Petunia and the Tale of the Advanced Math

You can rinse out the old milk, but you can’t rinse out the memories of the smell.

There are a lot of large obvious things that parents trot out, especially to non-parents, to give them a sense of the of the annoying things about being a parent. The sleeplessness, the laundry, but there are a lot of unaccounted for happenings that are also horrible.

The cups of curdled milk are lurking everywhere.

The demand for milk is huge in my house. We’ve had to go up to a two gallon per grocery trip family. A few years ago — my husband reminded recently reminded me as I was debating where to put that second gallon in the fridge — we had a half a gallon of milk go bad regularly. Now, my morning routine includes gathering up multi-colored neon plastic cups with contents of questionable ages and hoping it isn’t gloppy when I go to rinse it in the sink.

I tried to mitigate this by only pouring a sip and a half, knowing that the rest would be ignored in favor of running outside like a dirt-inspired banshee, but after absentmindedly pouring half of glass for my husband where he said, “I’m not our daughter”, and pouring a two sips for my daughter and being reminded, “I’m not my baby brother”, I give everyone half a cup of milk, put the gallon on the counter, and let the chips fall as they may.

Being a little rude is the only way to keep your sanity.

My butt has barely grazed the seat of the chair or I have taken one satisfyingly full bite.

“Can I have more milk please?”

You stare blankly as you chew or start to warm the seat. “No, you may not in this moment. Give me a minute to process more requests. Please and thank you.”

You really don’t know the content of your character until you become a parent.

I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to be the disciplinarian, but I didn’t know that I would bring such a hammer into the relationship. I am the un-fun Mom who’ll give a sharp and deep “No” combined with a thundercloud of a face when my children race around a table in Taco Tote.

“But they’re just playi — ”

“No, they are sitting and eating and they can race around like souped up NASCAR…car…when we get home.”

Then I’m the baddie to everyone. There is no winning.

I thought I’d be way more of an earth goddess too when it came to parenting. I think the recounting of the ye old poop stained cloth diaper tales fluttering in the wind cured me of that idea. And when a dirty hand grabbed a potato from the gordita and my husband winced and inhaled, I’m the one to be like, dirt is fine, dirt is so they won’t spend so much on allergy pills and have their coworkers wonder if they’re bringing typhoid in the cubicles and they spend half of their day clarifying that it’s “just allergies.”

However, I encourage using the dog as a napkin only for the hands and not for the face. There need to be some limits.

You become an unofficial PR agent.

This isn’t about inserting your child into everyone one upping conversation; we all know the parents who do that. “Little Petunia can do 5th grade math.”

“She’s, uh, two.”

“Just gifted.”

No. Other parents either a) don’t believe you, b) don’t care and/or c) have increased anxiety. It all comes and phases like grief and you’re not making the world a better place. Petunia may. Get her on solving Tesla’s economic approach into the auto market and I may be impressed. But probably not.

It’s the flip side side to the PR agent that doesn’t get a lot of play. It’s when you have to stifle a gasp at the darkness of the eye rings of your friend with a three-year-old who still refuses to sleep through the night and they have recently added an infant to the mix.

You do not recount tales of your child sleeping at all. You commiserate with nods and sighs. You do not tell about her about your child sleeping soundly since she was three-months-old or still requesting naps. You say nothing. You are nothing. You refuse to spook the unicorn that is your child who may or may not be solving equations for Telsa in the other room.


Just Words

We had seen signs all over Chihuahua state advertising the new and improved border crossing that was in Santa Teresa. During the time, it was a straight shot for those driving from Chihuahua City to the outlet malls at the outskirts of El Paso, perfect for the late summer season that would start drawing thousands across the border for shopping.

We had taken our daughter to one of her first visits to Chihuahua City. I say, one of her firsts, because this is one of those events you want to block and don’t remember exactly the date, but Goober wasn’t walking yet, and still plump with baby fat. I think she was around six or eight months old.

It was a mistake. It was dusk and we assumed it was likely a shift change, but as half hours ticked by without movement, the usual – the angry horn honking – began. Short bursts of meeping angry and long blasts that called up other frustrated drivers to join in a chorus.

It was still a delicate balance between GS and I. We hadn’t been married overly long, and my background coming from a military family knew very well the types who are given power without warrant. We had huge blowouts about me trying to smooth over situations in front of border patrol agents; actions that he saw as patronizing to his rights as a resident and a human. We were both right and wrong, and that’s the worst situation to be in with your spouse.

This time, I was silent. He was fuming when we finally made it to the agent. He’d been at press conference a week back where they spoke about proper entry at lanes, first to stop at the lights, then pull through, but, turns out the Santa Teresa agents weren’t at that press conference so it started with some guff on that.

