Hillary Clinton ran for president. She did not win.

If you're still raw about that, then I have good news and bad news about her new book, What Happened.



Good news:
You will gain new insight into what was going on behind the scenes. You'll get a lot of info on the candidate's state of mind, and heart, throughout the grueling campaign. The book may not answer all of your questions, but you will get some more facts to add to the big "WTF" board, which you can stare at while shaking your head like a detective in Law & Order.

Bad news: Particularly if you opt to listen to the audiobook, which Ms. Clinton reads to you in her warm, compassionate, sometimes amused, sometimes annoyed, fucking eminently human and capable voice, you will ugly cry, early, often, and with all your heart. But if she could fucking write it, then I can fucking read it. Or rather, hear it.


Reasons I'm Crying While Listening to What Happened

1. She genuinely gives a shit about women, children, and families. She's a flawed person and a flawed politician. But she seriously, really cares about women, and she sticks on the side of women when it comes to issues that disproportionately affect, limit, and hurt women.

2. She's so smart.

3. She took so much shit for us. She willingly walked into the fire, even after all the reasons she has to mistrust us, and she believed we would show up with water. But we just let her burn.

4. My joyful memories of Election Day feel so naive they actually make me angry, and then my heart aches because a girl should be able to feel joy on Election Day without regretting that moment of unguarded hope.


actual footage
from inside my brain
every day
since november 9

5. My memories of feeling devastated and afraid in the days immediately after Election Day are not even memories yet; I still feel that way, and it still hurts.

6. We could have had a real President. And instead we've got a shameful disgrace of a closed-minded, short-sighted, self-serving traitor, bigot, liar, con man, a walking billboard of the carte blanche issued to toxic white masculinity that our country continues to buy into, a second-rate ringmaster that has escorted a circus of misogynists, racists, assholes, dilettantes, narcissists, liars, Russian spies, and literal Nazis into the cradle of our nation's freedom.

But as slippery a slide as it might be to descend, completely, to the state of shock and heartbreak that descended upon so many of us late in the hours of November 8 (we have, after all, scant few victories for human decency to claim since that night), HRC won't let us. As the woman herself says in the book, we can't change what happened anymore. All we can do is get up out of the dirt, show up wherever we can, and somehow remain hopeful about the state of our nation, despite the nation's odious necrotic seeping boil of a current leader.

The way I stay hopeful is by doing everything I can to teach kindness and courage to my kids.

Chicken and I had this conversation in the car the other day:

Ch: are we going to Home Depot?
Me: we don't shop there
Ch: why?
Me: because the owner of that company believes that Donald Trump should build a wall between Mexico and the USA
Ch: why?
Me: he doesn't want Mexican people and other Latinos to come into this country
Ch: but mom, that doesn't make sense
Me: I agree
Ch: like, what about ladders?
Me: right
Ch: and tunnels
Me: totally
Ch: and parachutes
Me: yes, the wall is a very bad idea
Ch: it really seems like Donald Trump needs to think a little more about this


Last night Chicken said, out of the blue, "I wish I could fight Donald Trump," and together we made a list of ways he could fight Donald Trump:



This is our family's latest art project. We're making a Wall of Heroes. This central canvas is huge, 4 feet by 3 feet, and there will be three smaller canvases that have little clothespins on them, and we can hang up different pictures of heroes as we learn about them.



I'm also happy to report that I'm pitching a new show to Netflix: The Woman in the High Castle. It's an alternative future concept, much like The Man in the High Castle. Except instead of asking ourselves, "What if they won???" we'll be asking, "What if she'd won."

Related question: If we are living in a dystopia, but clinging to an alternative reality in which our President does NOT gleefully tweet gifs in which he assaults women and political rivals, then do we call that a dysdystopian fantasy? Or maybe just a Prozackian fever dream?

Stay strong out there, people.
Have each other's backs and stay checked in.
It's not too late for us to show up with water.



We all know that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

But parents also know that when all you're missing is the hammer, everything around you becomes a nail. A rusty, tetanus-riddled nail, covered in microscopic spider eggs and hepatitis.

In my family's case, the hammer we are missing is wealth. The kind of wealth that can, in fact, buy happiness - in the form of linen sheets, personal trainers, meal delivery services, professional weekly house cleaners, and all the out-of-season raspberries my children can eat.

We are not poor. But we feel poor.

And it took Chicken asking me, one day, if we were poor, to get me thinking about why we feel like we're barely hanging on when in reality, when my children ask for water I ask them if they want still or sparkling. In reality, we are so comfortably taken care of I can barely stand to type these words on my Mac while wearing my North Face fleece after eating a Whole Foods detox salad shaker for lunch (it was fine. Someone went a little nuts with the dried cranberries, but whatever, it was fine).



"Need"

ALL of our needs are met.

Except one.

No matter how much money we make or how much stuff we have, we cannot meet one need: our need to meet all our wants.

For nearly everyone I know, the word "need" has clocked in on the "So Overused It's Meaningless Word Chart" right between "awesome" and "literally."

See a pair of boots with amazing rubbed bronze harnesses around the ankle? I need those.

Hard day at work? You need a drink, a cake, and a babysitter tonight.

The truth is that we have not needed anything (except emergency health care when we fall off cliffs RYAN) for a very, very long time. We want for nothing.

Some of us want for nothing in enormous, beautiful, professionally decorated and cleaned homes.
Some of us want for nothing in crowded, cluttered rentals. All of us feel the pinch; none of us know hunger.
All of us experience moments of gratitude for our needlessness.
All of us experience moments of petulance, too.

But it's like we have two scales of human need in our minds - one that we use when watching Frontline, and one that we use when going to the store to shop for Friendsgiving.

Frontline Need Scale: I do not have to wake up tomorrow morning and walk until I sleep again. Nobody is trying to murder me.

