Chicken: Happy New Year!

Me: What's your new year's resolution, Chicken?

Chicken: I don't know.

Me: What do you want to do this year?

Chicken: (begins to stack the elements of his lunch in the middle of his plate. Apple goes on sandwich. Snap peas go on apple.)

Me: Do you want to... learn how to swim?

Chicken: (takes apart lunch tower. Begins again.)

Me: How about learn to read? Do you want to learn to read this year?

Chicken: (whispers "wooooow" to his new lunch tower - snap peas, then sandwich, then apple.)

Me: OK, how about this year you hug and kiss Mommy and Daddy every single day?

Chicken: Mmmm... the swimmin one.
Changing Table Confessions
or
What a Difference a Day Makes

Saturday

I wuv you so much, Mommy. 
Mommy? I wuv you so much. 
Can we have hugs? 
No kisses. Just hugs.

Sunday

Imma cut you. 
Imma cut you wif my airplane.

The first rule of blogging is that blogging is not journaling. It can be, as long as you don't ask people to read it. But once you're promoting your blog or placing ad space, your blog isn't your diary. Unless you're really interesting (and by interesting I mean famous) nobody wants to hear about where you got that smoothie or what KIND of headache you had this afternoon.

This is what I tell myself every time I start to write a post. I ask myself if it's relevant to someone else's life, or if it's pure navel-gazing. I ask myself if a reader who doesn't know me would find this interesting, funny, or informative, and if the answer is no, then that post doesn't get published.

Until today.

It's been a week since I've posted and I feel like I'm in a bit of a creative desert - funny thing about creativity is that it's like your abs - soon as you stop working it that shit starts getting a little less sharp, a little soggier. After a week of not writing, I am soggy.

Suffice it to say that shit went down.

Literal shit.

There was not a single day in the last week that I did not survive some kind of catastrophic shit phenomenon.

Car seat blowouts. Multiple car seat blowouts. All breeds - up the back, out the leg, in the hair, on the belly. Liquid diapers in the crib. In the bath tub. On the floor. On the couch.

I have changed no fewer than 6 shitty diapers in the back of the car in the last week.

So there was that.

Plus we had family in town with their own sick, shitting toddler.

Plus I'm running my third annual toy drive for Seattle Children's Hospital, promoting the wish list, checking in with corporate participants to make sure they're rallying the troops in this the eleventh hour, touching base with the donation coordinator at the hospital, inventorying toys as they come in and breaking down the shipping materials.

Plus I had all this pie to eat.

(So everything you've read up until now absolutely violates the first rule of blogging. Watch as I try to save it by connecting it to a ghost reader so that the last 15 minutes of typing wasn't in vain.)

But you know, I don't have to tell you what it's like to feel like a human mop, damp and smelly, gray and limp.

(See what I did there?)

(Yeah, but now you don't have anything else to say, do you?)

(Not really. I mostly just wanted to break the seal on coming back to writing.)

(That's cool. You should probably go now and inventory those 7 boxes of donated toys.)

(Yeah, plus I told Ryan I would do the dishes tonight.)

(You did do that. Like an idiot.)

(OK, so. I'm going.)

(So go.)

(I am.)

(And yet you're not.)

(I'm going right now if you'd let me, goll.)

(This is the worst blog post anyone has ever written.)

(That's mean. Also probably true.)

(So...)

(So?)

(So GO.)

(I can't believe I'm still typing this.)

(There's still time for you to delete this entire sequence, babe. You can still go back.)

(Nope, I've spent 8 minutes on this. It's going on the blog.)

(It's your funeral.)

(And I'm clicking "publish" riiiiiiiiight.... NOW.)


On Wednesday night, Buster woke up at 12:30 am.

Ryan went to him, patted his back, shushed him, hummed the entire catalogue of "go the fuck to sleep now" hits - Baa Baa Black Sheep, Boogily Woogily Piggy, Row Row Row Your Boat. I mean he really threw down.

Buster's screams seemed to only get louder, more intense, more enraged as time passed.

At 2, I tapped Ryan out. He told me the next day that it was perfect time, as at 2, he had just begun to cry.

I rubbed Buster's back, shushed him, recited poems, and hummed my entire catalogue of "please please please please please please sleep now" hits - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I've Been Workin on the Railroad, and You Are My Sunshine. Oh I hummed the shit out of those songs.

Buster cried louder. I hummed more fiercely. Buster started kicking his legs. I shushed him and stroked his forehead. Buster writhed around in fury. I started chanting nursery rhymes like a Gregorian monk.

At 3:30 am, I caved. I brought Buster into bed to nurse and fall asleep nuzzled into my armpit.

He nursed at 3:30, 5:30, and 6:15. When I got out of bed at 7, he was staring at me with an accusatory frog face. He'd wet through his diaper onto a now clammy, cold onesie and sleep suit.

___

Last night, Buster woke up at 12:30 am.

Ryan and I lay on the floor and couch respectively, listening to him cry in our bedroom.

Yes, he was crying. But his crying seemed more like... yelling? And was that... was that a coo? A giggle? We could hear him rustling around, thrashing his legs, hollering at the heavens.

After an hour, he started groaning in that "I am about to be asleeeeeep" way, and then he went silent.

We went back to sleep.

