, really!), Octavio Paz, Pancho Villa and Salma Hayek.

I’m not asking that all of you vote for a Democrat. I strenuously believe in the economic values upheld by the Republican party; without them, people like Mac and I would tax everybody 87%. We’d have three protective social policies in place for every human in the US, plus some very nice programs for cats, dogs, hamsters, under-appreciated plants, foods that are no longer trendy and a Medicaid equivalent for unhealthy looking goldfish. There needs to be balance for the system to work and that makes sense to me.

Iowa, can we agree balance doesn’t involve tracing Muslims? It doesn’t require policing breastfeeding? Should balance look like shaming the overweight, making fun of the disabled or infantilizing women? Can we shake hands on finding a conservative candidate who isn’t actually a radical in expensive sheep’s clothing?

Iowa, your Mexican-American son needed you a year ago to guide him to my loving arms. You were so generous you let him come to Nebraska when you could have selfishly kept such a superior baby for yourself. He needs you again. This time, he needs you to fight for the right to be a fully invested, flag waving, America loving, real-live nephew of his Uncle Sam. Please vote for somebody that lets my son proudly be the American in Mexican-American.

Thank you, Iowa.

Fondly,

Sarah

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