Friendsgiving Need Scale: This baguette is too doughy. Ugh, we'll have to go to the French bakery tomorrow and get one fresh.

Frontline Need Scale: I can drink fresh water from the tap. Anytime.

Friendsgiving Need Scale: Excuse me, where are the local artisanal cured meats? This capicola was made in New Jersey. I mean, I can practically taste the fossil fuels.

Our Frontline Need Scale is the one we use as human animals, and it is comprised of the biological needs that must be met for the maintenance of our actual lives: safety, food, water, shelter. We are always, ALWAYS grateful when we think on this scale.

The Friendsgiving Need Scale is the one we use as human beings, and it is comprised of the emotional and social needs that must be met for the maintenance of the lives we want: enjoyment, delight, convenience, pleasure, the luxury of making consumer choices based on our values, and social currency.

If my children needed food, I would crawl under my house and catch rats for them to eat.

However, I refuse to buy Oscar Meyer sliced turkey for them because... ew.

We do not struggle to make ends meet.

We struggle to tie those ends in a bow.

But we feel poor because it feels like we're the only ones sweating it.


It feels like everyone we meet, see, and know is La-HOADED. 

We live in Western Washington, where, as in Alaska, human beings are outnumbered 2 to 1, except instead of Caribou, we have Land Rovers.

There's lots of money here, and it doesn't even have the decency to stay in the grandparents' generation where "lots of money" belongs. Our peers make lots of money, and they rightfully enjoy that money with comfortable homes and cars, exciting vacations, generous sponsorship of worthy causes, and sumptuous leather goods. I'm happy for them. I want success for them and I don't think they should apologize for it. I think our friends should absolutely use their money in whatever way brings them the most joy. Seriously, guys, max the joyometer.

I wish I could say that I don't care about having the least nice house of all our friends. I care.

I wish I could say that when Chicken and Buster fly off the handle while friends are over, it didn't plant a climbing vine of anxiety in my belly. It does. We are the poor, crazy family. Or worse, we are the middling, crazy family, who cares so much about money that we let it get in the way of our friendships.

Sometimes I go out to dinner with friends and feel like I've gotta dress extra funky to make it seem like my consignment store dress is a choice rooted in my earthy rad style, and not in my economic reality. To be clear, not one of my friends gives a damn about what I'm wearing or how much it costs, but it matters to me. Much to my anger. Much to my shame.

If it's going to matter to anyone, it always matters to the person wearing the cheapest shoes at the table.

Kids are hella expensive. 

I filled up a cart on Gap.com for back-to-school shopping and girl, when I looked at the total I almost pooped my drawers. And that was after a 40% off coupon code which (surprise) did not apply to denim (and a fuck you to you, fine print) so I had to go back and trade out all the kids' jeans for kids' chinos, because the chino lobby is a stealth powerhouse and I'm only one woman so who am I to fight the chino machine? #MakeChinosGreatAgain #ImKiddingIWentToGoodwill

But when I say that kids are expensive, I'm not just talking about jeans, shoes, and child care. Although the cost of one night of babysitting does rival our grocery budget for one calendar year.

I'm talking about doctors, therapists, schools, clubs, sports, camps, experiences.

The life we want to give our kids costs lots and lots of money. Not the STUFF we want to give our kids. The LIFE we want to give them.

The opportunities we want them to be able to accept or respectfully decline, they live in a back room with custom lighting and plush carpet. The guarantees we want to secure for our kids' future happiness and success, they are so luxe that they don't even have a price tag discreetly tucked under their tray.

When you don't have a hammer, everything is a nail.

Chicken is an anxious kid, full of worry and fear and uncertainty. But the first time he hit a rock wall he scurried up to the very top like a lizard, and looked down at the ground 30 feet below with a smile so big it broke my heart wide open.

I saw the spark.
I became the guardian of the spark.
I will not let that spark die.


Climbing gym memberships run $50 a month per person, not including the shoes ($50 a pop), the harnesses ($40 each), and the classes so we can learn what the hell we are doing ($80.)

We can't afford climbing. Between the bills from Chicken's therapy, and the Subaru needing new brakes, and both the boys in school now, my Whole Foods salad shaker days are numbered.

I am devastated that climbing is out of our budget. Not because I care that much about rock climbing. Because I would do anything to put that smile on my son's face. I would pay any amount of money to acquire confidence for my Chicken.

If I could, I would roll up to a checkout stand with a cart full of Self-Worth, Grit, Resiliency, Problem-Solving, and Physical Strength and Coordination. I would swipe my card without even looking at the total. I would take all that shit home, and stop somewhere on the way for a mad expensive almond latte because it tastes good.

When you don't have a hammer, everything is a nail. When you believe you could buy your child's self-love, if only you had the cash, it becomes very, very easy to feel poor. When you believe that the best teachers in the world are out there, for sale, and available, but just out of your price range, your poorness fails your children. That one hurts.

And it's not just the kids.

We're taught that money is the great fixer.

If I've learned anything from watching rom-coms, there is no problem in this life, and I am including ebola in that list, that can't be absolutely slayed by a killer makeover montage. That shit was my mother's milk when I was in my most formative years (#middleschool).

I mean
so
tmi, but
that was my first orgasm

But now I'm all dried up and adulty. Whenever I watch a tbt rom com, all I can think about is how much fucking eyeshadow costs, and how that giant bag of makeup that ingenue is swinging so carelessly is seriously like 2 months rent, SLASH the cost of my preschooler's tuition for 6 months.

Even though I know that money doesn't really make life easier or solve problems, well... I also know that money makes life easier and solves a lot of problems.

Car trouble? Not a thing for moneyed folks. Not really. I mean, it's an inconvenience, not a financial blow that you'll have to make choices to cover. You go to the garage, get the new brakes, roll your eyes at the total, and stop for a latte after. But when you're me and Ryan, looking at the car estimate and the balance for Chicken's therapy, and the student loans, well... a truckload of money could make our lives a hell of a lot easier, and make us as happy as a couple of birds in the french fry factory. We dream of being able to say yes to everything that needs from us, and most of the things that want from us, too.