At 3:45, he woke up again. I went in to nurse him. He nursed for 10 minutes. I put him back in his crib and he rolled over onto his belly, plopped his head on the mattress, and sighed.

At 8:30, he woke up and I went in to start his day. I turned on the light and said, "good morning, Buster baby!" He giggled and buried his face in the mattress.

___

I would not presume to make a blanket statement about sleep training or crying it out. All I can do is share my own experience, and lay out a few takeaways for me and my family.

- It can be anguish to listen to my baby cry. It would take an unmedicated amputation or the death of a beloved friend for me to cry like that, so it's very very hard to take a step back and recognize that babies cry harder than adults do, with more intensity and urgency. 

- Sometimes babies are sad or frustrated, and they cry. It's okay that they're crying. If I were sad and frustrated, I'd need a cry too. 

- That being said, there is a difference between "this sucks" crying and "Mommy I need help" crying. Personally, I'm totally fine with letting my sweet babes wallow in the suckiness of trying to learn how to fall asleep on their own. But if one of my babies needs help, I'm there.

- I believe that, for my boys, our interventions are more frustrating than they are soothing. They're like, "ok, great, thanks for patting my butt, but I can smell the milk on you woman, and this whole 'ssssh' number ain't the same as a midnight snack."

- I believe that, for our boys, we chose to give them the opportunity to learn how to soothe themselves. When we stepped in prematurely, we were robbing them of the opportunity to trust themselves, become comfortable on their own. 

- I believe that every parent gets to make whatever decision they want to about how to help their babies sleep.

- I think it's bullshit when moms draw a straight line between how well their babies sleep and how good they are at momming. The mom of a sleep-easy baby is no better than the mom of a wakeful baby. Don't beat yourself up. You're doing the best you can, in the best way you know how. 


If anyone wants to give me shit about letting my baby cry, don't.

If anyone wants to give me shit about not letting my baby cry earlier, don't.

If anyone wants to learn more about how we have been helping our kiddo with his sleep, visit http://rebeccamichi.com/. Rebecca is an incredible, compassionate, knowledgeable advocate for all families struggling with sleep, and I would recommend her services to anyone in need. 
A friend asked me to write about people who have a baby to save the relationship. I've waited until today to write this post because I wanted to wait until I felt like I could do it without coming across like "la-tee-da I know everything about relationships because my relationship is the best ever." I wanted to wait until I could share a story about my marriage getting a little beat up by our children. I wanted to wait until I felt like a shitty wife, in addition to a shitty gage of how much dry spaghetti to cook for 4 adults, as well as a shitty person to drive behind on the highway (because 55 is my happy place. Sorry guys.)

And here we are.

We are in the weeds.

We've got Chicken's stomach bug, Buster's sleep regression, and both of us trying to continue to operate our own lives while wading through puddles of shit on less than 5 hours of sleep.

On days like today we snap, as tightly wound and utterly separate as two guitar strings.

So today I am not coming from a place of superiority. I'm coming from a dark, dark, sleepless, poop-spattered place. Nevertheless, this deeply flawed blogger in a bathrobe is going to write a little bit about what I like to call the worst idea ever:

Having a baby. To save the relationship.

Having a baby to save the relationship is like intentionally contracting HIV to lose those holiday pounds.

Um... okay.
Yes, you'll probably lose some weight if you get HIV.
HOWEVER.
You will then have HIV.
Forever.

Having a baby to save the relationship is like thinking, "oh man, I really want to remember that website where they're selling those chia pets that grow into green beards on gnomes. I should get it tattooed on my forehead."

Yeah, same deal.
Getting a web address tattooed to your forehead is a foolproof way to remember that web address.
HOWEVER.
You now have http://www.chiagnomes.com tattooed to your forehead.
Which means you will have to have bangs.
Forever.

Having a baby permanently alters the course of your life, and if you're in a relationship, then it permanently alters the course of your (plural-you) life together. It's not like a weekend trip to New Orleans or joining a co-ed soccer league. Babies aren't a sexy little escapade guaranteed to rekindle the flames of romance.

Babies are sweet, miraculous, adorable, wonderful darlings. And it's a good thing they are, because if they weren't not one of them would survive past teething or at most the age of two. Because babies are also bottomless, uncompromising pits of urgent need.

You're like, "I'm gonna go brush my teeth."
Baby's like, "I just shit in my own hair... aaaaaaand now I'm rubbing it in."

You're like, "Oooh, honey you look good. Let's make out on the couch."
Baby's like, "Yoo hoo! It's time for my monthly sleep regression."

You're like, "I just have to finish cutting up these vegetables for dinner. It'll take 5 minutes."
Baby's like, "I AM SCREAMING!"

You're like, "Honey, how was your day at work?"
Baby's like, "I dropped my binky."

You're like, "OK, here's your binky. Now. Honey, how was your day at work?"
Baby's like, "I dropped my binky again."

You're like, "I quit. I can't do this anymore."
Baby's like, "(nuzzle up into your neck) (looks into your eyes) (smiles) (he doesn't do that for anyone else) (I love you too.)"

I'm a little short on sleep, so rather than weaving an elegant segue from the most perfect words, I'm just going to drop some lists on you.