Curt, yes and no’s from GS. She was handing back our cards. GS snatched them away which elicited a, “Do you have a problem?” No, from GS. Pressed, he may have mentioned that it certainly took a while to get through. “Oh? Secondary” and she pointed. “What?” said GS. “SECONDARY,” she demanded.

I probably let out a forceful sigh. Secondary is when you get your car really, really inspected. You get out, get put on metal tables much like they put bodies on at a morgue, and wait for them to ransack your belongings. Goober was happy to be in my lap and out of the car for a change.

It was until I realized that they were unhooking the base to the car seat that I lost my mind. If you’re  parent, you know, but let me fill in those others. The base to a car seat is an infernal contraption that you have to knee into the seat cushion to get it down and tight, all the while making sure that the seatbelt doesn’t lose its lock position with one hand. It’s annoying.

And, to an extent, annoying is part of the game now for measures of “safety.” This, and who buys drugs, isn’t a debate I’ll have here. I was just a bit done in the moment. The agent guarding us, got a call from me, “Hey, let me speak to your supervisor.” He did a bit of a tick, “Why?” “Who is your supervisor.” “I’ll be right back.”

A short Hispanic lady came out from the booth. GS explained that he was gruff, curt, but believed that the agent acted out her power as retribution. She explained that it was the agent’s call and within their rights. They were still rifling through our clothes, with the car seat on the ground next to the car.

“So, what I see right now is an abuse of power,” I broke into the conversation. She looked over to me and Goober on my lap. Goober gurgled happily. “This is an abuse of power because there was no need to pull us into secondary; she was about to let us go until she changed her mind.”

“Ma’am -” And I continued on, about what exactly spurred on her decision. I spoke calmly, but quickly. It’s right when the ma’am came from her that I knew that I made her nervous. She held a brochure in her hand, which described the complaint filing process, and she placed in front of the face of my baby. “I can’t be serious with her laughing at me,” she said. It broke the spell of authority, and she waved to the agents who got out of our car, leaving us to fight with the car seat before leaving.

It’s absurd. I didn’t file because I’ve had this happen so many times, and have so many stories, but what I implied in the moment was that it was an abuse of power and we all knew it. If I’m driving back from Juarez, we get told to have a nice days. My husband, now a U.S. citizen, still gets the third degree. The checkpoints, never a problem to white me. My husband, let’s discuss itinerary.

But, is it worth it to fight it in the moment? No. Their power in the moment are just words with threats of intimidation, under the veil of justice. Strangely our words mean more than we think, but, we keep quiet. I didn’t speak up, because they haven’t come for me yet.


Year in Review 2015

It’s a part of the season. You find in the mail the laundry lists of what people have done over the year. Vague, bland, covering all bases and offending no one, and yet, not even directly speaking to you as the reader.

Could I do better? Well, as someone who now writes for a living, let me allow myself to challenge, um, myself.

[This is starting off superbly.]

I have on my fridge a motivational card from a monthly sample box. It says:


I slapped that on there after I figured out I was pregnant with round 2. If you’ve been paying any sort of attention, you’ve seen how that developed and the end result. I’m very glad to say that I’ve taken my two trips on the pregnancy carousel and I’m done thankyouverymuch. He’s lovely though, now at almost four months as I write this, awaking to the world. I’m attempting to get him to laugh, which will come hopefully later to my sometimes caustic humor, now it’s just with my attempts to tickle him under his arms.

So the drinking had to come to a screeching stop early in the year. Perhaps that was a benefit because I wrote a funny cover letter for a change instead of my sad, boilerplate covers that highlighted all my tired “career” highlights. I used a Simpsons reference in my cover letter; I was very proud of myself.

How dare you not know who Troy McClure is. Get off my blog.

You might remember me as the one who got a journalism degree.

And then I got a new full-time job. For the first time, I do what I was somewhat trained to do, something I supposedly am master in [Ha!] – communications. It’s pseudo communications cum marketing cum propaganda…and I love it!

I accepted the position with one hand over my abdomen and here I got very, very lucky, there was a hand wave and a expressed notion that this was fine for the gig. No biggie, our department loves babies. And they do, they’ve been lovely.

Lemme just step out with a PSA:
I’m going to mention an unsexy part of having a child, diapers. You have a baby shower, you’ll want, and get, those cute fucking onesies. Check yourself. Ask for diapers. Quick – stuffed bunny or a wipe warmer? NO dammit, diapers.

The answer is usually tacos. Here it is diapers.

This was the diaper cake from my work baby shower.

I said a variation of “diapers plz” to everyone who asked and many people listened. Aside from one time I asked my husband to run and get a small pack more newborn diapers because I was high on The Feels instead The Practicals – Bubba could have easily moved to the next size then – I have not bought diapers in the four months with this child. Diapers or…? Not a question. Say diapers every time. I’ll probably make it to six months without a diaper purchase with what I still have left. I’m also proud of this.