Money solves money problems, and money problems are legion. I think the problems begin when we start to recategorize other problems as "money problems."

When you believe you could buy your spouse's interest in you, if only you had the cash for a new outfit, a great bra, and a haircut, it becomes very, very easy to feel poor.

When you believe you could be closer with the friends you love, if only you could go with them to Hawaii next time, it's hard to remember to be grateful that your fridge is always full of food. I don't begrudge my friends for drinking deeply from the cup of life. I just wish I could get a round with them sometime.

When you believe you could buy your own self-confidence back out of pawn, if only you had the cash to go on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, or join a woman's rowing club so you could find yourself out on the water or some shit, it's almost impossible not to arrive at the conclusion that money = happiness.

When you don't have the hammer, the hammer feels like the only thing that could possibly soothe what hurts, accomplish what needs to be done, solve the problems that up to this point have interrupted your daily happiness by existing unresolved, like unopened mail on your counter.



Gimme that shoe.

It can be easy to forget that fuck, anything can be a hammer, if you need it bad enough.

A pleather, wood-soled boot bought from Nordstrom Rack can drive in a nail juuuust fine.

So can the frying pan that's 10 years old. So can my neighbor's fucking hammer. (Shout out to Howie! WHAT UP HOWIE, love the cutoffs.)

I feel proud that my family operates within a budget. There are times I wish I could buy a really nice case of wine for the dinner party, but I enjoy being able to hack the system and make kickass sangria with a $10 bottle.

We have enough to do back-to-school shopping, but we do not have enough to do back-to-school shopping at retail prices. That's okay - my kids have clothes and shoes that fit, and that keep them warm and dry. It doesn't matter if I got them at Goodwill or the Gap. If anything, I feel a little smug when I score a smokin' North Face shell at the thrift store. "Oh Buster's jacket? I got it at Value Village for EIGHT BUCKS, SUCKA. Because I'm a WIZARD."

We make these choices and they become part of our family's character. I'm proud of our frugality, our craftiness, the way we can prioritize when things get tight.

A climbing harness on Ebay costs $20 instead of $40.

My husband's interest can be bought with shaved legs:
Netflix for the kids so I can shower: $12 a month;
Razor: $4;
Lotion: $10;
His undivided attention? Priceless.

Friendships would not be worth the price I paid for them, even if they were something that I could buy.

And I can find self-confidence in the motherfucking woods for free, so take your lady boat club and shove off why don't ya.

When you stop looking for the hammer, you realize that all you needed was to find something tough, something unbreakable. And then you just needed to pick it up, and swing.



PS:





This is a story about one day
when I took the kids swimming,
alone,
at the Y,
and completely lost my shit.

How to Take your Kids to the Poolby Katie


lolololololol
no
no no
these aren't mine


1. Preparation is key.


- You must be strong. Are you strong? How strong? Because you must be very, very strong to take your children to the pool by yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror. Are you ready?

- Dress the children in their swimsuits so all you have to do is take off shoes and shirts when you arrive.

- Put your own swimsuit on at home so all you have to do is take off your cover-up/sweats.

- Bring 4 towels per person. DO NOT SHAKE YOUR HEAD AT ME, MOTHER FUCKER. FOUR. PACK EM.

- Talk your kids through what is safe and what is not safe at the pool. In case you need a refresher, here are some of my family's go-to no-nos:

Running
Splashing
Diving
Pushing
Tackling
(No, that's not a hug, that's a tackle)
Holding another person's head under water
(Yes, even shallow water)
Talking about how other people look in swim suits



2. Know the territory.

- Whenever possible, arrive at off-peak times and only use facilities that have family changing rooms.

- If you are using a facility with a family changing room, but one that has one of those locks on the door that automatically opens if you (or, you know, anyone, even your child, while you're naked) turn the knob from the inside, then I have some good news for you: There is legal precedent; you can burn that bitch to the ground.



3. When you arrive at the pool, stay calm. You've got this.

- Can't stress this enough. The kids will smell the chlorine and take off like Disneyland fanatics on their 9th cotton candy. Be like a seasoned flight attendant. Until all 4 engines are on fire, stay calm and offer ice water. Even then, stay calm and serve some generic-brand party mix. Going down? Stay calm and gesture like a car show model in the direction of the doors. All you have to do is stay calm until impact. After that, everything will be okay. Quiet, dark, and okay. Forever.

- Use verbiage that encourages cooperation and creative teamwork - call yourselves a pack, a team, a herd! Or, if it fits your family culture better, you could go with a cyclone, a slaughter, or a murder. (Those are all real, btw. A cyclone of scorpions, a slaughter of iguanas, and a murder of crows. Also, my family at the pool.)


4. Enjoy what is enjoyable about the pool. 

- Bear witness to your kids' joy as they swim, splash, and wallow in the shallows. Smile. Laugh. Hug them. This is why you came here.

- Stay present. Try not to think about what's coming. Because worrying won't change the path of the cyclone.


5. Watch for the signs that it's time to start leaving.

- If your kid is melting down, it's already too late.

- Watch for shortened attention spans, whining, aggressive splashing, water-wrestling, and manic laughter.

- Give them a 5 minute warning. After 14 seconds, thank God that your kids can't tell time yet and tell them it's been 5 minutes, time to go.

- When they run (because they always run), you can either wait for the lifeguard to blow a whistle and scare the shit out of them, or you can chase them down and the lifeguard will still blow the whistle and scare the shit out of both of you.

- Remind them that leaving is part of the experience of coming to the pool: "The way we decide whether or not to return is if we had fun and stayed safe, right? So if it's not fun and safe when we leave the pool, then we just won't come back here for awhile. But I'd like to come back, so let's work together as a team/murder and get dressed so we can head home for lunch."