Having a baby may change your life and relationship in the following ways:

1. You may discover how much joy lives in rediscovering all of life's firsts through the bright eyes of your child.

2. You may fall more and more deeply in love with your partner, as you watch him or her blossom into the kind of creative, loving, joyful parent that every child should have.

3. You may end most of your days proud of your fledgling family. You may end most of your days showing each other pictures you took of the baby and giggling under the covers.

Having a baby may also change your life and relationship in the following ways:

1. You may discover how exasperating it is to have to just fucking wait it out until your kid is old enough for you to start enjoying him. Not all people love babies. Lots of great parents? Noooooot wild about babies, actually. For some parents those first couple of years are just making deposits in that old-age-home-bank. "I changed so many fucking diapers, Alastair. You better put me somewhere nice."

2. You may wake up one morning to discover that your partner is a selfish bastard whose life has not changed as much as yours has. You may sit silently and watch him do everything wrong, leave his dirty dishes on the table for you to clean up, leave her shoes right in the fucking doorway to the bathroom even though you've asked her 18,000 times not to fucking do that.

3. You may end your day feeling like you'd be less claustrophobic buried alive Kill Bill-style.

But no matter what, having a baby WILL change your life and relationship in the following ways:

1. Everybody is going to have to get comfortable in the #2 spot. Not every time. But most of the time.

Great story from work? Yeah, see I can't listen to that at all right now because Herbert is screaming and my blood pressure feels like it's 6,000/290, so I'm going to feed this baby right quick and you will wait and that won't make your story any less awesome. K thanks.

Oh, you wanted to get a workout in today? Yeah, see, the baby's got a fever and needs to be walked around this room 14,000 times before he'll fall asleep... so...

Date night? Do you mean "the night we go out to dinner and talk about the baby and you check your phone every 4 minutes to make sure the babysitter hasn't called and then we go to a movie during which you hold your phone in your hand and check it every time it vibrates and then you lean over and whisper "IT WAS JUST MY MOM I'LL CALL HER BACK." That night? Is that the night that we're calling a date?

2. You will discover what you're made of. And what you're (plural-you) made of.  No getting around it. Babies are pudgy little truth bombs.

3. You will remember what it feels like to fall in love. Maybe not the first time that kid lands in your arms, all covered in goo and squalling like a gull at the hot dog cart. Maybe not for a month. Maybe not for a year, although you should probably go talk to somebody if that's the case. But someday, somewhere along the line you will topple head over heels in love. I promise.

Maybe that's where the appeal is - producing your very own perfect love out of an admittedly iffy coupling. Maybe the transformation is what's driving people to get knocked up with partners they don't really like that much. Maybe it's a fear of loneliness, or the ticking clock, or being left behind when all the people you went to high school with have baby's first Santa pics up on Facebook. Maybe it's just reading Us Weekly and thinking preggo celebs are totes adorbs. I really can't say. All I can say, from my personal experience, is this:

I believe I have a strong marriage.

Ryan and I have been together for ten years. We have learned how to fight fair, when to hold em, when to fold em, and when to kindly say "Yeah, babe, I told you so" (That was a trick, Ryan. The answer is never. Fucking never.)

We are equipped with good communications skills, and two hearts that badly want to say "I'm sorry," when all's said and done. Our foundation is solid.

I believe he has my back no matter what. He's game. I believe he loves our family more than anything and wants what's best for us. He's in. I believe that he knows the same is true of me, that I'm game, and I'm in, 100%.

And we're still in the weeds.

Please, please don't have a baby to save your relationship. It will work, in that you will have cemented your bond with your partner forever and ever. But it will not work, in that having babies does not fix problems; rather, it merely intensifies whatever you were feeling before, and after baby you pretty much don't have time to be polite any more.

OK.

Gin time.
This guy was checking me out at the zoo.*

And honestly, who could blame him?

I was testing this amazing guide I'm writing on how to be super-sexy with two kids at the toddler gym, and boy, let me tell you, did my tips ever work!

I've transcribed my favorites below:

1. No man can resist a full, luscious muffin top bulging out from around the Ergobaby waist strap. Cinch it UP, girls. Sexuality bonus: Make sure your top accidentally rides up to reveal your actual flesh. Whoopsies! (winky face) Let him drink in that soft, white hip/wasit/butt/back flesh, lookin' as tasty as unbaked bread dough in the back of the Safeway bakery.

2. Dance is the language of seduction. Make sure to let him see you dancing around as you attempt to lull your infant to sleep. The bouncier the better - he wants to see that baby weight wiggle! 

3. Ladies, want to get a man and KEEP your man? Let him watch you wipe your toddler's green snot off of his face with your bare hand, and then rub it into your own pants leg. Yeah... that's nasty. In a good way.

4. Show him you can really talk dirty. Let him overhear you as you whisper in a sultry voice: "do you have poops? Are you a poopy boy? You are, aren't you... why don't you let mommy clean up that poopy, poopy bottom."

5. Three little words: Old. Yoga. Pants.
The more pilled the better. Also great: if they're too long and have frayed hems. Rrrrrowrrrr.

6. Two more little words: Panty. Lines.
Because he WANTS TO BE ABLE TO SEE that you're wearing panties. Yeah, big ones, you little minx.