So… you have to cover everyone in the household in this year-end reviews. Pets, other children, and significant others. My SO will be super pleased about the tail ranking he’ll perceive from that list, so let’s start with him first.

If you’re reading this, you have already been contacted by him for insurance. Do you need insurance? Do you have anyone you know who might need insurance? Your Mom, cousin, barber? Did that person on the public transport we don’t use in southern NM look like they’d need insurance? Get their number. I know a guy.I_know_a_guy.jpg

He wavers between highs and lows with it, but it’s not my story to tell. He wants his own blog. But srsly, you need insurance? You’re not covered right now (oh what I have learned) and Christmas lights can be a fire hazard. Don’t trust Geico; trust my husband.

Sproessling number 1; she good? She is! She is pumped about Christmas for the very first time. My Mom bought her a (spoiler alert to 3-year-olds who have learned some reading from PBS) baby vanity from Walmart…on our trip to Walmart. We were not covert about this at all.

It's the Paltrow!

“Where is my box?”
“Um, what box?”
“Omi. Walmart. The box. Where is my box?”
“She…um, gave it Santa because that’s how that rolls.”

Last night, Mall Santa told me quizzically, “She said she wants her box.” Yep, I know.

She’s had a decent year. I’ll keep this short because current blog plans include letters to my kids, because once you go Mom blog, you don’t crawl back out. Ever.

Last bit: over about a period of two weeks at the beginning of this year I noticed her speech taking a rapid turn, suddenly it was sentences and thoughts. Her first real joined sentence and softhearted thought is a perfect transition. We were at the dining room table and she laughed randomly at our dog. “I love Kira,” she stated. “…I like dogs.” It blew my mind in simplicity and joy and terror of her piecing the world together. How am I supposed to hide boxes?

I discovered this year that I have a dog allergic to dirt and a cat with kidney problems. They both vex me to varying degrees. But, they do the same for me that my favorite compliment of my life has been so far, which, happened this year: “You bring life to the house.” He just wanted to sell me insurance, but I’ll take it.

That'd be my cat.

Obligatory photo of Frank. He could use a good kidney. He does not routinely use hot water bottles, but he was extremely pleased tonight.

What else…

I somehow became a food blogger. Early in the year, the large daily paper editor asked hesitantly if I wanted to write restaurant reviews. The article price and the buying of food don’t really even out, she warned in advance. I say sure, because I always do. It has been one of the more interesting parts of my year due to me stretching in my ability to capture field food photography… and to discover how many ways can you describe an enchilada and a side of rice and beans. I’ve failed in the latter, grown somewhat in the former.

Yep, pregnant.

Look at this foodie shot. Accidental composition is my favorite kind.

But – the more amusing part is the fan email I’ve gotten, especially the one who believed there might be a local cabal on salsa. [For the record, sometime I do think places hand out the “gringo” salsa when they see my blue-eyed, pasty-ass self.]

Lastly, my Mom’s good. [Likely the only person who won’t be offended she comes in behind the pets and salsa. I hope. I love you Ma.] She has been working double-time now, helping out tremendously with the kiddos. In return, I use my Jack Donaghy negotiation skills to talk a roofer down three grand on a re-roofing her rental house.

I do what I can.

Which, coincidentally, might be the theme for 2016.

The One Time I Needed to Stop the USPS

I was washing dishes when my roommate handed me the landline. From the phone placed in the crook of my neck came a gruff voice. He had been told I wanted an internship at the paper. Sure, I replied hesitantly. Turns out the voice was the editor of paper in the town where I went to high school. He had agreed to an internship. Two weeks during the upcoming winter break. Come in, and we’ll find you something to do, he said. I hung up the phone with wet hands and told my roommate, “I guess I’m going to work for the paper?”

I had one semester of journalism under my belt. That meant specifically, one class, Introduction to Journalism. The teacher reminded me of Mama Cass and talked about her time at Woodstock. She cried about the damage people did to the Earth. I sat in a crowd of at least 100 students with a friend whose wit was the only thing that took off the edge of the terror I started to feel by signing up for journalism classes.

I was a student, and am the type of person, who throws themselves headlong into things she might not be too sure about. I ended up in the office of the professor who was renowned to give Legit Journalism advice. He was the color of an orange, with white raccoon halos around his eyes. He was very enthusiastic, and, goal oriented. “You need an internship,” he blustered. “Where are you from? I’ll call their paper. We’ll get you hooked up.”

And then, after only taking a class where one the tests quizzed us on Elvis Presley hits, I stood with pruned-hands looking at my roommate and laughing about what exactly I had gotten myself into.

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