6. In the changing room, surrender to your higher power. 

- When your son gets soap in his eyes in the shower, remind him that there is a reason for all things. (And the reason you told him to look up was so he wouldn't get soap in his eyes, but that part just in your head.) And that you're sorry his eyes are stinging. (And that you fucking told him that would happen, but he just had to do it his way and maybe next time he should believe that you understand gravity well enough to help him avoid stinging shower pain. But that part in your head too.)

- When your son opens the door and you give a solid 4-Mississippi of full-frontal to the dripping wet Indian man and toddler daughter waiting in the hallway, remind yourself that you were created divinely and shame is a motherfucking construct and also God didn't want you to beat children.

- When your son upends your handbag - not the bag with the towels, but the bag with your phone, wallet, keys, notebook, pen, and sunglasses - into a puddle on the ground, and you know that puddle is roughly equal parts pool water, shower water, and baby piss, remind yourself that the Lord only gives you what you can handle. So you must be able to handle this.

- When you finally get one son dressed and turn around to find the other son making towel soup in the shower stall, which means you'll be drip-drying today, and then get THAT son dressed and turn around and find that your first son has removed all of his clothing, and is smirking at you, buck ass naked, next to his clothes, which are in the piss puddle, just remember that the experiences of this life are fleeting and that eternal joy awaits you on the other side... of the Starbucks drive-thru, which you're already thinking about because God knows you need a scone after this shit.

- When you go outside and the Indian man and daughter are still waiting, and he blushes, you can just die. He definitely saw your pubes, girl. You can go ahead and die. It's fine. You have nothing to fear from death.

- Yes, you're dead now. But you still have to get the kids out of the Y, into the car, through the Starbucks line, and then home safely. So rise like Christ himself on the third day, and Walking Dead it up, girl. It's go time.



7. Get safely to the car.

- Literally, any way you can.

- One child may try to dart into the road so you have to grab his arm with your mom claw, and the other may go boneless so you're dragging him as he giggles. You may need to create a third hand out of your knees. You may walk to the car with your sunglasses falling off your face and sweat sliding down your rib cage under your loose cover-up dress. You may have to abandon the swim bag and come back for it. You may need a kind stranger to help you.

- Literally, any way you can. You're almost there.



8. Clip the children back into the car.

- Do one thing at a time.

- When one child (the traffic-darter) climbs onto the roof of the car as if you'd said, "Chicken, would you like to get into your car seat, or would you like to summit Mount Subaru?" stay calm. He can stand there in a triumphant pose as long as he wants, or as long as it takes you to clip in Buster and then snatch his triumphant ass off the car roof. Whichever comes first.

- Chase Chicken around the car for a minute until both pride and rage prevent you from catching him. Your pride tells you, "Stop. Honestly. This is humiliating." Your rage tells you, "Hold up, honestly, you do know what I'll do if you catch him right now."

- Wrestle him into his car seat. When he thrashes around and kicks and punches, try to remember that he's exhausted. Clip the straps in and remember to explain that keeping him safe is part of your job, and no matter how mad either one of you get, you will still keep him safe. He might spit in your face.

- Close the door.



9. Take a minute, girl. Take a minute.

- So that was fucking horrible. Walk around to the driver's side door, collecting fallen belongings as you go. Walk back to the parking lot entrance and pick up the abandoned swim bag. Walk back, pop the trunk, and put the swim bag in.

- Get in the car. Put your hands on the wheel. They might be shaking a little bit. That's normal. Remember, that was fucking horrible.



10. Finish strong.

- Your son, the one who just peek-a-boo'd your naked ass, dumped your shit in a puddle, undressed himself after you dressed him, darted into traffic, climbed on the car, fought you all the way into his car seat, might ask you, "Mom? Pistachios, please?"

- Look at the bag of pistachios in the cupholder. The bag is as big as a pound-bag of dried beans, open and full. He's been asking about pistachios all morning. You promised him pistachios after the pool. His eyes are shining. He's holding out his hand.

- Pick up the bag of pistachios.

- Open your car door.

- Maintain unblinking eye contact with your son as you dump the entire bag of pistachios onto the ground.



11. Oh no you didn't.

- Oh shit, yes you just did! Look at his face! He doesn't even KNOW you anymore! HAHAHA that was awesome! And terrible. No seriously, that was terrible. Look at his face, he's broken now.

- Wait, wait, wait! Don't shame-spiral! Well, okay, you can shame-spiral a little bit, that was super mean, but don't do it in silence. Shame-spiral out loud, girl. Be brave.

- You might go with something like, "OH NO! I just did something SO mean!" (You'll have to make this big so he can hear you over his heartbroken sobs.) "Chicken, I am so sorry. I was so angry when you asked me for pistachios, and I just did something really mean without even thinking about it. I am really, really sorry. Can we rewind and try again?"

- Get out of the car and scoop up a bunch of pistachios from the ground and put them back in the bag. Make a rewind noise, say again, "I'm really sorry I did that, Chicken," and then hand the bag to your son. (They were in the shell, it's fine.)

- He might ask you, "Why did you do that?" Be honest, but not mean. For example, don't say, "I did that so you could understand how it feels to have joy extinguished from your life." Also off-limits: "I did it because you were being a real ass hole, kid."

- Maybe go with, "Oh man, I was so angry, Chicken. It was really, really hard getting out of the pool. All of our stuff got wet, and getting everyone dressed was too hard, and awful. Walking back the car was scary and stressful, and then you asked me for some pistachios and I just... I was too mad. I just wanted to be mean. And as soon as I did it I felt so sad. That's why I asked to rewind. Sometimes when people are mad they do things they feel bad about later."



12. Await the miracle.

- Start the car and make your way toward home, aka the Starbucks drive thru.