7. Do you smell like a port-a-potty along a marathon route? Well you should! Men are animals, and nothing draws them more than a thick lady musk, cultivated over a series of showerless days of relentless sweating, getting barfed on, getting peed on, getting pooped on, and layers and layers of Secret Powder Fresh deodorant.

OK, mamas. There you have it.

Katie's favorite tips for turning heads everywhere you go.

* he really wasn't. Pretty sure Chicken was dragging his kid around by his shirt and he was checking to see if I was going to do something about it. I did. Once I finished this blog post.




How I Thought Today Was Going to Go
How it Went
7 am
Alarm goes off.

Get Buster ready to go.

Get Chicken ready to go.

Dress self in jeans and a sweater - actual clothes! Yes! Winning!
Alarm goes off.

Snooze.

Snooze.

Snooze.
8 am
Clean up Chicken’s
breakfast.

Load up into car.

Go to school.
Get out of bed.

Get Chicken ready to go.

Get Buster ready to go.

Thank God I slept in yoga pants last night.
8:20 am
Be in car on the way to school.
Give Chicken “breakfast” (microwaved cheese quesadilla cut into bite-sized squares) in a plastic cup to eat in the car on the way to school.

Buckle children into car.

Drive like hell.
9 am
Drop off at school.
Drop off at school (by some miracle are only 5 minutes late)
9:30 am
Run to grocery store to pick up supplies for Buster’s half-birthday party tonight.




Buy a coffee.
Run to book store to buy new infant sleep book.

Cashier looks at me and says, “having a hard time, hon?”

Buy a coffee.
10 am
Put Buster down for a nap.
Am still driving home.
10:30 am
Exercise.

Tidy up the house.

Have a snack.

“Me time”
Arrive at home.

Put Buster down for a nap.

Take a shower (have not done this since Sunday. Have gone to Spinning class in the interim. Head is starting to itch.)

Start to read sleep book, skimming for charts, tables, and numbered instructions.

Am, like an idiot, encouraged by book’s boldface promises to have your baby sleeping through the night in a week or less!
11:15 am
Go to Buster’s Gymboree class.
Buster wakes up from nap.

Sigh. We’re never going to get to this fucking class.
12 pm
Buster’s class ends.

Leave to pick up Chicken
from school.
Leave to pick Chicken up from school.

On the way, stop at grocery store to pick up supplies for half birthday party tonight.
1 pm
Collect Chicken.

Load up into car.

Head toward home.
Arrive at Chicken’s school.

See another mom with a young baby, ask “how’s he sleeping?” I look into her eyes, and no words need to be spoken for us both to understand that the two of us are the co-captains of the “God… so… tired…” club. But words are spoken anyway. Exclaim loudly that I do NOT advocate cry it out! (That book you just bought is kind of ok with crying it out.)
1:20 pm
Be almost home.
Return to car, load up kids.
1:45 pm
Put Chicken down for nap.

Put Buster down for nap.
Almost home.

Call mom to complain about how tired I am.

Chicken vomits all over himself, the car seat, his monkey backpack, his stuffed rabbit, the back of the passenger seat, the floor beneath him.

Then he takes his hand, touches the vomit on his chest, and rubs it into his hair.

Say, “OH SHIT!” and hang up on mom.

Pull over in drugstore parking lot, cutting off a Sherriff cruiser. Fling open Chicken’s door and unbuckle his vomit-covered car seat strap, getting chunks stuck under finger nails. Sherriff  pulls away, wanting both deniability and an escape from the smell of strawberries and stomach acid. Set Chicken down in passenger seat for a moment so you can wipe the chunks out of the car seat. Thank God for that pack of wipes in the car.

Change Chicken into emergency t-shirt.

Clip him back into his hastily and not at all well-cleaned seat, as he says, “Mommy, you gotta clean dis. I threw up. You gotta clean it.”
2 pm
Prepare decorations for Buster’s half-birthday party while eating a late lunch, finishing iced coffee from earlier, and generally relaxing.

Perhaps I’ll watch something silly on TV!
Arrive home.

Put Buster down for nap in about 45 seconds: put him in crib, turn off light, leave, say to self, “if he cries, he cries, I’ve gotta clean vomit right now.”

Clean vomit off of Chicken.

Put Chicken down for nap.

Go back out to car with antibacterial spray, paper towels, and toothbrush and attempt to get all the chunks and bile out of the car seat nooks and crannies.

Mentally compose letter of resignation. To whom it may concern, fuck this shit I am an American and I have rights and have you no sense of decency, sir?
3:30 pm
Buster wakes up from nap.

Chicken wakes up from nap, eats snack, gets ready to go to Gymboree to get his wiggles out.
Buster wakes up from nap, is supremely pissed. Bounce him while chanting “please shut up, please shut up,” in a very nice-sounding NPR voice.

Eat a cookie.

Don’t cry.

4:47 pm - Real time update - We have now added one diarrhea bed and one diarrhea bath tub to the score card. Sooooo at this point we're looking at Day: 14; Katie: 1 (that was a good cookie.)

7:50 pm - real time update - Chicken is in bed. The bath tub is bleached. The couch cushion has been disinfected. Oh, did I mention the couch leak? Nbd, it's a leather couch. The dishwasher is running extra hot, as is the washer with all the shitty sheets, towels, clothes and socks. Buster is having a nightcap. Me too. It's now 7:54 and I'm getting in bed. Come oooooon Thursday!
Me: I'm taking the day off tomorrow.

Ryan: How does that work, exactly?

Me: Well, I get up when my alarm goes off at 7. I change Buster's diaper and feed him. I go into the kitchen and make Chicken's breakfast. I wake up Chicken, change his diaper, and get him set up at the table with his food. Then I get dressed and put in my contacts. Then I get Chicken cleaned up, get him dressed for school, pack up his lunch bag and water bottle, and clip Buster into his car seat. Then I carry Chicken down the stairs, into the car, and wrestle him into his car seat. Then I go back up the stairs, grab Buster in his seat along with the diaper bag and Chicken's lunch, back down the stairs, click Buster into his seat. Then I take Chicken to school (park, get out of the car, get the stroller out of the trunk, click Buster's seat into the stroller, get Chicken out of his seat, carry him into school, reverse the process sans Chicken to get back into the car with Buster.) 

Ryan: Uh-huh.

Me: Then I go home and feed Buster, change Buster, and put him down for a nap.

Ryan: Sounds divine.

Me: Wait, this is the good part. THEN, in the 2 hours before I have to leave to get Chicken from school, instead of doing laundry or dishes or cooking or writing emails or blog posts or returning phone calls, I sit and drink an iced coffee and watch a movie.

Ryan: So, you're taking 2 hours off.

Me: Yeah. Or, you know, 90 minutes if it's like a movie with like Jonah Hill or whatever.
expats

we had these gorgeous paper-thin whiskey glasses
that we washed by hand
on sunday mornings after we had people over
for no reason
for manhattans
just for fun

not so long ago
we had no bright orange plastic spoons
no melamine plates bearing big-eyed monkeys holding bananas
no measuring cups and squeezy-boats filled with old, cold bathwater in our tub

i can't remember buying these things
or what i thought when i bought them

i should have been thinking
"this plastic fork
is a metaphorical
BPA-free
certificate of citizenship

i am no longer a visitor in this land
and these are now my people"

but i think it was probably
"guess we need these now"
or
"ooh that's fun (click) thanks amazon prime"

people tell you
or at least they told me
that your life changes in an instant
(a single finger snap)
an instant

but that sounded like bullshit
and to be honest
it still does

like when people say you'll know in your heart
when you meet the love of your life
honestly, I knew in my heart
when my prom date fumbled my corsage
i still love him
but he's very happy
with his boyfriend
paul

heart, you're like a thrice-divorced
forty and fabulous actress
who "lives for the now"
and "tries to stay present,"
so you are fun and all
but you're completely fucking flaky
when I want to talk about forever and mean it
or know if (a single finger snap) is happening

i never felt the mythological bolt
that made my dad stagger the first time he held my sister

it's not like i woke up the morning after chicken's birth
and said
i am new

the baby arrived in a split second, yes,
but also over the course of months
and years

first it was just a shelf in the kitchen
of the urban loft with the blue accent wall
and all our cool photography hung just so

that shelf became the baby shelf -
clear plastic horns from the breast pump lay there to dry
and a red bowl of binkies brought the palette in
so we still felt
a little cool

then we had to move
to a shitty old house
it has an old fucking dishwasher
that smells like old fucking dishwater
but it also has two bedrooms upstairs
and storage
for when we woke up and realized
even though we have 75 cloth diapers
no
we are not cloth diaper people

the glass and iron coffee table
became a suicide trap
when the baby started lurching around on two feet
so now we have a padded faux-leather storage ottoman
full of soft, padded blankets
that it's totally fine to throw up on

now we read about a chipmunk with a problem
or a truck that learns an important lesson
or how not to fuck up our kids

now we call them noodles

now our christmas tree is naked from,
oh,
i'd say about 30 inches on down

now we have these cheerful spoons
and melamine plates
and bowls
and we sprinkle nestle quik on banana slices
and call it chocolate dust
that's pretty standard

i'm speaking for me and ryan when i say
that yes
we are citizens now

this is our land
(banksy-ed with fingerpaints)

and these are our people
(with raisins in their pockets and crumbs in their cars)

but like all expats
no matter how long we've live here
we are not from here

we had manhattans
with our chocolate dust bananas
just two days ago

we used our paper-thin whiskey glasses
we washed them
in our shitty dishwasher

if you have to boil it down
this poem about personal identity
and history
and the way we add new wings to the original frames of our lives
HGTV-style,
in a home-improvement instant
(always
always
always behind schedule)

i'd say this poem boils down to this:

we still drink manhattans
but we don't hand-wash anything
anymore
I've been thinking a lot about Christmas lists. No, this isn't a post about how we shouldn't ask for presents because service to mankind and peace on Earth and blah blah.

This is legit a post about presents.

Growing up, my Christmas list was the reflection of all that I yearned to become.

Dear Santa,

Hi. How are you? 

I would like a leatherbound journal with a lock and key, and a chain to wear the key around my neck so that I can work on my writing in a safe place.

I would also like the same roller skates that my sister got last year because she does not ever share them with me and they are amazing. 

I would also like some Polly Pockets, a book about the Trail of Tears, and a vest.

Thanks

Love,
Katie
(age 7)

Based on that wish list, I wanted to be:

1. A reclusive writer like JD Salinger.
2. My sister.
3. A normal little girl.
4. Sad about the Indians.
5. Wearing a vest.