- After a few minutes, your son might make the rewind noise.

- Look in your mirror.

- He might say, softly, "I'm sorry I did all that stuff at the pool, mom. I'm sorry I made it so hard."

- You could reach back and hold his hand. You could say, "Thank you. I forgive you completely. I love you."



Well, it's official. We are back to school! Well, preschool. For 9 blessed hours a week I am OFF DUTY.

Yesterday I walked my boys into their new classrooms, greeted their teachers, helped them find their cubbies, said good-bye, and watched them scamper off to explore.

I know I can't be the only mom who worries about what happens in there after all the parents are gone.

I'm not just talking about newsworthy tragedies and offenses, although I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I have a speech prepared in case I ever see a teacher slap a child on the playground.

(Oh, what's that? You'd like to hear my speech in all-blonde (and 2 redheads) gif form?

OK so I see THE SLAP from across the playground:



And then I go in:

























And then I'll put on my sunglasses and turn around and the whole playground will be like:



So that's basically it. That's Plan A.

But we all know that it's far more likely that I'll walk onto the playground one day and find the teacher on her phone while my kid is picking another kid's nose. #ClassicBuster

Or find the teacher, at the end of both her day and her rope, resorting to the last tools in her kit: yelling "NO, I SAID NO, BUSTER" or maybe, "THAT WAS VERY BAD/MEAN," or possibly, "Here, drink this cough syrup."

And in that situation, "You're dead and you wasted your time here on Earth" is, perhaps, a little extreme. I mean, I wouldn't lead with it.

Even though I know I'll never have the chance to dust off my Daytime Emmy-winning speech, I'm still nervous and uncomfortable. I want to stay and watch. I hover. I'm asking the teachers what they had for dinner. Follow-up question: "Where do you grocery shop?" I'm hoping they say Fred Meyer so I can say me too and that common ground will connect us as sisters and then they'll all love my kids the most. I'm trying to bond as quickly as possible and it's alarming them, I can tell.

Bottom line: the idea of simply letting my kids manage this experience on their own is completely impossible to me today.

Here's why:

1. I am addicted to hearing other people say nice things about my children.

I live for that shit. LIVE. FOR. IT. I look forward to taking my children to the dentist so I can listen to the dentist tell me things about my kids' teeth.

And if compliments give me life, silence from teachers absolutely scares the holy hell out of me.

I have not yet reached the parenting level where silence means everything is fine.

I'm still at the parenting level where silence means death.

Silence from my kids' room means I'll be walking into either a crime scene or a trap.

Silence from my kids' teachers means some unforgivable trespass has been committed, and if my son is the perp then it probably has to do with scissors and that ambulance out front.

Or it means they're bad teachers who have nothing to report to me, because they've been ignoring my child when they are taking a break from actively destroying his self-esteem and smothering the spark of life that shines in his eyes... perhaps a little less brightly, now...


2. Kids who successfully navigate the classroom are flexible, resilient, self-controlled, obedient, respectful, and calm. 

OMG, that is literally my children, like that is spooky.

It's so spooky that wait a minute I think we are actually in the upside down because my children are the POLAR OPPOSITE of all of those things - rigid, dramatic, impulsive, rebellious, screamy climbers.

Most teachers meet my children with responses ranging from mild alarm to full-blown panic. "Wow," they say. And I agree. Wow.  I am not training puppies; I am trying to domesticate wolves. And it's possible these pup trainers did not sign up for wolf duty.


3. Putting my kid in school forces me to define what, exactly, everyone's job is here. 

I realize, when the teacher doesn't hear my son's sweet voice chirp, "Good morning, Miss Sarah," and his expectant face shines up at her and she just totally fucking MISSES it, I realize I am putting an awful lot of eggs in Miss Sarah's basket.

It is his job to grow into who he is, my job to help him as he grows, and the teacher's job to help him become one of many.

He's the seed, I'm the water, and the teacher is the soil, holding all the seeds together. Or maybe he's the seed and I'm the soil and the teacher is the gardener? I don't know, the seed metaphor isn't awesome, sorry.

It's his job to remember to say good morning, my job to listen to his sweet voice, and her job, sometimes, to ignore him.

It's not the teacher's job to love him unconditionally, or delight in him, or be moved by him. That's all me.

But when I promote myself to chief character-architect, that makes me ask myself all kinds of uncomfortable questions.

Have I raised my kids with the tools they need to be successful? Or at least, have I raised them to believe they are capable of developing those tools?

Have I raised them with a core of unconditional love? Do they think they're worth loving? Will they blame themselves for other people's mistakes? 

Have I modeled compassion for them? And strength? Are they safe from bullies? Are THEY bullies?

How much is too much wine to drink on a weeknight?

If I'm the character-builder, then the buck stops here. As much as I'd love to blame overworked, underpaid, grumpy, bored, tired teachers, I can't.

It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole. I imagine him sitting at the table, alone, wanting to play with another kid but unsure of how to ask for help, reading the tired and annoyed faces of his teachers. He'll make decisions at that table, about who he is, what he is capable of, and what kind of treatment he should expect.

If the teacher ignores him, will he decide that he's invisible? Um, that's unacceptable.

If the teacher is annoyed with him and snaps at him, will he decide that annoying people is how you connect with them? Um, that's unacceptable.

If the teacher is too overwhelmed to pause and coach him through socializing 101 (Lesson #1: How NOT to spit on people who are crying; no, that won't make them laugh) will he decide that he is a bad friend or too weird, and withdraw into books instead of finding joy in friendship?






Damn, I wish I could have the chance to make that speech. But I won't. Because kids don't decide who they are in an instant and there is no bad guy here.

My child will be ignored in school this year.
He'll annoy his teachers and know he's done it.
He'll struggle to make friends.
They always do.
That's his job.
To struggle.
When a seed sprouts, that's a lot of work, and everything that grows has broken to do it.