True on all counts. I was a wierdo.

As Ryan and I polished and finished our family's wish lists this year, I realized how much has changed. If the Christmas Wish List is a symbol of your heart's dearest dreams, well...

Our boys' lists look pretty standard. For Chicken, in addition to the always-wonderful selections of popular children's books, we have:

 A toddler camera.

A scooter.
Based on his list, I'd say that Chicken wants to be:

1. A lover of books.
2. A keen-eyed, alert observer of the world.
3. A daredevil.

True, true, and true. Nailed it!


Buster is asking for a winter bunting in the next size up. He's also asking for:

An activity cubey thingy.

A fawn teether that squeals in delight and/or begs for her life as he gnaws on her head.

A giraffey blocky thingy.

So Buster, based on his Christmas list, yearns to blossom into:

1. A porker.
2. Keen fine motor skills.
3. A person with teeth and/or a sadist.
4. A great lover of giraffes.

True on all counts. We're killing this!

But then... we move into the parent Christmas lists.

Here's where shit gets... I don't know. Sad? Weird? You be the judge.

Mom is asking for:
A Ready America 4-Person Grab'N'Go Emergency Deluxe Backpack, complete with duct tape, emergency rations, goggles, and dust masks for a family of 4.

A solar-powered cell phone charger, hand-crank radio and NOAA certified weather alert plus cables. (Ya gotta have cables)

A cookie sheet.

Okay, so based on my Christmas list, my heart's dearest wish is to become a woman who is:

1. Preparing to flee my home with my children, running from certain and imminent disaster a la The Road or The Day After Tomorrow.
2. Hoping that the disaster ISN'T the sun exploding because this shit is solar powered.
3. Looking for the perfect snickerdoodle recipe. Not too crispy, not too cakey.

Dad's Christmas List

Chip clips.

Long underwear.

So Dad, in his heart of hearts, wants to emerge from his cocoon like a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly who hates stale chips and chilly hamstrings. 

When did our dreams get so scary and small? When did we stop longing to play, to pretend, to become SOMETHING if only in our imaginations, and start longing for cookie sheets and chip clips?

The truth is we don't long for those things anymore. What we long for can't be shipped via Prime with a $1 credit toward future ebook purchases. We long for a vacation in Maui. We long for careers that fulfill us. We long for a home of our own, for purpose, for security. That's as it should be - as adults and parents to two little humans, we need to have graduated to the abstract dreams of stability and contentment, or even happiness. 

But it is a little sad to know that when you open your presents on Christmas morning, your heart will be filled not with joy or love or the thrill of new adventures on roller skates, but rather with the quiet gratitude of having received something that will shortly live on a shelf, waiting for the moment you need it to be useful.

So Santa, if you're reading this post, I still need that emergency backpack. 

But if it's not too much trouble, could you bring me a little bit of that wierdo kid back? 

The 8-year-old who asked for a documentary on the Royal Shakespeare Company, and who dreamed of owning her own theater company? 

The 12-year-old who asked for a filing cabinet  so she could keep her poetry organized, and so she could one day include those pieces in her collected works, at her publisher's urging?

I'm thinking that Maui trip is a keeper. But, you know, whatever you think, Santa.

Thanks.

Love,
Katie
(age 30)
Top Ten Things You Should Not Attempt On A Night Of Sleep Like Last Night:

 1. Do not attempt to make new friends. Do not attempt to engage in small talk or witty/edgy banter. After last night's sleep, at best you'll come across as dull or pathetic. At worst, your "banter" will result in criminal charges and a lifetime blacklisting at Gymboree.

2. Do not attempt to take your toddler to the beach. You will not be able to keep him alive at the beach. Not on last night's sleep, sister.

3. Do not watch any episodes of Grey's Anatomy on last night's sleep. ESPECIALLY do not watch any episodes of Gray's Anatomy in which a funny and warm no-name actress appears as a pregnant patient where "everything looks routine," and she cracks jokes and kisses her husband and makes all the interns smile in the first 15 minutes of the show. That is a Shonda Red Flag. Nobody is getting out of that shit alive. Your partner/mom/sister/best friend doesn't need a sobbing phone call from you today.

4. Do not attempt to cook dinner. Not on last night's sleep. That's why God made online pizza ordering, microwaves, Whole Foods salad bars, and wine.

5.  Do not purchase anything nonrefundable. After last night, every decision you make today is a mistake. Every single one.

6. Do not sign up for a marathon. Not after last night. Do not sign up for an online class in creative writing. Do not sign up for paperless billing. Do not sign up for ANYTHING. After last night's sleep? Signing up for anything WILL add you to every spam mailing list on Earth, plus a subscription to Latina magazine and the Nigerian Prince hotline.

7. Do not attempt to formulate an opinion on the events of the world. Repeat after me: "Pass."

8. Do not attempt to initiate any major life changes or undertake to accomplish any tasks whatsoever. This includes but is not limited to major haircuts, lease-signings, job interviews, stopping birth control, tinting your eyebrows, putting up the fucking Christmas tree, doing laundry, reading a book, stopping by the store real quick (you will spend 45 minutes wandering aimlessly up and down the soup aisle), arts and crafts of any kind, baking, writing a letter to your Congressman (you will be put on a watchlist), or driving while doing ANYTHING ELSE. ANYTHING.