So when I watched Chicken walk into his classroom, watched the teachers at work, greeting him but not like EXTRA greeting him - I mean, it was fine, they said hello, and dropoff is always chaotic, but the greeting could have been warmer is all I'm saying - I gave myself this little pep talk:

Your child is strong enough to survive a lukewarm hello.

Your child is enjoyed enough to feel good about who he is.

Your child is heard enough to feel that his voice matters.

Your child knows where to look to find love.

Now is when he learns to be one of many. 


And then I went to the gym.

And it was glooooorioouuus.

KatyKatiKate Proudly Presents:

10 Potty Training Tips You HAVEN'T Heard Before!




1. Look for signs of readiness!

How do you really know when the time is right for toilet training? Here are a few sure-fire signs to look for:

  • the price of a pack of diapers is the same as the price of a bottle of gin.
  • the price of a pack of diapers is the same as the price of a ticket to the Magic Mike Live show they're doing on Saturday nights at the old Medieval Times castle #TimeForTheJoustLadies #MyLanceIsReady.
  • your child just had a really foul poop and you're done, you're just done, you're so done, this is done now, this has gone on far too long already, how long can a person survive without dignity, exactly this long, and no longer.

2. LOTS of fluids!

It's summertime and it's tough to stay hydrated while running around in the yard and at the park, but ludicrous fluid consumption is key during toilet training.

Stock up before you begin!

You'll need:
  • orange juice
  • seltzer water
  • lime wedges
  • Mexican beer (I like Dos Equis, but whatever you pick just make it a case)
  • prosecco (for the OJ, in the morning)
  • vodka (also for the OJ, in the afternoon)
  • a case of cold brew coffees (for the next morning)

*** 
Pro Tip! 
Your child will also need to drink fluids while toilet training. 
I recommend you keep the hose running at a trickle until it's over. 
***


3. Pick the Right Reward

What motivates kids? Positive reinforcement, candy, toys, magical experiences, sure, I guess, maybe, sometimes.

But what REALLY motivates kids? I mean, all kids, the world over?

That's right: Power. Absolute power.

If I've learned one thing watching Game of Thrones, it's this: kids LOVE monarchies.

Show your child a crown and tell him that the only thing standing between him and his unfettered authority over all the lands on this Earth is his ability to pee and poop into the toilet, totally into the toilet, and only into the toilet, so help him God.

When he asks what his kingdom is, tell him his kingdom is the entire world AND Hogwarts AND the Hundred-Acre Wood.

Tell him that when he is king he will only eat cake for breakfast, unless he wants pie, and then he shall have ALL THE PIE. Tell him that Pooh Bear is just waiting to kick Christopher Robin into the gutter like the filthsome scum rat he is. Tell him that Pooh Bear has been waiting for him all his Pooh Bear life.

Tell him that his brother's job from now until forever will be to order a delicious corn dog off the menu and then give it immediately to the king of the entire world, and also to pour the king's juice.

Tell him that all the dentists in the world will be brought before him to kneel and repent for lying about the relationship between sugar and tooth decay.

Tell him whatever he needs to hear until his eyes burn with hunger for the unmitigated glory you have promised him.

Are you worried about how you're going to keep these outlandish promises?

STOP IT. Focus.

Your biggest problem right now is your garbage can overflowing with hot little bundles of human waste.

Everything else is noise.

Buuuuuut if you get that kiddo trained and he holds his hand out for the crown that he knows is rightfully his, here are a couple ways to play it:
  • Drop to your knee and whisper, "My liege, would that I could grant your wish. But I have news from the underground - assassins have this very day crossed into our territory, seeking to learn the identity of the one true king. Seeking you, milord. I beg of you, prithee play the part of a lad a bit longer, until we can seek out this scourge and render them as traitors to your crown."
  • Google "gruesome deaths of kings" and read aloud passages in a breathless whisper. 

Did you know, Chicken,
that King Alexander of Greece was bitten to death
by a Barbary macaque?
It took him 3 weeks to die
while his leg rotted off.
Wow, what do you think that smelled like?
Which leg do you want the monkey to bite?
Yikes, sounds like being a king actually isn't that fun!


4. Use books and pictures!

Kids are so visual, and they really respond to colorful photos and drawings posted around the house. Think of this exercise as decorating your home school classroom for a unit on toilet training!

You'll need:

  • posters
  • glue (preferably glitter glue)
  • markers
  • stickers
  • scissors
  • yarn and clothespins for an adorable homemade bunting
  • full-color photos of infectious diseases that are contracted through exposure to human feces. 

My pink eye poster came out gangbusters, but the dysentery display in the living room really stole the show.






5. Stickers are a great tool!

Every time your child has an accident, place a sticker over his or her face in a family photo. This works best if it's a blank white sticker (you can usually find these in bulk at Office Depot). If you can't get there, you can always just glue on a scrap of newspaper with the word "Who?" written on it.


6. Make sure to use accurate, honest terminology!

"Uh, oh, Timmy. It looks like you shit your pants. Yep, look at that, there's a foul glob of hot feces squished between your ass cheeks, and it's leaking down your leg. That's... listen, it's just really fucking gross, champ. Hey, pal, you know I love you no matter what. But your friends are definitely not going to forget this."

Like that.


7. Tape your child to the toilet until he poops there.

Painter's tape works great, but don't be stingy! Depending on your child's strength and/or claustrophobic anxiety, you may need the extra-thick roll.

*** 
Pro Tip! 
Don't forget to wrap tape around the child's fingers so he has Lego person hands. 
That way he can't pull off the tape while you're in the other room
watching Game of Thrones with your friends Jack, Jim, and Jameson. 
***

8. Pack a backpack for when accidents happen out and about.

Listen. Accidents are bound to happen. And they're definitely bound to happen in public. And they are absolutely, no-way-to-steer-out-of-that-spin bound to happen while you're trying to have a nice, grown-up, shit-free moment. For us, it was when I looked away from Buster to introduce myself to his new teacher and the other families in the classroom at the "Meet the Teacher" party this morning.