9. Do not attempt to make a list with 10 items in it. After last night's sleep, ten items on a list might as well be a definitive tome on the history of air. You know you can only scrape together 9 fucking items. 9 THIN items. 

Who are we kidding. 8. 
Chicken has been, shall we say, DALLYING over his dessert. He picks a candy from his dwindling Halloween stash and then holds it in his hand until the chocolate has melted all down his wrist and he holds the warm, gooey lump formerly known as a Milky Way out to me and says, "Fik it." Which of course I cannot do.

For dessert tonight, Chicken wanted some of the cake that he made with Daddy instead of Halloween candy. We served him a piece of cake. And a fork. No, not that fork. ANOTHER fork. A different fork. A ZEBRA FORK!

After locating a Zebra Fork (which, FYI is actually just a purple fork, not a stripe to be seen), and securing a cup of orange tea which needed no less than 12 ice cubes before it was "not hot," and therefore drinkable, Chicken proceeded to look at, blow on, and talk at length about his cake ("Sugar... and flour... and eggs... and vanilla...") without eating a single bite. After 20 minutes, bath time was nigh. We took the cake and told him he could try again tomorrow. We got in the bath. 

Me: I know, sometimes we spend so much time thinking about cake that we run out of time to eat the cake.

Chicken: I want my cake.

Me: That's your cake, baby, and you can have it tomorrow. But you had a lot of time to eat it and you didn't. So we had to say night-night to the cake and come take a bath.

Chicken: I want my cake.

Me: It's bath time.

Chicken: It's cake time.

Me: How about a story? Should we do a story in the bath?

Chicken: Once upon a time...

Me: Oh, you're going to tell a story?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: Great! Tell me a story.

Chicken: Once upon a time... it was cake.

He extends his right hand palm-up, and points into it with his left index finger.

Right. Here.


A letter to myself, to be opened on the night I turn to Ryan and say, "should we go for another one?"

Oh, honey.

I know. It sounds like fun. 

The excitement! Knots in your stomach as you wait for the little + sign to appear on the test.

The thrill! Hearing that heartbeat for the first time at the doctor's office.

The glow! Everyone you know saying "congratulations! Amazing! Wonderful! You look GREAT!"

The pride! Being the only pregnant lady at the gym. You're not just some chick watching "How I Met Your Mother" reruns on the elliptical anymore - you're an AWESOME pregnant lady who's totally kicking ass, the kind of pregnant lady all the not-yet-pregnant girls want to be when they get knocked up.

Even the morning sickness, in hindsight, has a sweet glow to it. "Those four months you couldn't get out of bed without choking down a slice of dry toast, crumb by crumb," has become "those four months Ryan brought you breakfast in bed every morning."

You're remembering the beautiful birth experience, the empowerment, the way you and Ryan worked together seamlessly, the way it increased your faith in your marriage and yourself. And don't forget the gorgeous gilded photographs showing you haloed in the dawn light like Mother Mary.

You're remembering all the moments Chicken touched baby Buster's face so sweetly, so softly, his toddler hand like a bird resting against Buster's pink cheek.

You're remembering all the times you read the boys "The Little Red Hen," and they both looked up at you with their big brown eyes from their pillows on the floor.

Yes, all of that happened.

But sweetie?

Before you pull the goalie and send in the strike team, let me just offer you a spoonful of perspective. These things happened too.

You spent 4 months sipping ginger tea with nausea sweat on your upper lip.
You looked bloated and chubby before the egg even made it into your uterus. All belly? HA.
Eating enchiladas was an aerobic activity. You panted. Heavily.
You did not sleep more than 3 hours at a stretch for the first trimester. Or the third trimester. Or the first year of Buster's life.

I am writing this letter to you from the bedroom floor.

I smell like sour yogurt and baby shit.

Buster was one month old before I was able to have a normal bathroom experience. One month before I could wear a thong. That's right. For a month I was wearing yoga pants and bunchy granny panties with big old institutional pads stuffed into them. It was a look.

Chicken pooped on the rug tonight. Then he stepped in it. Then he walked across the living room, into the kitchen, and across the kitchen floor to where I was setting the table for dinner. "Mommy? Poop!"

I had to praise him for pooping on the rug and then walking on his little poop foot. Because it was legitimately an accident and I don't want to fuck him up about pooping when he needs to go poop. "What a great job you did, Chicken! You pooped, and then you told me that you pooped!" I crowed from the living room floor, where I used a baby wipe to pick up the still-warm, rather festive red-pepper and corn-kernel dotted turd from the rug that was a wedding gift.

As I'm writing this, I can hear Chicken's bath time screams. There's this grating, sizzling quality to them tonight. He really brought his A-game. Like he's trying to inspire a mass suicide. Ryan talks and I can't hear his words, only the clipped, wire-tight quality. That's how our life feels right now, clipped and wire-tight.

Most nights I go to bed and think about how much easier my life was with one child. I went to the gym 3, 4 times a week. I had a weekend afternoon all to myself at least a couple of times a month. We were free to channel Chicken's bottomless energy without having to worry about anyone else's needs.