When those accidents happen, you'll be glad you packed your emergency backpack!

You'll need:

  • fresh change of clothes
  • wig
  • hat
  • large black sunglasses
  • wallet containing new ID and $2,000 cash
  • envelopes containing phone numbers of in-state relatives and a few bucks
  • safety pins to attach the envelopes to the children
  • keys to the used car you've parked at the bus station
  • paperback novel. You'll have plenty of time for that now.


9. Undies can be a great motivator!

Kids get so excited to wear undies, especially ones with their favorite characters on them! Thomas, Shopkins, Paw Patrol, Star Wars, Doc McStuffins... there's a pack of undies for every franchise (except, apparently, size 4T My Little Pony boxer briefs, thanks a lot Hasbro. Friendship is magic my ass.)

buster loves chase
and marshall

not rubble though

he's gonna try to poop right
i can tell


Is your child imaginative and compassionate? GREAT. Let's use that.

When you slip on the undies, make a big deal about the character pictured on the seat of the undies.

"Look at that! Sofia the First undies! Wow, what a big girl you are! Now remember, Sofia the First does not like poop on her face. She is not that kind of girl. Can you keep Sofia the First clean and dry? Yes? Okay let's do it!"

When she inevitably craps or tinkles on Sofia the First, fall to your knees and point to the dysentery banner in the living room.

"Oh, God... Oh GOD NO! You pooped on Sofia the First??? EMILY HOW COULD YOU???  Now she has DYSTENTERY!!! She's going to DIIIIIE!!!"

Cut the soiled undies from Emily's body and burn them, rocking and keening. Sob and cut your hair with a knife. Be in the moment. Let your instincts guide you.

Scream "SOFIAAAAA" to the heavens a few times. And then, when the moment is right, turn your tear-stained, soot-soiled face to your child, and say...


why buster

why


10. Make sure you've got something special planned for your older kid!

You'll be giving your little one a lot of individual attention, so it's nice to make sure your bigger kid gets some special experiences, too!

I let Chicken watch Homeward Bound in my bed, with a big bowl of popcorn and an icy-cold cup of seltzer water. Then I drove him out to my aunt's ranch in the Sierra Nevadas and left him there.

Don't look at me like that! I chipped him before I left and I've been checking my app all week. So far he hasn't made it past the McDonald's Play Place, but I'm sure he'll get sick of fries and start his own incredible journey any day now.



***

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Mom, I'm asking Santa for my own prison company. 
I really need the extra cages.

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Most importantly, thanks for reading! 
You're the reason I do this! 
Also I didn't want to watch Little Einsteins! 






It's been a bit of a week.

Chicken?

Chicken's power grows with every passage of the moon across the night sky.

Chicken pinched a little boy on the thigh in swim class. Accidentally. I saw it happen and I believe him - he happened to be doing lobster claws and the other little boy happened to be jumping up and down and kicking his legs out from side to side. It was just one of those things.

But then Chicken also kicked the sister of the boy he pinched. In the face. Also accidentally - he was kicking in the water because #swimclass, she was coming back to the platform face-first. But that was on a different day in class. And that mom is documenting everything I say at this point, so let's move on.

Chicken said, "Tell me the code to unlock your phone or I'll punch you right in the face." I said, "Oh, you sound ma--" and then he punched me right in the face. Not accidentally.

He also cleaned out my closet, by which I mean he removed each garment from the closet, took it off the hanger, threw the garment on the floor, and tossed the hanger in a pile. I would not let him do anything else until he cleaned it up.

oh

okay



 4 and a half hours of screaming later, he finished.


Chicken pointed at a man at the grocery store and declared, "My, is he plump!" When I snatched his hand out of the air and furiously whispered in his ear, he yelled, "WELL HE IS."

This conversation happened every day this week (with Magna-Tiles, towels, books, trucks, playing cards, and plastic cups):

Me: OK! Before we go to the park I need you to put away the Magna Tiles.
Chicken: (walks away from me)
Me: As soon as you put away the Magna Tiles we can go to the park.
Chicken: (opens fridge door)
Me: We can't go to the park until the Magna Tiles are cleaned up.
Chicken: (scampers into his bedroom and slams the door)
Me: Chicken, you know how to do this buddy. This is a normal thing. We alwa--
Chicken: (flinging open door) MOMMY WILL YOU READ THIS BOOK TO ME
Me: Magna Tiles.
Chicken: (silence)
Me: Magna-Tiles.
Chicken: Hm? What?
Me: MAGNA TILES. MAGNA TILES. MAGNA TILES. PUT AWAY THE MAGNA-TILES.
Chicken: Why do you yell so much?


And Buster?

Buster's impression of Prince Joffrey (I started watching GoT btw) (so there will be references now) (also spoilers) (so if you haven't watched Season 1, episode 8 yet) (BE WARNED) is spot on, except Buster has an actual mouth instead of a tiny puckered pink cat anus on his face.

right?


When I told him he needed to stay in his room quietly until his clock turned green, he tipped over the dresser, unplugged the clock, ripped the lock off the door, and scampered giggling into the playroom, where he smiled at me from a pile of plush cushions on the floor.

Buster executed a breathtaking tantrum when I did not "TURN THE CAR CLOCK ON" on our way home. Chicken felt inspired and joined in the chorus.

this is the car clock
it's an actual clock
it just
it has hands

i can't turn it on
it's on
it's on
it's already on

please stop screaming at me
i made time pass for you
you could say
you're welcome

The tandem meltdown (and there really is no other word for it, a catastrophic destruction of the core, as a result of overheating) lasted for half an hour in real time, and forty days and forty nights in Katie's Head Time.