I remember the night I turned to Ryan and said, "should we go for 2?" He shrugged and said "sure, if you're ready." Fool that I was, I said, "well, we've already done it once."

No we hadn't.

We'd parented one child, which is not the same thing as parenting two children.

We'd parented Chicken, which is not the same thing as parenting Buster.

Future Katie, I'm not saying that you shouldn't have that third child.

I'm just saying you shouldn't have that third child UNLESS you have a full-time life coach, chef, and au pere so that you can respect the unique challenges of becoming a parent to three children, which is not the same thing as being a parent to two children.

So basically, snap out of it.

Don't just remember the sweet little boy smiles, big brown eyes and little red hen.

Remember poopy footprints, bath screams, the hours of crying that you voluntarily submit yourself to the night you decide to sleep train your baby. (No, we don't use the cry it out method, but there is still crying. More on that later.)

Remember the clipped, wire-tight snapping between you and your husband, followed immediately by lethargic hugs and apologies - "I'm just so tired."

Then watch The Blind Side and adopt a polite high schooler.
Drive like you have to poop

Swim like someone just pooped

Shower like you're in prison

Drink like you're stuck in a conversation 
between all people who know each other from like a long time ago 
all talking about people you don't know 
so you have nothing to do with your mouth or hands 
except smile vacantly 
and fucking skull that manhattan 
and then order another one, stat

Run like it's a really bad hallucination

Type like the hero of a 90's hacker thriller

Love like you're stoned 
and you just found out your friend also loved JTT in middle school

Laugh like your kid just whacked your husband 
in the nuts with a wiffle ball bat

Eat like a toddler
on a good day 
when that toddler is hungry
and you've managed to cook the exact thing that toddler wants
so he consumes the meal with his entire body
dancing in the chair
rubbing it in his hair
making all kinds of delicious yum yum sounds
and demanding more
through cheeks stuffed round with macaroni
(because it's always macaroni)

We are cheap.

I mean, super cheap when it comes to our kid's toys. We typically buy toys at consignment stores or the Goodwill. My favorite place to buy books for Chicken is a website called Better World Books, which sells most used children's books for under $4 and donates a book for every book you buy.

My stance is that you shouldn't have nice things if you're still shitting yourself and/or eating soup with your hands.

Plus, he doesn't care. At 2.5, he hasn't quite reached the level of brand awareness that will necessitate a discussion about why he doesn't have a train table like little Jimmy, or a brand-new Jeep roadster like Michelle.

Here's a universal truth. Toddlers love all new things, no matter how much they cost, for the exact same 45 minutes when you first roll them out. And after that, whether you spent 25 cents or 200 bucks on that toy, that shit is going to get old. He's gonna be all, "ew, that? OVER IT!" (snap snap snap.)

So when it comes to toys, Ryan and I like to play a game called How Little Can We Spend On Our Child's Toys While Still Giving Him Things He Is Really Going To Love And Maybe Even Learn Something From While Playing With Them. The title needs work, I know.

Thankfully, we send him to an amazing day care that has the same philosophy. Every morning when I drop Chicken off, I see another fabulous recycled toy:

A stacking toy made of velcro hair curlers and a paper towel roll holder.
A cardboard box that has been retaped and is about to be covered with paint and then have cars and trucks driven through that paint. 
Styrofoam packing blocks being stabbed to death with pipe cleaners.

Children know when we've handed them a sanitized version of the real deal. They want the real deal. You might hand your kid an Elmo phone so he can "be like mommy" but your kid's like "Ha, that's cute. Now hand over the iPhone." Ain't nobody buying that shit. It would be like watching your dad drink scotch out of a nice, heavy-bottomed glass while sipping your root beer out of a dixie cup.

After watching Chicken and his friends play happily with these around-the-housey, definitely NOT TOY toys, I am more convinced than ever that I should be buying Chicken's toys from Ace hardware and the Goodwill.

What's so great about not-toy toys? I'll lay it out for you:

1. You're showing your children that you believe they are capable of drinking scotch out of a real glass, so to speak.

2. They are cheap.

3. They are more environmentally responsible, since you're recycling goods rather than feeding the demand for new goods.

4. Your parent friends will think you're amazing.

5. They are fun.

Here are Chick's Picks, Top 5 Not-Toy Toys:

1. Phone.
Like the one your babysitter used to use to call for Pizza Hut delivery.
Like the one your first boyfriend ever called you on.
Like the one mounted on the wall in Roseanne's kitchen.
A phone. I bought one today for $2.99. Stocking stuffer!





2. Dress-up kit.

The Goodwill is a treasure trove of wacky toddler dress-up gear. Think scarves, chunky beaded jewelry, hats, fun sunglasses, vests... actually, you know what?



Just buy everything Johnny Depp would wear on a red carpet plus butterfly wings and a fireman helmet.

3. Camera.



One that used film. Bonus points if you find one with a satisfyingly clicking winding wheel.


4. Jars, Boxes, and Lids

Baby food, cosmetic, decorative boxes. Put together a box'o'boxes so he can match up lids to vessels. Melissa and Doug can suck it, y'all.

5. Typewriter, Keyboard, Laptop



These are a little pricier/harder to find at Goodwill, but honestly, are still so much cheaper, hardier, and easier to maintain than a Leapfrog or iPad.


Happy thrifting, you guys.

Xoxo