Buster pulled every tiny, hard green tomato off of the 5 tomato plants we started from seed 6 months ago, back when we believed in hope and waiting. We have spent 6 months watering these fucking plants, all so the boys could have a "tomato fight" in the backyard. "I don't care," he said. "It doesn't matter."

This conversation happened every day this week:

Buster: Can I listen to the BFG?
Me: Okay.
Buster: I want the chapter with the Queen.
Me: Okay. (starts audiobook of the BFG)
iPad: "The Queen."
Buster: NOOOOOOOOOOO (screaming like a Bieber fan confronted with the truth of Bieber)
Me: (Pauses iPad) You want the chapter with the Queen.
Buster: THE QUEEEEEEEEEEN
Me: Okay. This is the chapter with the Queen.
Buster: (calms immediately) Okay.
Me: (starts audiobook)
iPad: "The Quee--"
Buster: NOOOOOOOOOOO (screaming like a Cosby fan just awakened from a 20-year coma)
Me: Okay. No audiobook then.
Buster: WHYYYYYYYYYY (screaming like me when I try to shop in stores and all the shirts are half-shirts this season)
Me: Beca--
Buster: NO. NO, NO, NO. (the sound Prince Joffrey makes when offered grape juice with his dinner because he wanted Hawaiian punch)
Me: UUUUUUUUUUUGH (the sound my soul makes every time Prince Joffrey appears onscreen)



And me?

I fought with Ryan about who does more for our family, after both of us only slept about 5 hours a night for the last few weeks. Solid choice. Rock solid.

I lost a 6,000-word document containing a grant application and a portfolio of revised work. I jumped through 9 hoops to try to recover the cached file, and got the first 1,000 words back. If you're a writer, I don't need to tell you about the first thousand words of anything. You already know.

Also I peed my pants. Like, more than a little. We were leaving the beach and I really had to pee and Buster's wet pants were stuck to his leg and I was yanking them down as hard as I could with #GottaPeePanic dumping Niagara Falls-level adrenaline into my brain. At least I was wearing black pants.

nice spot for it
at least


Like I said, bit of a week.

It was "bit of a day" after "bit of a day" after "bit of a day," and whether the days put progressively more of the "bit" in "bitch," or my ability to recover simply vacated the premises, by Friday afternoon I was hanging by a thread.

after a double meltdown at the store
where
by the way
we were buying a cake
to celebrate the fact
that we were all still alive
on friday

i took the boys to a soccer field
i put on their sneakers
and i said
"run."

after a little while chicken said
"i'm tired"
i said
"no you're not.
run."

after a little while buster said
"let's go home"
i said
"shh.
run."


And right now as I write this I am eating a hunk of Betty Crocker pound cake that I ripped from the loaf with my hand. It's my second.

It's a funny expression, hanging by a thread.

I use it to describe a state of desperation and depletion. I use it when it feels like all I have left are bad options.

I feel certain that if I were just more organized, or stricter with the kids, or less strict, or loved them more, that I wouldn't feel like I'm hanging by a thread. The fact that I've fallen to the end of a rope means that I've failed.

Hanging by a thread means I am small, clinging to survival like a rat on a ship's line.

A person hanging on by a thread has managed to hold on to the only thing that matters.

She's made the only choice she can make: to hold on.

And she's making it again, and again, and again.

Sure, I'm hanging by a thread today. And maybe you are, too.

You know who else is hanging by a thread?


this
bad
bitch

She (and we) don't need to juggle flaming swords to be breathtaking.

She's hanging by a thread. Magnificently. And so are you.

No matter what else you did or didn't do today, you held on.

Good job.







There is a hole in my heart where my perfect child lives.

My heart is broken; that hole will never be filled.



My heart is thin like a balloon overfilled to fit two broken boys.

One son punched me, yesterday. He was calm.

One son said, through the toothbrush in his mouth, "You'll die before me. I know it."

Hitting?

Death?

Can I have a fucking minute?



My heart is stuttering because my son is missing and the door's unlocked.

My heart is thundering because my son kicked a girl in the face at swim class.

Terror?

Malice?

Not yet. Please. Not yet.

There is a hole in my heart where my perfect child lives.

My heart is broken. That hole will never be filled.



One son called out to a woman walker on the path, "Oh, hello there!"

One son growled, "I am king of the rebels."

The walker stopped, smiled, and said, "That looks like quite a castle, king of the rebels."

She looked at me with her bright eyes and sighed, nearly cried, "I miss..."

My kids started talking about a dragon. I couldn't hear her. My ears turn to my sons.

Don't tell me what you miss.

I already know it's going.

I already feel it going.



I take so many pictures.



There is a hole in my heart where my perfect child lives.

My heart is broken because that hole will never be filled.

When he was small enough to fit there, he couldn't speak or wonder out loud.

Now that he can speak, he wants to stretch.

They only get bigger, you know.

My heart is broken because I sold their smallness for their voices, sea witch that I am.

I didn't think they'd keep growing but I keep buying new shoes.

My heart skips a beat. 43 bucks?

My heart is thin because it had to stretch for two bigger broken boys.

And there's still this hole.



You're the meanest mom in the world, he yells.

It doesn't bother me at all.

Don't leave me, he whispers. Not even when you die.

I was calm.

I'll miss you, he says. Don't leave me.



I would haunt you the rest of your life,

if you needed me that long.

But you won't,

my heart.

Oh, my heart.



I take so many pictures.



My heart is rising dough. It needs air.

My boys, and air.

One son selected a gown for me to wear today. It was a cocktail dress. It's Wednesday.

One son gasped when I put it on.

My heart.

I can't bear it.

I can't stand up when he turns those shining eyes on me.



I just realized

my two broken boys fit just right

where they are -

in my heart

which is broken

too.